Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cover of my novel, Patient Women!

I'm excited to share the cover of my novel, Patient Women, coming from Blazevox in April 2015. The cover image is Giampietrino's The Repentant Mary Magdalene and cover design is by Geoffrey Gatza.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


On the perfect roof, near a perfect ledge,
A small terra firma with a narrow edge,
No temporizing with last-minute balance,
No handhold, no foothold, no anchor, no ballast.
And once committed, once into the air,
No hovering, no kiting, no waiting there.
The polygonal street and the shining dark cars
Attacked at meters per second squared.
Once over, soon over: a thing done just once:
Like fireworks and New Years’ bells, fast and intense,
Quite finite, soon finished, thought long, slow begun,
And forgotten by others like the old year now done.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Star by Joseph Brodsky translated by Larissa Shmailo

In a cold time, in a place accustomed more
To scorching heat, than cold, to the flatness of plain,
than to hills: A child was born in a cave to save the world.
And it stormed, as only the winter’s desert storms rain.

Everything seemed huge to him: his mother’s breast,
the yellow steam of the camels’ breath. And from afar,
Their gifts carried here, the Magi, Balthazar, Melchior, Caspar.
He was all of him just a dot. And that dot was a star.

Attentively and fixedly, through the sparse clouds
Upon the recumbent child in the manger, through the night’s haze
From the depths of the universe, from its end and bound,
A star watched over the cave. And that was the Father’s gaze.

Monday, December 22, 2014

THE GYM (after "The Raven")

Once upon a Monday morning, while I sat, sedentary, scorning
Every form of exercise now known to womankind,
Suddenly I felt a calling, urgent, there could be no stalling
Of the fierce injunction that electrified my mind;
What strange new thought, bizarre, now entered in my mind:
“Go workout, girl --- pump and grind!”

Wait, I thought, this is function of an over-spicy luncheon
Eaten yesterday in haste, with sugar too refined;
Or my exes’s telepathic, typically, quite psychopathic,
Notions of the female form, the anorexic kind
(Never was that gentleman forgiving or too kind).
Once again, though: “Pump and grind!”

“Look,” I argued, “fads for fitness, come and go, as you may witness
And the body’s basically a receptacle for the mind;
Aging robs us of our vigor, so all this athletic rigor
Comes to naught in death which is to musculature blind;
Vanitas, o vanitas; best sit here and unwind.”
Said the gym’s voice: “Pump and grind.”

“This idea is overhasty; here,” I cried, “I have some tasty
Brioche and napoleons and Brie cheese and red wine;
This will kill this ludicrous impulse, and this nonsense thoroughly repulse,
No more thought of sweat and aches, I’ll eat, drink, and be fine;
I’ll just pour myself a drink, and sit here and unwind.”
Said my muscles, “Pump and grind.”

Now I lift a dozen barbells like a child with brand new marbles;
Watching all the fitness shows, new ab routines I find;
Every day I lunge, crunch, and squat, look with horror at my thigh fat
Just like every lost physique caught up in workout grind.
Sweat and sneakers and a trainer, I am humankind;
Actually, I look quite cute, now that I pump and grind.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Poems in The Enchanting Verses Literary Review

Delighted that my poems "In Paran" and "Love's Comely Behind" have been accepted by the Enchanting Verses Literary Review. Thanks to guest editor Marc Vincenz for this splendid pub!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Victory in Harvard University Library!

Am delighted that Harvard University is ordering a copy of my translation of the first Futurist opera, Victory over the Sun by Aleksei Kruchenych, for its library! Now available from Cervena Barva Press: order a copy for your library today!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Please join me for a reading and talk in Brooklyn

Friends, please join Anna Halberstadt and me at the Ryder Library tomorrow for a poetry reading and talk. This series is curated by Liana Alaverdova.

Thursday, December 11
Larissa Shmailo and Anna Halberstadt
Ryder Library
5902 23rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11204
6:00 pm

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Text of PHYLUM

This poem appears in the current issue of The Common.


Came a homeless man, without a foot,
dressed up in a new canvas sack,
tied up with a belt in the usual style,
and an Alfalfa tower of hair (all in soot)
with lint in the vertical layers.

He was walking down Fifth
and he put down his bags
by the church of St. Thomas Divine,
and he stopped and he stood
and he stooped from the stairs,
and recited the following prayer:

I’m a mollusk, he said, no, not always purblind,
with a very small heart and a brain,
with a siphon to breathe and some jelly to float
and a useful, for swimming fast, foot.
I used to have teeth but do not any more.
There are 10 to the 5 types of me, (2)
and our shells and our cores are about the same shape,
though our shells are what you’d want to see.(3)
I lay millions of eggs; they swim freely, unseen,
and then sink all alone in the sea. (4)

1. From Gr. phylon, “race, stock,” related to phyle, “tribe, clan,” and phylein, “bring forth”
2. There are nearly one hundred thousand known types of mollusks, including snails, slugs, clams and other bivalves, squids, and octopi. The colossal squid, at up to 33 feet long, is one of the largest invertebrates.
3. At this point in the story, two investment bankers from the crowd rushed to Cartier to buy the homeless mollusk a diamond hair pick; some bystanders from the Sorbonne rubbed organic avocado lotion on his foot; and a girl in a dress from Henri Bendel arm-wrestled a punky paralegal to see who would take him home.
4. This happened, or will.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Cardiac (Ghazal)

My heart is sick and foul, a chest of anguished cries.
My heart attack explodes, arrest of anguished cries.

Clinicians think I’m Job; they jab and prod my veins.
Pathology calls for a test of anguished cries.

They check my pulse and beats with meters stupidly.
My naked heart unrobes, undressed of anguished cries.

A sphygnomameter can’t sound my misery;
I blame my rose divine, caressed of anguished cries.

Larissa’s rose is sick and is consuming me;
Cardiomyopathy, my fest of anguished cries.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Four poems in New Mirage Journal; text of "Copy Cat" (explicit and graphic)

I have four poems in the current issue of New Mirage Journal; here's the link to all four: The text of "Copy Cat" (explicit and graphic, as violence against women is) follows. Still not asking for it.

Copy Cat

you know, the last time I worked like a working girl
Satan he comes to my house
I mean visits he’s one of those boys who
can’t come unless he kills someone
he strips
takes his clothing off
takes the uniform
the badge the boots the trooper uniform off
his little Hitler mustache is all he’s got on
and I say sipping scotch — oh my there look at your wee wee
Satan say honey don’t be talking baby talk
what you see here is my prick
and I say not so kindly I’m a little drunk I say:
Satan baby
officer mine
I hate to inform you
hesitate to inform you
wouldn’t dare to inform on you
but Satan
I’ve seen plenty of pricks
miles of cock
rollpoles of penises
and Satan
what you got there
is a wee wee

a hot dog (not)
a mean love muscle (I don’t think so)
a throbbing cock?
well no
not until you get me in your arms and pin me down
beat my face
slam the bottle up my cunt
fuck my ass until it bleeds
then yer a brick house
when you see blood yer pretty hot

and I say
call the police
but yer already there

since I’m going to die
come on baby
let’s have a date
we can talk some more
I know you love to talk and stalk
look watch:
watch me through my window
I know you’re there
little man
I see you
and I don’t care
you don’t exist
you’re just a wannabe in a uniform
I stand naked in the window
mocking you every night
you dream of dismembering me
you want to push my face
my laughing mocking face
so far down into the ground
you can’t see anything
no eyes no laughing mouth
just the back of my pretty head
like a pumpkin
ready to smash you want to
push me down into the ground make me eat gravel make me eat dirt make me eat my laughing mocking words saying no no
not you
everybody else
anybody else
but not you
you want to
shut my big laughing mouth
throw me to the ground dance on my back till it breaks till it bleeds
you want to wipe
the smile and the lipstick off my face
put blood where the red paint is
like it like that

my butt is yours just for just one night
as long as you’re holding that shiny knife

oh baby
I call the police and there you are
cop cop copy cat
but you can’t dance and you can’t come and you can’t even move your gun
unless you see the fear and scum
do you kill young boys
cause you can’t get it up
do you kill young girls cause you can’t get enough

georgy porgy pudding and pie
kiss the girls
kiss the girls
kiss the girls
kiss the girls
kiss the girls
kiss the girls
kiss the girls
kiss the girls

can’t come unless they run can’t come until they run can’t come until they run
until they twist and shout
how many will you have to kill to
shut my laughing mocking mouth
red with lipstick
wet with
other men’s come
how many will you have to kill
to make me want you
notice you
remember you’re alive?
how much attention do you want how much attention do you need you ain’t never gonna get my undying undying undying attention

that’s the way you like it
no longer even
screaming moving
only the twitching of my dying limbs only that warm soft blood like the animals you killed when you were small mama said they were going to God and you just helped and now you see the inside of me I’m losing blood I’m fast asleep so peaceful now you feel the love I feel for you we’re finally one I’m going soon and we are one how much how much how much love

and now finally I understand and darling
I’ll never laugh at you again mock you point to your tiny itsy bitsy penis
your tiny little boy penis and laugh saying
ain’t never gonna be no man
I’m your mama
and baby I know
watch me little boy I’ll undress for you pull you over
let you
come to mama
be with mama
come watch mama
little boy
but yer
too little
too little
I go
with the men
just watch
and I’ll laugh and my lovers and everyone else
will laugh at you
and how you will love me
till the day I day
especially on the day I die

come on push my face down into the ground you’ll be my dad
and I’ll
your mom
and this time
really know you’re there.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Text of War, for C.K. Williams, in the current Levure littéraire


For C.K. Williams

Reading the prose of young media scribes, absorbed, as they are,
with sex and money, and the need for status, even among orgiasts,
I pause. How they claw, struggling for cabs, cars with bars, and the
nod from Cerberus at the door of the club, as if from him,
his acceptance, could come entrée to it all, the whole nine circles of desire.

But Buddha was right, and it makes for lousy verse, the cascade to the fallen
from fulfilled. The rituals are old, and the same rachitic claw
reaches over us all. And so, torn, we tear, primordial as the air.

We live in parts. The rich ones know. Their eyes caress metals,
held tightly to the chest, played closely to the vest, thrown stingily
among the just-good-folks. You won’t find the address of an arms factory anywhere.
We don’t know. An igniter built in Chappaqua, a pull-pin glazed in Maine,
in Idaho a shell. We need arms, military muscle, American dough.
Watch it blow.

Skeleton, skeleton, step on a crack,
live grenade payback, Jack Iraq.
Shrapnel tears run moist and red.
There, there, there, there (he was six)
there, there, there, there (she has no hand)
there, there, there (his spine is torn)
there, there, there (her head is gone).

A small time to be alive. A very small time to be alive, short enough
to pretend we’ve done no harm. Thanatos is a blind-man’s bluff,
an ignoramus with a stake, a what-were-we-thinking?, a mistake.

How did we not know there was really no other? How could we, eyes
and legs, mouths and heart, all the same, damn it, same, how could
we see anything else but we? No fires or fall, just beloved all?

Maybe as the last breath—will we know it as last?— as the last breath
goes, we—will we know any we?—we might feel another’s dying breath
that we might know someone else’s as we know our own death.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Four poems in Levure Littéraire: To the Thanatos Within Me

Delighted to have four poems in Levure Littéraire. Thanks to Helene Cardona for including me! Here's one of them. Link to all four at


I embrace you, dear shadow,
my revelatory friend,
dear suicidal impulse; today
I dream of the parapets above
A la Vielle Russie, and
of splattering near the Plaza
where Woody Allen wooed young girls,
leaving a bit of me
on the Strand Bookstand,
near the park and the seals —
but this is too vibrant and real.

Better to find myself alone
in a porcelain tub
with chamomile bath oil
(as if I needed to be calm;
there is eternity for that),
listening to Verdi’s Requiem,
holding a razor,
or better still, to poison myself
with small scored rose pills,
avoiding arsenic and the Bovary traps
of indigestion, detection;
best with caplets, red carafes of wine,
or Guinness brew —
(who wouldn’t want to quaff a few?)

What catharsis there is
in the dive, the gesture, the infinite jest,
the slash, the brush (its own fire),
the dance with death?
Ah, this: as I flirt, you draw near,
chingon to my chingada
bite my ear, stop my breath—
who else could do that?

Dear friend of ferment,
who unearths the worms
that enrich this blissful human soil,
promising the end of eternal roil:
Te quiero, my Mescal, my absinthe,
my blue cyanosing corps, my Mayakovsky, my you. . .

Was this a mistake? Is it too late . . . ?
You bite my ear, take up my rear, whisper:

Friday, November 21, 2014

My poem, "Phylum," published in The Common

Was delighted to receive copies of The Common yesterday with my poem "Phylum" in them! This poem has footnotes and it was laid out perfectly. AND I received a check for my work! Thanks to John Hennessy, poetry editor, and to everyone at this superb poetry journal!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cervena Barva Press announces Victory Over the Sun translated by Larissa Shmailo

Cervena Barva Press announces "Victory Over the Sun"
The First Futurist Opera by Aleksei Kruchenykh
Translated by Larissa Shmailo; edited and with an introduction by Eugene Ostashevsky

"Victory over the Sun, one of the most important events in Russian Futurism and in the avant-garde in general, is not well recognized in the West. Now in a new edition of Larissa Shmailo's brilliant translation of the text, with a lively introduction by Eugene Ostashevsky, readers can appreciate the significance and innovativeness of the 1913 play. Using Shmailo's translation and Malevich's pathbreaking stage designs, the play was reconstructed and staged in 1980 to great acclaim and remains a signal accomplishment in the history of the avant-garde."
—Gerald Janecek, Author of Zaum: The Transrational Poetry of Russian Futurism (UCSD, 1996) and Sight and Sound Entwined (Berghahn Books, 2000)

"Velimir Khlebnikov, literally, missed the train on co-penning this one, contributing only a poem to Kruchenykh's libretto. Staged alongside Mayakovsky's Vladimir Mayakovsky, A Tragedy, the 1913 original production of Victory is remembered primarily for Kazimir Malevich's costumes, lighting, and set design, instigations for the Suprematism and Constructivism still to come in 1915 and 1919, respectively…. Nothing is more fitting for this centennial of "Russian Futurianism" than a celebration of Kruchenykh's great contribution to poetry, his Zaum, and not just for its verbal play – the inventive neologizing and the épater-le-bourgeois utopianism – but for the underappreciated antilyricism of his verse, as well. In communicating to us his musicality in English, Larissa Shmailo has done a remarkable job in conferring on Kruchenykh his true due as a poet." —Alex Cigale, Translations Editor of MadHat Lit

"A century ago, Aleksei Kruchenykh was the way out writer's most way out writer. If publishing today, he still would be."
—Richard Kostelanetz, Author of A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes (Routledge, 1993)
#Victory over the Sun
$16.00 | ISBN: 978-0-692-30231-6 | 56 Pages

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Text of Tarkovsky translation of "June 25, 1939" with Russian

June 25, 1939
Arseny Tarkovsky
Tr. L. Shmailo

It's frightening to die, and such a shame to leave
This captivating riffraff that enchants me,
The stuff so dear to poets, so very lovely,
I never celebrated; it somehow wasn't to be.
I loved to come back home at the break of dawn
And shift my things around in half an hour.
I loved the white windowsill, and also the flower,
The carved faceted glass, and also the water,
And the heavens, greenish-azure in their color—
And that I was a poet and a wicked man.
And when every June came with my birthday again
I'd idolize that holiday, bustling
With verses by friends and congratulations from women,
With crystal laughter, and gay glasses clinking
And the lock of that hair, unique, individual
And that kiss, so entirely inevitable.
But now at home it’s all set up differently;
It's June and I no longer have that homesickness.
In this way, life is teaching me patience,
And turbid, my blood now is stirring this birthday,
And a secret anxiety is tormenting me—
What have I done with my great destiny,
Oh my God, what have I done with me!

25 июня 1939 года
Арсений Тарковский
И страшно умереть, и жаль оставить
Всю шушеру пленительную эту,
Всю чепуху, столь милую поэту,
Которую не удалось прославить
Я так любил домой прийти к рассвету,
И в полчаса все вещи переставить,
Еще любил я белый подоконник,
Цветок и воду, и стакан граненый,
И небосвод голубизны зеленой,
И то, что я — поэт и беззаконник.
А если был июнь и день рожденья
Боготворил я праздник суетливый,
Стихи друзей и женщин поздравленья,
Хрустальный смех и звон стекла счастливый,
И завиток волос неповторимый,
И этот поцелуй неотвратимый
. Расставлено все в доме по-другому,
Июнь пришел, я не томлюсь по дому,
В котором жизнь меня терпенью учит
И кровь моя мутится в день рожденья,
И тайная меня тревога мучит,—
Что сделал я с высокою судьбою,
О боже мой, что сделал я с собою!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New translation of Arseny Tarkovsky and poems by Alexander Skidan up at TRUCK

I have a spanking brand new translation of "June 25, 1939" by Arseny Tarkovsky and several poems by Alexander Skidan translated by me and the author up at Halvard Johnson's TRUCK today. Thanks to "driver," poet and translator Anny Ballardini, for including me!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Blazevox is PUBLISHING MY NOVEL, PATIENT WOMEN!!! Stunned with happiness for an hour and now dancing around the house! THANK YOU to the brilliant Geoffrey Gatza for publishing my first collection of poetry, In Paran, and now this novel, which takes place in the Woodstock and punk rock and early AIDS eras, culminating in the heyday of the 12 Step programs in the 90s (meet my protagonist Nora, and her sponsor, the transgender Chrisis St. Lawrence). God, it's been a pretty good day, week, month, life!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Patient Women a Subito Press Contest Semifinalist

Thanks to Subito Press of the University of Colorado Boulder for naming my novel, Patient Women, as a semifinalist in their prose contest. (Hint: this does mean that Patient Women still needs a publisher, friends; ideas?)

Friday, November 07, 2014

Cover of my translation of Victory over the Sun by Aleksei Kruchenykh from ‪Červená Barva Press

Advanced in the Guggenheim Fellowship Competition!

The Guggenheim Fellowship Competition has requested work samples from me. I am sending my books ‪#‎special‬ characters (Unlikely Books), In Paran (Blazevox), and A Cure for Suicide (Červená Barva Press). I am honored and would like to thank my publishers

My translation of A. Kruchenykh's Victory over the Sun now available from Červená Barva Press

I am thrilled to announce the publication of my translation of Aleksei Kruchenykh's libretto of the first Russian Futurist opera, Victory over the Sun (1913). Published by Gloria Mindock's Červená Barva Press, this edition has a brilliant introduction by Eugene Ostashevsky. This publication would not have been possible without the help of Alexander Cigale. who, with scholars Gerald Janacek and Richard Kostelanetz, have provided wonderful blurbs for the book. Cover art is from Kazimir Malevich's set designs for the original production. Thanks to everyone who has made this publication possible, and to the Garage Museum of Moscow for using this translation for their reconstruction of the opera!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Career Narrative

Larissa Shmailo is the editor-in-chief of the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry (featured on the Poetry Foundation's Harriet, Voice of Russia, and Russia Beyond the Headlines), poetry editor for MadHat Annual, and founder of The Feminist Poets in Low-Cut Blouses. She translated Victory over the Sun for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art landmark reconstruction of the multimedia avant-garde opera and has been a translator on the Bible in Russia for the Eugene A. Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship of the American Bible Society. Larissa has studied poetry and translation with Annie Finch, Bob Holman, and Pierre Joris. Her studies in prosody, metrics, and scansion are recorded and published by Annie Finch on her websites. Larissa has published critical work on Elaine Equi and Philip Nikolayev.

Larissa's translation of the Russian opera Victory over the Sun by A. Kruchenych will be part of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art's retrospective of Russia performative art, Russian Performance: A Cartography of Its History. The libretto of this opera is included in collections of the New York Museum of Modern Art, the Hirsshorn Museum, the Museum of Natural History in New York City, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and others. The opera has been performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, CalArts, and internationally. This translation is taught at universities nationwide. The print publication of this libretto with an introduction by Eugene Ostashevsky is pending by Červená Barva Press. The translation is currently featured on the Brooklyn Rail InTranslation site at

Larissa's work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Random House anthology of metrical verse Measure for Measure, the Penguin anthology Words for the Wedding, Plume, The St. Petersburg Review, Jacket, Jacket2, The Battersea Review, Gargoyle, Barrow Street, Drunken Boat, Fulcrum, The Unbearables Big Book of Sex, Contemporary Russian Poetry, Rattapallax, About:, and hundreds of journals, zines, websites, blogs, and other media/publications. Her poetry has been included in 50 anthologies. Larissa's poetry books are #specialcharacters (Unlikely Books), (BlazeVOX [books]), A Cure for Suicide (Cervena Barva Press), Fib Sequence (Argotist Ebooks). Her poetry CDs are The No-Net World and Exorcism.

Larissa’s work is archived at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hirsshorn Museum of the Smithsonian, and eight universities. She received honorable mention in the Compass Award for Russian literary translation in 2011, the Elizabeth P. Braddock poetry prize in 2012, and the Goodreads May 2012 poetry contest; she was a finalist in the Glass Woman prose prize in 2012. Larissa also received the New Century Music awards for best spoken word with rock, jazz, and electronica in 2009, as well as the best album award for Exorcism. She received Critic’s Pick notices from Time Out Magazine for her reading series Sliding Scale Poetry and Critic’s Pick, The New York Press, for “Deconstructing Education,” The New School in 1996. She was a Radio Highlight, New York Times, for “Madwoman,” Teachers and Writers Collaborative Radio in 1996.

Larissa also translated the Bibliography of the Translations of the Bible in the Languages of the Russian Federation, Commonwealth of Independent States, and Baltic States, by Dr. Boris Arapovic for the Nida Institute on Biblical Scholarship’s History of Bible Translation series (of the American Bible Society; publication pending. Her translations of Yuri Arabov and Anya Logvinova appear in Contemporary Russian Poetry (Dalkey Archive Press); funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, 2007. She received honorable mention in the Compass Award for literary translation, 2011 sponsored by Princeton, Georgetown, and Montclair State Universities, Cardinal Points Journal, and other institutions.

Larissa has read at the Knitting Factory, Barnard College, the New School, New York University, the Langston Hughes residence, the Bowery Poetry Club, and for American Express/Share Our Strength. Her work has been heard on PennSound Radio, New York Board of Education radio, Teachers and Writers Collaborative radio, Columbia University radio, WBAI, Indiefeed Performance Poetry, and many other broadcasts. She is founder of The Feminist Poets in Low-Cut Blouses poetry group, curator of the Sliding Scale Poetry Reading Series, and a member of the Unbearables and Otherstream literary groups. She has organized and performed in poetry benefits on behalf of human services and literacy organizations, including The Bread and Life Soup Kitchen, Girls Write Now, and the New York City Poetry Calendar. She is the former director of TWiN East Coast, an international Internet network of poets. She has been a curator of the Spirit of Howl! Festival, a spokesperson for NEA funding, and a member of the advisory Board of the NYC Poetry Calendar.

Critical Commentary
I see [Shmailo's] work as a continuum in a long tradition of radical writing practices from Futurism, to Dada, to Oulipo, to Pussy Riot. Read it when you wish to be empowered. Read it when you wish to be entertained. Read it to rid yourself of the precious and polite.
—Elaine Equi

Larissa is constitutionally predetermined to sing out in her lines. The notes stick in your head. She hails from all over the place and brings a unique poetic worldview, her eyes filled with life and love, pain and death, freedom and coercion, the real of the mind and the imagined of the heart. . .When it comes to capturing the intimacy of pain, Larissa Shmailo is among the most daring poets of her generation. When speaking of human rights, she is a human flame. She is subtle and provocative, fresh and out of bounds. You will fall in love here, and you will be loved right back.
—Philip Nikolayev

Her poems, alive with discomfort and broken pieces, teach an art of compassion without illusion.
— Robert Viscusi

In a sea of mimics, this poet is an original voice.
—Doug Holder

Shmailo has managed to split language into its common & least common denominators/principles: sound, meaning, symbol, feeling (text/ure) as well as providing us with a range of voices from child to adult & male to female within a range of styles & mannerisms from the ultra-experimental to quirky ―innocent‖ rhymes like her sexy riff on ―the 12 days of Christmas‖ in her classic ―The Other Woman’s Cunt.‖ Her knowledge of the ―WORD‖ & how to use it extends from darkly humorous to warm, lyrical, tender & painful . . .
—Steve Dalachinsky

Shmailo's poetry sucked me into/out of its golden spiral.
—Moira Richards, Cape Times (South Africa)

"MIRROR, or a Flash in the Pan" . . . is very close to fiction, although it certainly has passages of poetry. It's an excellent piece, crystal clear and shockingly honest . . .Shmailo's most famous (popular?) poem . . . "The Other Woman's Cunt". . . is angry, raunchy, vicious and by the way! hilarious. There is a fair amount of typographical experimentation and deep connections to literature and mythology, but at its heart, as a whole, the [work] has the remarkable quality of being extremely moving even when you aren't sure what's going on.
—Meredith Sue Willis, Books for Readers

New work

Pleased to have work forthcoming in FULCRUM, Plume, St. Petersburg Review, The Common, and Measure for Measure, the new Random House anthology of metrical verse.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Upcoming appearances

Saturday, September 27
Dream Traveler:
100 Thousand Poets for Change in New York City
@ Sidewalk
94 Avenue A
New York, New York 10009
6:00 pm EST

Sunday, September 28
@MadHat at the Dumbo Arts Festival
Berl's Poetry Shop
126A Front St
Brooklyn, New York 11209
2:00 pm EST

Monday, September 29
@Saturn Series and Open Mic
Café Mania
New York, New York 10016
8:00 pm EST

Friday, October 10th
Women Write Resistance
@Purdue University Northwest
YJean Chambers Theater
Student Union Library building.
(Reception to follow in Founders Hall)
6:00–7:30 pm CST

Saturday October 11
Women Write Resistance
@Indiana Writers’ Consortium
2014 Creative Writing Conference and Book Fair
Hilton Garden Inn, Salon A
7775 Mississippi Street
Merrillville, Indiana
4:00–5:10 pm CST

Monday, October 13
Chicago Calling Festival
@Molly Malone's Reading Series and Open Mic
7652 W. Madison
Forest Park, Illinois
7:00–9:30 pm CST

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dream Traveler: 100 Thousand Poets for Change in New York City

Dream Traveler: 100 Thousand Poets for Change in New York City

Media Contacts:
Larissa Shmailo
(212) 712-9865

Ron Kolm
(718) 721-0946
@ Sidewalk
94 Avenue A, New York, New York 10009
Saturday, September 27, 6–8 pm

New York City: September 27 marks the fourth annual global event of 100 Thousand Poets for Change, a grassroots movement that brings poets, artists, and musicians together worldwide to call for environmental, social, and political change within the framework of peace and sustainability. There are over 500 events planned worldwide.

The flagship reading in New York City is Dream Traveler, the surrealist vision of noted Romanian poet Valery Oisteanu, co-curated and organized by the leader of the Unbearables literary clan, Ron Kolm. The readers represent New York's literati, and are Kolm, Larissa Shmailo, Tom Walker Gordon Gilbert, Claudia Serea, Allan Graubard, Jeff Wright, Ronnie Norpel, Carl Watson, Ilka Scobie, David St-Lascaux, Jordan Zinovich, Bill Wolak, Max Blagg, Tom Savage. Angelo Verga,Thad Rutkowski, Shelley Miller, Kelvin Dale, and Wanda Phipps.

All are welcome to attend or organize a 100 Thousand Poets, Musicians, Artists, Photographers, and/or Mimes event. Those who want to get involved may visit to find an event near them or sign up to organize an event in their area.

Stanford University recognizes 100 Thousand Poets for Change as an historical event, the largest poetry reading in history, and preserves documentation of its readings and other events in that university's archives.

About 100 Thousand Poets for Change
Co-Founder Michael Rothenberg ( is a widely known poet, editor of the online literary magazine, and an environmental activist based in Northern California. Co-Founder Terri Carrion is a poet, translator, photographer, and editor and visual designer for
100 Thousand Poets for Change
P.O. Box 870
Guerneville, CA 95446
Phone: (305) 753-4569

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Mission to Moscow

Friends, I am deeply honored and delighted to tell you that the Garage Museum in Moscow has selected my English translation of Victory over the Sun to use in its new reconstruction of this avant-garde opera for a sweeping retrospective of Russian performative art from 1913 to the present. I'm going to Moscow!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Dead

My husband lost his shirt at cards; insolvent, he then drowned
in slick Cancun on our honeymoon; years now, it still astounds
how fast, how fast, a living hell can turn a life around.

My godchild told me pointedly if she were to attempt
to die that she'd succeed at once, a word that doctor kept,
and took a hundred opiates and drifted to her death.

My punk rock pimp, a crush of mine, loved theater and art.
He sodomized and strangled a young man who broke his heart,
then packed a bag of bondage toys and left for foreign parts.

Before her death, my mother called and calmly sat me down;
if she could do it all again, she'd have no children, none.
She lived her life in anger and, despite us, all alone.

My father drank and slept around; he was a well-liked guy.
He said I love you once to me the night before he died
Was that a feeling come too late, or panic in his eyes?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Late Summer Poem

You must have seen it, at a crepuscule shore;
It strikes as lightning does, trembling the sky,
with dying rose and aster glowing, calling "more"
to the last flash of egret possibility.

You must have heard it: mad crickets in the dusk,
the flap of lone water on smooth stone and bark,
the sound of a loon in the thick summer musk,
the breath of the mango tree whispering in the dark.

Self-centered, we cannot see God in ourselves,
and in others we overlook and miss the divine;
in nature, not ours, we sense eternal lives
for a moment alive in our chattering minds.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Girl @theParisReview Says Uncool

The idiot girl @theParisReview says uncool:
that, to critique, the phrase, the trappings of,
is used by “100% pretentious hacks.” And
the editor @PoetryFound retweets her crap,
and an article on pooping, besides. I was
going to tweet a Baudelaire, from “Beauty,” line,
line by displaced line:
I am beautiful, o mortals, like a dream of stone
But thought better of it (a proscribed phrase?)
—an unpretentious #Stalinist might
tell me not to translate, or Baudelaire not to write.
(But what does this mean:
Je hais le mouvement qui déplace les lignes?
Is the idiot girl @ParisCool right?) No, she is
an idiot, disliking a history without her part,
as I dislike the way the young are heartless, mean,
calling it honest (and I was different @18?)

This poem originally appeared in Gargoyle.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An excerpt from "Mirror, or a Flash in the Pan"

An excerpt from "Mirror, or a Flash in the Pan," from my new collection #specialcharacters, available from Amazon and Unlikely Books.

$ $ $

Ritar dislikes children, but is writing a story, to be illustrated, about an adorable and precocious little girl who plans to visit “Parrots,” France. She starts drinking again after long sobriety during the process, downing large tumblers of cheap gin, until she tears the pages up and sets them on fire in the sink. She sobers up long enough to send out her sex genre piece, recycled from the last rejection.

Proposal 1, Mass Market: The Cult
A retired vice cop receives a letter from Hetera, a call girl he was obsessed with in the ‘70s. In her urgent correspondence, she writes to him of a complicated conspiracy to gaslight her. The conspirators are mobsters, rock stars, aristocrats, Park Avenue psychiatrists, Nazis, and a who’s who of writers and artists. As he follows her story, it will take him through the secret lives of the rich and famous; to sordid vaults of porn and prostitution; to the heyday of Studio 54 and Plato’s Retreat and Salvador Dali’s sex parties for artists and the poor; Warhol’s Factory; and down to the last chance A.A. meetings on the old Bowery. Is this the madness, mania, and mayhem of a professional party girl—or is Hetera the victim of a real cult?

. . . the papers, her eternal poet's rustling of papers . . . holding them in his hand, Henry had a palpable moment of remembering her in his hand, under his command, when the most important thing in the world was to be inside her. He shook it off. As a young policeman, a detective on vice still hoping to write the definitive novel, she was his muse, the Whore of Mensa, mad but gorgeous and brilliant, maniacally oversexed, and obsessed, at least for a few months, with him. The sex, he remembered, getting an erection from the memory, the constant sex, and the writing, page after page of poems and stories and the first full novel, raw, flawed, but energetic, alive, so alive . . . then her cure, her overweight, her depression; he was relieved when she married another. And he forgot her among more conventional women, went to law school and lived a solid upper-middle class life, but he never forgot what was possible in intensity between two people.

We will love like dogwood.
Kiss like cranes.
Die like moths,
I promise . . .

Ritar drinks another tumbler of gin, and writes another proposal.

$ $ $

Friday, August 15, 2014

New Life 5 (Mistranslation of Joseph Brodsky)

Imagine twilight in the new life: Clouds formed here
are better than sunlight in the old. Cicadas sing a
sonorous “ch,” and now that the tanks are gone,
a classical perspective reigns, although things remain
vulnerable. And the thoughts of things, how easily one
can forget them! And the thoughts as well that beget them.

Imagine people coming out of rooms, faint, important
only to themselves, where chairs stand, like the letters
“b”and “d,” and save them from falling. They have that
attachment to place, characteristic of Penelope, despite
the white walls with their tidy trim of maize, despite
the old divan, the bare parquet, the yellow Chinese vase.

You’ve been saved: Local Pomonas and Venuses don’t
seduce you, and now, having looked Cyclops in the eye,
you don’t suffer much from indifference. You don’t hide
your trumps, or play your cards close to your vest. The crow
sings “kr”at dawn. And you, like him, sing a pastoral song
with no especial fear or love or need to belong.

Imagine the radio is playing an old hymn, weaving
music from the alphabet, now “Betsy.”now “Abraham,”
now “Sam.” The airs hold influences: statues, rules of
multiplication, stamps. In the end, our curiosity about the
boundaries of these places, these once blank spaces, is
a kind of art. Twilight, crepuscule, the last sun’s ray:
In the new life, they don’t tell the moment: Stay.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Autobio, for Robin Williams

1968 Quebec get drunk 1st time in public 12 years old drink cider smoke a Cuban cigar get sick pass out fall down cheek on the floor hear my girlfriends rank me out they think that I can’t hear

1971 1st suicide attempt age 15 1st psych ward Gracie Square

1972 Smoke pot in the Waldorf bathrooms I say rich kids don’t get busted am right think about jumping in front of the 7 or out the window at school go home watch Star Trek instead

1973 Switzerland drink grappa in Lugano 17 & very cute suicide attempts: 1 slashing wrists 1 pills overdose check into cheap hotel with an orange and some gin take synthetic morphine & write a long note morphine like acid run naked hotel lobby punch a nun coma 3 days want to drink Calvados like Hemingway in Europe never do

1974 Providence University #1 take speed buy marijuana for $8 an oz cut classes play Monopoly with joints on free parking drink beer flunk out get a job as a waitress truck stop early shift take dexadrine my sister’s for clinical depression like speed

1975 New York City University 2 smoke pot drink coffee don’t eat save $ to drink drink as long as I have $ midnight start to drink my carfare sell my tokens to drink live in Queens walk home 2 fare zone age 19

1976 Flunk out go to Boston get a job in a bar Crème de Menthe in the morning nitrous oxide at night Kahlua in the morning scotch & water at night Godfathers for a quarter Amaretto ladies’ night come to hotel with a man I’ve never seen well hello on the Commons same hotel where I OD nice hotel

1977 Back to New York continue my education drinking Cutty by the Hudson boy falls into the river come to he is gone he is 20 he was 20 20 yrs old just like me goodbye
v 1978 I’m a hooker in a whorehouse in the kitchen there are bottles don’t like vodka I drink vodka hate gin but I drink gin smoke pot with dedication roll & smoke and go to work I can roll a joint with 1 hand I can roll a joint with no hands no one else rolls fucking fast enough I get so fucking pissed

1979 CBGB’s black and blue and I am bored I am tripping I am drinking I am popping I am bored a boy who looks like a grave painting asks me to leave outside of Phebe’s can't find the train station can’t find the street decide to go away

1979 The Yucatan take peyote dance with rattles my lover lets me drink a little beer black eyes & rib cage healed go to Cuernavaca dancing climb volcanoes every day till I see no human faces then I’m fine

1980 New York beautiful Bellevue locked ward scabies crab lice very bad little bugs jump on my elbows back and forth between my eyes bugs crawl on my skin and under in my armpits & my crotch have DTs but bugs are real have DTs very bad

1981 Fat depressed & unemployed live with parents treat me okay like the dog okay sleep all day drink Papa’s vodka watch TV until the dawn try to kill myself can’t do it this for 27 mos

1983 Antabuse & Lithium get a boyfriend get a job take both until I don’t

1985 Get married 3/19 & 3/26 he drowns fuck you God you fucking Nazi fuck you God you prick

1986 Prescriptions MDs give me lots of scripts Xanax Halcyon Lomotil Valium & Mellaril Xanax scripts in 7 drugstores uptown downtown & in Queens Xanax AM Xanax PM take a Xanax Dr. says

1989 West Side suicide why not no motherfucking reason not 300 pills and I don’t die brain is damaged but I don’t die why won’t I fucking die get a gun or jump the next time whisper: show me how to live or let me die

1990 Don’t die they say don’t die I listen & I don’t know why drop the bottle take their hands Lois Thurman Hans and Kate don’t die they say don’t die

1993 Glad to be alive almost not dead & I don’t mind maybe glad to be alive

2014 Look at me inside of me upon this edge there is a God inside I love her fiercely I love you (don’t die)

Saturday, August 09, 2014

The Course of Grief

This sorrow trips your steps like stones on a path,
always loosening, always falling, preventing a climb.

You will not emerge from her stone chamber. You,
even if you could, would not forget her subterranean voice.

Her bright call will never return, nor will her eyes
open in their sockets. Alone with her gemstones you cry:

emerald, iolite, rings for fingers now ash, for an urn
turned and emptied in the sea, a will like yours.

Show me your tear-scarred eyes, show me your face:
say to me, I was robbed, the best was taken

because one thing was missing, because the time
was a moment too short. Did I lose her I loved

because someone was dull or for no reason at all?
Because some fate failed did I lose my child?

I give you keening, silence, my hands for tears;
I, too, know that stone voice and the chasm of these years.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

100 Thousand Poets for Change day is September 27!

Izdubar (ekphrastic on Carl Jung's Red Book image)

Be careful, you who straddle
science and inner sooth:
giants collapse, learning
that we cannot reach the sun, and
scholars and sages are struck blind,
their heads spun full around; they
turn into prescient hermaphrodites
to plumb the Oedipal truths.

Can truth be done, without the sun?
Can you live without its light?
Can you blindly follow Apollo
with Tiresias through each doubt?
Can you live without your cherished truths,
can you learn to live without?

Wednesday, August 06, 2014


Love is an actor like Pitt, young and handsome and fuckishly fit;
Love flexes muscles so well, takes your breath away just like Denzel.
Seen on the screen by night, love's never paltry, but always delights.
It's Danny DeVito by day, though, when the curtain is taken away.

Love is an acrobat, jumps and juggles and passes the hat;
moves you in strange new ways as you're hypnotized under his sway.
Turning fast somersaults, Eros's gymnastics score 10 without fault,
But leave you with sprains and scars when, inevitably, you miss the bar.

Love is the rupture of heart; its sharp scalpel will cut mine apart.
Only a surgeon could see how to operate so well on me.
This is the intricate pain, come dissecting my frog hurt again.
Eros is clinically bold, and a professional, totally cold.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Exorcism (Found Poem)

Adapted from “Group Dynamics,” People of the Lie─The Hope for Healing Human Evil by M. Scott Peck, and “The Forging of the Malevolent Personality” in Speaking with the Devil by Carl Goldberg. From the CD Exorcism by Larissa Shmailo

I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground

Consecration: On the morning of March 16, 1968
Elements of Task Force Barker
Charlie Company Task Force Barker
Moved into a small group of hamlets
In the Quang Ngai province of South Vietnam
Collectively known as My Lai

It was a routine mission
To search and destroy
A typical mission
To search and destroy

The soldiers were poorly trained and hastily assembled
They were tired, poorly trained, and hastily assembled
They had sustained casualties from booby traps and mines
They had not engaged the enemy but sustained casualties
Had had no military success for over a month
The soldiers were poorly trained.

The soldiers were probably not aware of the Geneva Convention
Which states it is a war crime to kill a civilian
A punishable crime to kill a civilian
To kill a soldier or enemy who has surrendered
Who is wounded and has laid down his arms
To kill a noncombatant

They were probably not aware of the Law of Land Warfare
In the Army Field Manual, the U.S. Army Field Manual
Which specifies that orders in violation of the Geneva Convention
Any order in violation of the Geneva Convention
Is illegal and not to be obeyed

The soldiers were poorly trained

The written orders were ambiguous
The My Lai orders were ambiguous
Just waste the place, a Louie said
A Louie might have said

Though essentially all elements of Task Force Barker
Were involved in some way in the My Lai operation
The primary element of ground troop involved
Was C Company 1st Battalion of the 20th infantry
Of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade

When Charlie Company moved into the hamlets of My Lai
They found no combatants not a single combatant
Only old men and children, unarmed women, men, and children
All civilian and unarmed

The troops of C Company killed five to six hundred
The troops of C Company killed five to six hundred
The troops of C Company killed five to six hundred
Civilians on that day

The killings took a long time

The people were killed in a variety of ways
In some instances troops would simply stand at a hut
And spray it with fire or throw hand grenades
In other instances villagers including small children
Were shot as they attempted to escape

The killings took a long time

The most large scale killings occurred at My Lai 4
There the first platoon of Charlie Company
Commanded by Lieutenant Calley
Herded villagers into groups of twenty or more
Who were then shot down by rifle fire
Machine guns and hand grenades

The killings took a long time

The number of soldiers can only be estimated
Perhaps only fifty actually killed the civilians
Perhaps just two hundred watched them shoot the civilians
Only just some two hundred directly witnessed the killings
By the end of the massacre approximately 500
Knew of operation My Lai

None of them reported the crimes

A helicopter pilot in flyby to the mission
A warrant officer in air support in flyby to the mission
Could see from the air what was happening in the hamlets
He landed, tried to talk to the troops on the ground
Then went airborne and radioed headquarters from his copter
Told his superior officers what he saw at My Lai They did not seem concerned

The soldiers were poorly trained

When a panel was convened
Four years later to investigate
The events at My Lai
They inquired if this atrocity
Was similar or different
From other war crimes
Which had occurred
In this and other American wars

They noted that no study
Had ever been made
Of any war crimes or atrocities
Committed by Americans at war
And requested that a study
Of the subject might be made

The panel was told that the current administration
At the time would be embarrassed by the findings of the panel
And that further studies or embarrassment
That might ensue from such a study
Was inadvisable at the time

Lieutenant Calley was convicted
For his crimes at My Lai 4
But not his Captain Medina
His superior officer
Not Lieutenant Colonel Barker
Who Commanded Task Force Barker
Nor Lieutenant Barker’s com
Who said,
Boys let’s bring that coonskin home….

In Serbia a woman calls her youngest son now to her
She tells him to sit down she will now explain to him
Why his father has seemed cold harsh and cruel to him sometimes
She tells him of his life

When his father was a young boy at the time of the World War
He was captured by the Germans under guard at the railroad
He watched unarmed men and women emerge slowly from a boxcar
At the head of the ramp was a strong commanding figure
An SS man in the black uniform of the SS Medical Corp

He is singing Meistersinger as the people search for loved ones
For their children and their parents
German soldiers beat the people
As they run before the guns the SS officer shouts In a commanding baritone voice

“Freeze. Listen. Do as I say.”

One very old man perhaps eighty years old
A scholarly old man who has fallen to the ground
His clothes are caked with mud and his eyeglasses are askew
A woman crawls up next to him as if she knew him well
He turns to her and says, “God. . . .perhaps the man. . .
In the black uniform. . .the imposing man in the black uniform,
Maybe they sent him to save us?”

The officer is singing as he points to the left
To the right and the left
And the prisoners are herded to the gates of a camp
And the young Yugoslav watched the people as they marched
As they hurried to the camps where they would die

And the mother turned around and she said to her son
In a voice he’d never heard his mother use to him before
She said your father learned that day what I will tell you right now

“It is better to be a Nazi and survive
It is better to be a Nazi and survive
It is better to be a Nazi and survive
Than one of those people so helpless and naïve
That they have no choice but to pray to their God
That the Nazis will save them from harm.”

The boy he was well-trained.

In Iowa in ’66 a boy gets into trouble
Sells some pot and gets himself caught
And he gets himself in trouble
And the judge says join the Army
Or you’re going to do some hard time
The boy signs up for Nam

I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground I stand on holy ground I stand on holy ground I stand on holy ground

Sunday, August 03, 2014

AWP 2015 Panel: Daughters of Baba Yaga

Very pleased to learn that Katia Kapovich, Irina Mashinski, Gloria Mindock, Annie Pluto and I have been given a place on the AWP Conference program in Minneapolis in 2015. We will be reading our poetry in a presentation called "Daughters of Baba Yaga: The Eastern European Woman Poet in the United States."

Friday, August 01, 2014


Kalinivka, Kalinivka: The ground over the mass graves is hard, the soft grass grows. The Ukrainian Guard, boy and girl, make love, happy to be alive. In the Ukraine, collectivized, they walked on corpses. And the Germans alone protest, her father tells the girl. Siberia, purges. Like the Irish, their parents collaborate; Hitler fights the Russian and English masters of their rural lands. Now here, Kalinivka. The mass graves crack with green life. 1941 is forgotten in the summer of ’43. She is 19, pregnant soon.

By1943, the ghetto holds the few not deported, living in tunnels, basements, caves, the hiding ones, the ones who know. All the rest to camps in Poland, Germany, or dead. The boy no longer likes the girl, but through her, he got his Kapo job. Even his mother says, marry. Have a child. The female Kapo bears a boy through the camps, Prymsl, through the unknown tombs of Poland, the unmarked graves, the walls marked with Jewish blood, the bloody broken nooses, the dark rain. She wants the boy to marry her, he makes excuses, says, the Germans won’t permit. That the child will die soon after the war, that she will beat her head upon the grave until it bleeds, that sorrow is unknown. The death of the Jewish children is unseen. Poland is always green.

Germany, Harz Mountains. The Germans turn now, now SS. The war is failing. Fewer the slaves to command, the girl, heavy with child, translates, working, starving, carried in rail carts for miles to build the V-2s. A rachitic Jewess cleans the barracks, the boy’s eye turns, with pity, with lust; he gives her bread. From Erfurt to the extension camp, Buchenwald’s new Dora, Northausen. Here they spare the rope to hang. All are hungry, the Germans too. The Allies bomb the industrial camp. Liberation. Rows of corpses, the eternal rows, line Northausen. The Germans are forced to respect the dead. Kalinivka, Prymsl, the unseen dead, now here in respectful symmetry, no longer piled in heaps, but rectangular, marked. The flowers grow, the burghers sing, “After every December, there comes a new spring."

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Last night, last for many,
children were killed as they slept
on the floor of a classroom in Gaza,
three impacts from artillery, they suspect.
3,300 people had sought refuge
at the Jabalia Elementary Girls school;
civilian, not military, casualties of those
displaced by a war without rules.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Revision of Poem in Iambic Pentameter ("The More You Leave")

The more you leave, the more I want you back.
When you return, our love life seems to lack.
Believing you are unassailable
I yearn for you to be available.
And then you come; I cannot be more bored:
I like your leave, but not your coming toward.
Your distance charms, disarms my eager heart.
But close, I wish we were again apart.
Do stay away, and I'm forever rapt,
but close, you leave me empty, dull, and sapped.
So go away; I'll love you as before.
Love's ebb and flow is tricky as a whore.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A poem in dactyllic hexameter ("This is the rupture of heart . . . "):

This is the rupture of heart; love's sharp scalpel will cut mine apart.
Only a surgeon could see how to operate so well on me.
This is the intricate pain, come dissecting my frog hurt again
Eros is clinically bold, and a professional, totally cold.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Aleksandr Blok (November 28, 1880 – August 7, 1921), the great Symbolist poet of Russia's Silver Age ("Night, avenue . . .")

Night, avenue, street lamp, the drug store,
Irrational and dusky light;
Live another decade, two more—
It stays the same; there's no way out.

You'll die, then start again, beginning
And everything repeats as planned:
Night, the cold canal's icy ripple,
The drug store, avenue, and lamp.
Tr. L. Shmailo

Ночь, улица, фонарь, аптека,
Бессмысленный и тусклый свет.
Живи еще хоть четверть века -
Все будет так. Исхода нет.

Умрешь - начнешь опять сначала
И повторится все, как встарь:
Ночь, ледяная рябь канала,
Аптека, улица, фонарь.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


The more you leave, the more I want you back.
And then you come and only give me flack.
Believing you will never come again
I pine and yearn, and prize you above men.
And then you come; I cannot be more bored:
I like your leave, but not your coming toward.
The dance of love taps fire when you're away,
and trips and falls when you return to stay.
Do stay away, and I'm forever rapt,
but close, you leave me empty, dull, and sapped.
So go away; I'll love you all the more;
Love's ebb and flow is tricky as a whore.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin (June 6, 1799 – February 10, 1837): I loved you once . . .

I loved you once, and this love still, it may be,
Is not extinguished fully in my soul;
But let’s no longer have this love dismay you:
To trouble you is not my wish at all.
I loved you once quite wordlessly, without hope,
Tortured shyness, jealous rage I bore.
I loved you once so gently and sincerely:
God grant you to be loved this way once more.

Tr. L. Shmailo

Я вас любил: любовь еще, быть может,
В душе моей угасла не совсем;
Но пусть она вас больше не тревожит;
Я не хочу печалить вас ничем.
Я вас любил безмолвно, безнадежно,
То робостью, то ревностью томим;
Я вас любил так искренно, так нежно,
Как дай вам бог любимой быть другим.

Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Vladimir Mayakovsky's Last Poem

Vladimir Mayakovsky's (July 19,1893 – April 14, 1930) final poem before his suicide. The Oka mentioned is a tributary of the Volga.

It's after one. You've likely gone to sleep.
The Milky Way streams silver, an Oka through the night.
I don't hurry, I don't need to wake you
Or bother you with lightning telegrams.
Like they say, the incident is closed.
Love's little boat has crashed on daily life.
We're even, you and I. No need to account
For mutual sorrows, mutual pains and wrongs.
Look: How quiet the world is.
Night cloaks the sky with the tribute of the stars.
At times like these, you can rise, stand, and speak
To history, eternity, and all creation.

Tr. L. Shmailo


Уже второй. Должно быть, ты легла.
В ночи Млечпуть серебряной Окою.
Я не спешу, и молниями телеграмм
мне незачем тебя будить и беспокоить.
Как говорят, инцидент исперчен.
Любовная лодка разбилась о быт.
С тобой мы в расчете. И не к чему перечень
взаимных болей, бед и обид.
Ты посмотри, какая в мире тишь.
Ночь обложила небо звездной данью.
В такие вот часы встаешь и говоришь
векам, истории и мирозданью.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Formal Exercise: Sestina: Live, Not Die; Live Not, Die

Sestina words: monkey, parenthesis, punctuated, question, Shakespeare's, angels

Now, how shall it continue, bright primate? How shall this be punctuated?
An Oxfordian series, cursive, moving ever on, entailing every monkey,
all keyboards in existence, black and white, and all of Shakespeare's
work? Therein lies a tail. Is my silly, hoping life, then, the parentheses
in the mind of a savage, loving god, or a twitching, rapid question
in the tick-tock of the void? Comma or coma? Which is it to be? Angels,

you decide. Faster: My hope today, a ferocious hankering monkey,
wrestles with Thanatos in my psyche's mud, a bout observed by angels,
and, truly, always about you; my demons, who intone Shakespeare's
verse like a Polonius behind a curtain, his platitudes punctuated
by doubt, growing like a semicolon in my gut, close these parentheses
without fortitude or Fortinbras, a Hamlet dangling on his question.

Come, ask me if I dare, beloved, before I go, to ask the question:
Would you say, turning me aside, as an afterthought, in parentheses,
"That is not what I meant at all," leaving me, a grinning, groping monkey,
to chase distant mermaids in the sea spray, those soggy singing angels
who sing to drowning women like me? I am not brave, not Shakespeare's
heroine, and will not declaim mercy for men in a speech punctuated

by all wisdom, warm, maternal, eternal, I am, rather, a rattled, tangled monkey,
fur matted, teeth sharp, staring down my death in a showdown punctuated
by words, words, words, words, words, words; and those in parentheses
whisper with epithets of my end; here I sit, periodic, asking the angels,
how long a sentence I will have, and will I ever write one as good as Shakespeare's?
"Two bees, and not two bees, and they're soon extinct, too;" begging the question,

petitio principii: assuming the initial point, how shall I get to the final, punctuated
by logical fallacies, tautologies, circular, as raw as the tail ass of a monkey;
me, to persuade you, had we words enough for time, there could be no question,
no crime, in assuming infinity, in basking in eternity like seraphim, bright angels
whose divine lust could last a trillion biers and years, through a million Shakespeare's
lines; but our lives are slashed by a Ginzo knife through the tail, trapped in parentheses.

To the period's point now, signaled by a capital flourish and punctuated
with the Oxfordian serial clause (I should have been a pair of claws instead of monkey
balls): given infinity, when my molecules scatter, on some infinite star populated by angels,
might they not reassemble as me, my primate self, with you, a man as fine as Shakespeare's
best, again, to dance together, coupled, contained in divine parentheses)?
For the thought of you, whom I love, I trouble the divine to ask this question.

My monkey question is not eloquent, nor metaphysical as angels:
It stands in parentheses, rolls not from the tongue as Shakespeare's,
but loves you, period, whichever is punctuated, in eternity or extinction.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Metrical exercise: Anapest: Waiting for MRI poem #3

'Twas the night before brain scan; my dear Facebook friends
share their love and their kind thoughts in notes that they send.
I am touched, truly moved by this loving support;
May God bless you, dear creatures, you mad, rad cohort.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014


Jaded and exhausted nurses walk the wards
repeating curses; dying patients call for mother,
crying for a glass of water. Greedy doctors
buy stock options, sell us meds containing toxins;
leeches would be more effective than these MDs'
best directives. People tired and sick, emergent,
can't get help though help is urgent. Here a man is
screaming, bleeding, here a woman's life's receding .
Richer folk may think they’re served well, wind up
in the same prescribed hell. Hear me, patients, for
your welfare, this is not the place for healthcare

Monday, June 30, 2014

Metrical Exercise: Trochaic Tetrameter (Waiting for MRI poem series)

MRI won't be till Thursday;
waiting is a practiced sense;
anyone can face life's dangers—
takes the strong to bear suspense.

MRI with contrast or not,
little magnets map the brain.
Soon I'll feel my body changing,
entering another plane.

All I am is quarks and gluons,
energy and impulse-filled;
There is no material realm here,
and these quanta can't be killed.

So I wait without much straining;
courage comes from quanta, too.
I'm the field of every being;
parts of me are parts of you.

Don't look toward a grave to see me;
my old soul has other plans;
All of me will dance with helium,
I'll be sun, and leaves, and grass.

Friday, June 27, 2014


A razor cuts your wrists, but
what cut you off from me?
Is true love quart'red below?

When (blew) an azure sky
separates the chambered clouds,
which Earth will you then save,
which elements recycle?

These eclipses should portend,
but I would always be
the bastard that I am,
had the maidlienest, brightest star
eclipsed upon this gesture.


* To Harrow Marrow: Whatever these eclipses portend, what saves you is not salvation with its grace, but the grace of no salvation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Your underfoot, your exterminated, your bug. My unabashedly hairy legs, whose gymnopèdes twitch like a chorus for a fatal Sharon Stone, delight in ces mouvements qui déplace les lignes, in the motion, the quiver, le mort, the catch. Mother Kali, you have made me what I am: feminine, brilliant, entirely without fear. Like my mother, I watch and pray for prey—that it be there, that it give gore, that I feel it die, that there be more.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I have lost your fingers

You are as thick as molasses, brown as oak, and your ears are crêpes suzettes; your cheerful legs are also thick. The pupils of your eyes are small bridges to disaster (after). Your cheekbones cut the cumulus clouds, and your toes are decimal wonders; your pancreas is a mighty fortress to our God. I remember your kidneys, plumlike, and shaped like violas. All your orifices tell of wonders; surely your ass is a wiry insect that I feel but cannot see (woe is me). Your breasts dance; your aureoles are gazelles that sleep in meadows more blue than green. Your vulva is an apple already peeled, as wet as fresh moraine, alive as snow.

I have lost your fingers and must find them again.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I am the new poetry editor for MadHat Annual!

Dear friends, I am pleased to be joining the MadHat team as poetry editor for the amazing MadHat Annual. Thanks to editor-in-chief Marc Vincenz and team MadHat Alex Cigale, Jonathan Penton, and Clare L. Martin. More anon!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Bloomsday!

Last year, I erased Ulysses to create 18 found poems, one for each episode. Here is "Calypso:"

Thick giblet soup, fried hencod's roes,
grilled mutton kidneys, a fine
tang of urine.

Gelid light and air in the kitchen;
out of doors gentle summer morning

The coals reddening.
A slice of bread and butter
Cup of tea.

Warmbubbled milk on a

Ham and eggs, no.
Better a pork kidney.
Still perhaps: once.

Her prime sausages.
To catch up and walk
behind her, behind
her moving hams.

Bread and butter,
sugar, spoon,
her cream

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Daddy's Elusive Love

I spent my whole life seeking it,
wrecking, reeking, eking it,
in hydra-headed phalluses;
in aliases & pal-louses;
in papapapapaMedusas;
in mirrors & seducers.

I looked for it in boxers,
in the dumps of ten detoxes,
in the roll of rundown rockers,
in anal & banal boys.

I slept with legions
in every single region;
I made love to none;
loved only one.

But it all goes back to Daddy:
Daddy, I'm your caddy;
I know you wanted a laddy;
sorry I wasn't a lady.

Family history
is largely hysterical mystery.
This old cold sold hold blow on me
is moldy geneaology.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mersad Mostaghimi's Translation of "Your Probability Amplitude" into Farsi

I am delighted that Mersad Mostaghimi, a physics student, has translated my poem "Your Probability Amplitude" into Persian for his Iranian classmates. My gratitude also to Mohammad Mostaghimi, who has translated so many of my poems into Farsi for his blog.

(این هم یک ترجمه از خودم از این شعر که البته نمیدونم با سواد اندک من هم از زبان انگلیسی و هم از شعر و ادبیات فارسی آیا ترجمه خوبی هست یا خیر امید که بپسندید.)

دامنه احتمال تو

من به اوج میرسم
و بوزونی که میدرخشد در دیدگان.

آن سان که یک نیروی ضعیف در واپاشی رادیویی.

جاذبه موقعیتی


من مشاهده میکنم و حواس من باز میگردانند ذرات را به نیرو ره میگیرند در رد پایشان هوا و هوس درون امواج را

Your Probability Amplitude

I glance and
a boson blinks
into view.

A strong interaction

even as
a weak force
radios decay.

The gravity
of the situation

the magnetism:

I observe and
my attention

turns particles into power
tracks into trails
whims into waves.

Your Probability Amplitude

I glance and
a boson blinks
into view.

A strong interaction

even as
a weak force
radios decay.

The gravity
of the situation

the magnetism:

I observe and
my attention

turns particles into power
tracks into trails
whims into waves.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mikhail Niziaev's beautiful Russian translation of my poem "Mapping":

Here is Mikhail Niziaev's (Низяев Михаил) beautiful Russian translation of my poem "Mapping":

Голуби летят в скорописи стаи, изящные дуги,
Кроме этого, шедшие впереди или позади, в срочном самостоятельный полет.
Ниже ивы наклоняется, тонкие и редкие, глядя на искры,
Как наркоман в утренней торговли людьми улице.
Такой человек, как вы, протягивает мне мочи кубок, и спит.

Я вам уже говорил, здесь, в дверях тыс.
Несчастная домов: есть нечто большее место
Чем время и пространство в одиночестве.
Приходите, неохотно тратить
День: посмотрите на несвязанных звезды, несобранные огни
Без имени или дома или в созвездии свои собственные,
И представьте себе использовать со мной, все, что не поместилось.


The pigeons fly in cursive flocks, graceful arcs,
Except this one, gone ahead or left behind, in urgent solo flight.
Below a willow leans, thin and sparse, looking for sparks,
Like an addict in the morning’s trafficked street.
A man like you hands me a urine cup, and sleeps.

I have told you before, here at the doorway of a thousand
Unhappy homes: there is something more of place
Than time or space in loneliness. Come, reluctantly spend
The day: Look at the unconnected stars, the uncollected lights
Without name or home or constellation of their own,
And imagine a use with me for all that doesn’t fit.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


The pigeons fly in cursive flocks, graceful arcs,
Except this one, gone ahead or left behind, in urgent solo flight.
Below a willow leans, thin and sparse, looking for sparks,
Like an addict in the morning’s trafficked street.
A man like you hands me a urine cup, and sleeps.

I have told you before, here at the doorway of a thousand
Unhappy homes: there is something more of place
Than time or space in loneliness. Come, reluctantly spend
The day: Look at the unconnected stars, the uncollected lights
Without name or home or constellation of their own,
And imagine a use with me for all that doesn’t fit.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Saturn series June 9 to feature Larissa Shmailo, plus open mic

Saturn Poetry - Monday June 9, 2014
Featuring Larissa Shmailo, Priscilla Galligan and Robert Masterson
at Shades of Green Pub & Restaurant
125 E. 15th Street, between 3rd Ave & Irving Place, near all Union Square subways
8:00 pm to 10:30 pm, Sign up at 7:45.
Open mike surrounds features
$3. donation requested plus a drink or two to support this great venue

About Larissa Shmailo...
Larissa Shmailo's newest collection of poetry is #specialcharacters (Unlikely Books). Larissa is the editor of the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry and founder of The Feminist Poets in Low-Cut Blouses. She translated Victory over the Sun for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's landmark restaging of the multimedia opera and has been a translator on the Bible in Russia for the American Bible Society. Her other books of poetry are In Paran (BlazeVOX [books]), the chapbook, A Cure for Suicide (Cervena Barva Press), and the e-book, Fib Sequence (Argotist Ebooks); her poetry CDs are The No-Net World and Exorcism (SongCrew), for which she received the New Century Best Spoken Word Album award.
About Larissa Shmailo
About #specialcharacters

About Priscilla Galligan...
Priscilla Galligan (@cillagalligan) is a researcher, grant and freelance writer/poet.while poems and flash fiction are currently published in several magazines online. She is currently working on an historical novel. She will be reading from her collection of 60 poems; Decibels , forthcoming in September 2014. Broadsides will be available.

About Robert Masterson...
Robert Masterson, professor of English at the City University of New York's Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York City, has authored Artificial Rats & Electric Cats, Trial by Water, and Garnish Trouble. His work appears in numerous publications and he holds degrees from the University of New Mexico, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado; and Shaanxi Normal University, the People's Republic of China.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

A Sop for Cerberus

He needed me. Alone at the gates of Hell,
He looked at me, his six rheumy eyes
Fixing me imploringly. So I fed him meat
And with a leap, he jumped onto my back:
The animal musk and the weight of him,
The great paws, the salivating jaw,
The hot muzzle and demon-bloody wounds,
Startling. But I found I could carry him,
And brought him home to keep:
The dead do not play; the dead do not speak.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Poem in Random House Anthology

My poem, "In Paran," will appear in the new Random House anthology of metrical verse edited by Annie Finch. I learned this yesterday, on my birthday. I know it was your beautiful birthday wishes that materialized this gift for me (yes, I believe in magic). Thank you!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New Life: Variations on a Theme by Joseph Brodsky et al.

Imagine that the war is over, that peace has reigned,
That you can look at your face in the mirror again.
That magpies, not bombs, whistle down upon your head
That outside the city, homes are not destroyed—instead
A baroque burst of laurels, palms, magnolia, pine;
In scented shadows a white hot Venus shines
That war’s cast-iron swamp is gone and then
The boredom is over: Life has to start again.

Imagine that all of this is true. Imagine, that you speak
Of yourself, speaking of others, that now you can seek
The irrelevant, the unneeded, the luxuries, the toys.
Life begins anew exactly thus: with noise
With erupting volcanoes. and such catastrophes
A sloop lost below, friends lost beneath the seas.
Look straight at these tragedies, with the feeling they engender,
That you alone can see them; with the tender
Feeling that, any minute now, you will turn away
To home, to the safe moment, to ask it to stay.

Imagine that the epoch ends in an idyll. The words that came
In monologues are rain dialogues now. And the flame,
That consumed others better than you, greedily, like logs,
In you it saw little use or warmth, and, like the dogs,
That’s why you were spared, why shrapnel cut only your fear.
Imagine that the more honest the voice, the less it has tears.
And when any Polyphemus asks you who it is that speaks.
Say, "Who, me? No one,” like Odysseus the Greek.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Alexander Skidan, translated by Larissa Shmailo and the author

It's like a rain wall
or a wall of news
when you crumble like chalk
as if the world lurched
and it could still be saved
only in this way


but the world is precisely this wall of news
in which your chalk is embedded

это как стена дождя
или стена новостей
когда ты мелом крошась
как если б мир покачнулся
и его еще можно было спасти
только таким образом


но мир – это и есть стена новостей
в которую вмурован твой мел

Friday, May 23, 2014


Fish: fishy mermaid in a taco: tuna taco
Fish: Jonah-belly in a quandary: Jewish taco
Fish: Papa Ernest in a marlin: senior taco
Fish: jaws crunch Spielberg in his femur: cinétaco Fish: killing dolphins by Japan-folk: save-the-taco
Fish: kill a dumpster make a landfill: gangster taco
Fish: look for bodies kill the bodies: war-fun taco
Fish: Forget the invertebrates and especially the plants that process your air and eat your fat exhaust gases; don’t even think about those algal blooms of your phosphorescence, or the carbon-binding organisms, the coccolithophores; forget them, I tell you. Start with the fish, start your consciousness, no! no, start your R-core reptile brain with fish, and big fish at that. Go fish. And hook, knit and purl a new piscine axis of evil, with German pike, Japanese carp, Iranian bluegill, Iraqi crappie, Korean stickleback, and (did I mention that the United States cutthroat trout consumes over a quarter of the world’s energy, contributing a massive percentage of the international carbon footprint while the Africa burbot (in its entirety) contributes 1 percent, did I mention we were pissing some Bonneville whitefish off while we griped and grappled with bonytail beyond our control, looking for ordered pairs of lota lota, or some net to hang our hats from). And.

Bloomfish : (in a lavender tuxedo jacket and grey and pink spats; eats fish and chips; farts). Boom. (Reflecting, opening a copy of The Fins of Sin as he masturbates beneath the baldachin of St. Sister We-Hardly-Knew-Ye’s broad and capacious ichtus altar) Taco.

Mrs. Marion Bloomfish (in Miss Havisham’s wedding dress) Carp. Carp. Carpe diem. Ctenopharyngodon idella. Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

Bloomfish: Tuna taco.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What People Are Saying about #specialcharacters

At one point in #specialcharacters, Larissa Shmailo declares: “Mother Kali, you have made me what I am: feminine, brilliant, entirely without fear” — and the rest of the poems in this collection prove this true. They run the gamut from being outspoken to outrageous, irreverent to downright heretical, taking gleeful pride in knowing exactly how far is too far – and then going even further. I see this work as a continuum in a long tradition of radical writing practices from Futurism, to Dada, to Oulipo, to Pussy Riot. Read it when you wish to be empowered. Read it when you wish to be entertained. Read it to rid yourself of the precious and polite.
—Elaine Equi

This is a thrilling book of femininity and magic. When it comes to capturing the intimacy of pain, Larissa Shmailo is among the most daring poets of her generation. When speaking of human rights, she is a human flame. She is subtle and provocative, fresh and out of bounds. You will fall in love here, and you will be loved right back.
—Philip Nikolayev

With #specialcharacters where even the title is special Shmailo has managed to split language into its common & least common denominators/principles: sound, meaning, symbol, feeling (text/ure) as well as providing us with a range of voices from child to adult & male to female within a range of styles & mannerisms from the ultra-experimental to quirky “innocent” rhymes like her sexy riff on “the 12 days of Christmas” in her classic “The Other Woman’s Cunt.” Her knowledge of the “WORD” & how to use it extends from darkly humorous to warm, lyrical, tender & painful . . . This is a major work by a major poet.
—Steve Dalachinsky

The opening piece catches the first 12 Fibonacci numbers and finesses them into giddy remembrances of an octogenarian's most significant birthdays. Then, the pages of poetry spiral with the 89 year old, ever outwards, or perhaps inwards, toward her infinity. Stream of consciousness narration, witty footnoted asides, plays with parentheses and fonts . . . Shmailo's poetry sucked me into/out of its golden spiral.
—Moira Richards, Cape Times (South Africa)

I thought this was going to be all poetry, but it is much more experimental than that, ending with a wonderful piece about a woman who is close to the end of the line with aging, mental illness, and poverty. It's called "MIRROR, or a Flash in the Pan." It is very close to fiction, although it certainly has passages of poetry. It's an excellent piece, crystal clear and shockingly honest. The collection also includes what is rightfully maybe Shmailo's most famous (popular?) poem . . . "The Other Woman's Cunt". This one is angry, raunchy, vicious and — by the way! — hilarious. There is a fair amount of typographical experimentation and deep connections to literature and mythology, but at its heart, as a whole, the book has the remarkable quality of being extremely moving even when you aren't sure what's going on.
—Meredith Sue Willis, Books for Readers

Monday, May 12, 2014

Writing Across Borders: National Writers Union Conference on Immigration 5/18

The National Writers Union Conference on immigration, "Writing Across Borders," is this Sunday! Alexander Cigale, Irina Mashinski, and I will be reading at 4:00 pm at the "Immigrant Cocktail Hour" and I'll be participating in the panel "The Language of Migration" with Claudia Serea! It will be a brilliant day of literature and journalism. Join us!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Are you a #specialcharacter?

For Victory Day (the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union): How My Family Survived the Camps

Was micht nicht umbringt, macht mich starker:
What does not kill me makes me stronger.
Nietzsche said this about other things
Not this.

How did my family survive the camps?
Were they smarter, stronger than the rest?
Were they lucky?
Did luck exist in Dora-Nordhausen,
Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen?

How did my family survive?
They were young, my mother and father, in 1943
Twenty years old when taken as slaves.
No one knew my father was a soldier, a communist
So he was not shot
Or taken to be gassed.
My grandmother said quickly to the Germans
He is a mechanic; they needed mechanics
My grandmother, Soviet businesswoman
Begged and bribed the Ukrainian kapos
Begged and bribed the Germans, not SS
They took my father, son of a commissar
And shot the other men.

How did my family survive?
They offered no resistance
Did they collaborate?
Is complicity possible without choice?

They marched to Germany, working
Following the German army
Following the front
Digging trenches, carrying metal
These were the good camps, Kalinovka, Peremeshl
There was still food:
My mother recalls eating an entire vat of potatoes
Fouled by kerosene, discarded by the Germans, not SS
The treatment was not cruel, comparatively, not cruel:
In 1944, the Germans
Were as afraid of the Russian front
As the prisoners were of Germany
And of the other camps.
Where they went nonetheless
Where they were sent nonetheless.

How did they survive Erfurt, the selection?
My mother spoke good German
I see her now at the staging camp
Her keen wit dancing around the SS
Like her young Slavic feet
She was young and good-looking
Thin but good-looking
And the SS liked the Ukrainian Frauen.
On the cattle car to Dora
To the chimneys of that camp
My mother rode with her family intact
Thinner but intact
And ready for work.

How did my family survive?
Was it luck?
In Dora-Nordhausen
Where the air smelled of shit and gas
Where the sun rose but never shone
Was there luck?

The boxcar stopped
At the Nordhausen factory
The way out through the crematorium chimney in Dora
Here, my grandmother learned language
Wstavach, Stoi, Ren, schwein, Halt.
In Dora, where not to understand an order meant death
My grandmother learned six languages; after six months
My family could work, hide and ask for bread
In all the languages of Europe.
They learned English the same way.

How did my family survive?
When the Americans came, with chocolate and blankets
My father, six foot one
Was one hundred and twenty pounds
And still we were rich, my mother interjects,
Rich compared to the Jews.
A few months longer, though, a few months longer
We would not have been alive.

How did my family survive?
My grandfather, a teacher
Told this story:
When the Americans came and saw the camp
They invited the people to loot the nearby towns
Take anything, the well-fed soldiers said
My grandfather stood and spoke: We are not animals, he said
But we were, my father interrupts, we were.

How did my family survive?
Survive is not the right word.
I'm alive, my father would say, alive
Alive because I did not die; others died.

Keep breathing, he encouraged me in difficult times
Keep breathing.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


My tongue is bruised
My nude is creaky
Like a cabbage I sit and wait for you
I stutter like an old gun:
Take me
The fast love of my hair.

Your beady little eyes transfix me
Like rats at the foot of my bed
Your limp pendant wrists still hang on my door
You snicker, get a grip.

Your skin is a labyrinth
I follow like a duct
I follow the duct of your eyes like a skein
To the comminatory bull
Eyes forward, now toward, where I leap for the horns;
Won’t you come in, he sighs.

You own too big a piece of me
Your eyes say spare some change and I
Don’t want to I
Take and give no quarter and I’ve
Already cut my hair.

Skin is just sausage we call home.
Skin is just sausage we call home.

Friday, May 02, 2014

560 Brooke Avenue

The walls, barbed wire, barbed, next to a
drive-by window of Burger King: Dios,
is this your way? Electric doors, opened
one at a time, they make a sound, it maddens.
All the time the boys do time, all the time
they say, “Lunacy, this is crazy, crazy mad.”
It is. “Nigga, nigga,” one boy prays, farts as
the fat guard twists his hand: He tries to laugh,
he cries instead: porque? Scared, so scared,
his scarred voice cracks, 15. “Nigga, ay, I here
4 murder,” he lies. O child, perhaps so. My
Jesus of the got-nailed, my angel of the why,
& what could you have done yet, & why are
you here, porque, my God, & donde vamos,
u & I?

(Horizons is a maximum security juvenile prison in the Bronx.)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Just Announced: Pussy Riot at PEN Gala on May 5

Just announced: Members of Pussy Riot will join Toni Morrison and honorees Salman Rushdie and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo at the PEN Gala at the American Museum of Natural History on May 5.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Never Challenge a Roth - My List of Words Never to Be Used in Poems Used in Toto

Of course, when I published my comic (but also more than comic) "List of Words Never to Be Used in Poems," people protested. Some sent me very good poems using some of the words from the list. But no one composed a work using all the words. That was up to my beloved friend of 45 years, Audrey Roth. Here are the original list and Audrey's beautiful composition. I love you, Audrey Roth!

List of Words Never to Be Used in Poems

Soul, being, essence, fire, dream, auburn, scent, inhumanity, starry, ripe, free, heaven, transcend, memory, butterfly, chrysalis, please, mad, ecology, teach, tear, lachrymose, cry, frown, smile, love, thought, potential, season, poetry, verse. Transubstantiate, transform, ascend, breathe, breath, usurp, sing, shudder, genius, antihero, thrush, lark, birdsong, exaltation, maid, woman, man, men, attempt, right, am, word, tresses, thrill. Form, character, said, desire, longing, elm, oak, tree, flame, yearn, burn, consume, new, human, bow, warrior, want, page, blank. And so far, you agree. Well, then…

Understanding, unique, déluge,manqué, mensch , wheelbarrow, manifest, palimpsest, avatar, sight, seer, samovar, light, ingredient, save, Oprah, Jerry, nothing, but, yet. The, a, loneliness, mélange, sea, lighthouse, tower, healing, light, use, underscore, trial, Kafka, yes, shop, radiant, garden, fore, yore, music, recollection, last, addiction, evolution. First, over, in, DNA, Darwinian, medicate, pharmacology, software, star, hardwired, stellar, bang. Relate, relationship, query, queer, think, survivor, mine, pain, sorrow, tragedy, woe, enter, laughing, mope. Still with me? How about…?

Life, live, living, hope, horror, help, one, singularity, Buddha, art, bomb, arms, lines, marital, Broadway, show, tell, ask, mission, missive, missile, realm, wonder, wander, know, knowledge, reify, epistemological, portent, magic, magical, many, omnipotent, avuncular, very, theme, adjective, parse, nun, father, mother, brother, we, our, us, I. Eye, omnibus, rarity, time, past, future, date, number, year, one, abstract, narrative, native, experiment, fusion, phrase, quote, café. Random (or mad), insight, learned, spirit, well, good, thanks, fine, good. You?

Audrey Roth's response (touché):

Homage to a Friend:
A Challenge

In the past, date uncertain (the year 1968 is my recollection), I met a girl – a genius, a mensch – unique, with radiant auburn tresses, a wonder for life. A character. A seer.

I could relate. Our relationship was Darwinian; it transformed us. Mine? Evolution from chrysalis to butterfly. Hers? Lachrymose to laughing. From blank slates to palimpsests – essence a memory, a scent, a dream – our magic was – well – magical, with potential to render us omnipotent. Addictions? Poetry. Kafka –antihero, warrior. Buddha. (Oprah and Jerry were yet to be – we could not quote them.) We wandered the streets, sang Broadway songs at top volume, and shop…(lifted).

We would transcend sorrow – pain; loneliness, tragedy; moping; man’s inhumanity to men (to say nothing of woman) – at a remove. Carry them off in a wheelbarrow, light them on fire, watch them burn, flames consuming, ascending to the starry night. She wrote a missive: “I yearn for healing,” she said, “from father, mother, brother – the mélange of many humans who have formed me with their experiments -- used, usurped, my love, entered my tower, attempting to deluge me with their narrative.” She frowned. “Woe is hardwired in me. Longing. I want to live, hope for a future where I can breathe, sing like the lark, its birdsong a balm to my being, a breath to medicate my soul. I am a maid manquée.”

“I think I know how to help.” I thought, along avuncular lines, of the necessary ingredients – no software supporting my search. I would season her tears with understanding; parse her fine phrases; find a fusion of music and art for her learned brain; evoke a different knowledge –of insight, epistemological energy. “Let me save you. Tell me, show me, more – please,” I asked. My desire to teach, reify her abstract realm, free her from random recollections of living in days of yore. “But how?” I queried. My mission – of manifestly mad singularity – cease her shudders, her cries, her horror. Sire a sea of smiles, a theme of thrills, a new spirit for this star, this stellar survivor. Launch the missiles, the bombs – not one, but many. BANG!! Turn the page over; change her very DNA; transubstantiate! An alternative avatar would fly to the fore, exaltation in its eye. Ineffable - no number of adjectives could capture it.

Within my sight, a thrush settled on an elm tree (or an oak?) in a garden outside the café where we sat. Samovars surrounded. We were a rarity of cultural ecology, so right together. (A portent of our current omnibus of pharmacology?) The time was ripe. She morphed to marital bliss, complete with dacha (first making a trial run as a nun), I toward being a good queer. We spoke our last words while reading “To the Lighthouse,” – hers in verse, underscoring her native tongue – bowed; and wrapped our arms around each other.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy 450th, Will!

Gulielmus, filius Johannes Shakespeare, was baptized in Stratford on April 26,1564; April 23 is traditionally celebrated as his birthday. Here is my favorite sonnet, number XXXV.

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authórizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are:
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense—
Thy adverse party is thy advocate—
And ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence.
Such civil war is in my love and hate,
That I an áccessory needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy birthday, Vladimir Nabokov! Poem for Ada

désolé de ne pas être avec vous

mood: like a monarch’s genitalia
labeled under glass, I miss yo(u).
when did you stop being my brot-
(her), my lover, my tramp, my sc(
am)p? Best incest, this fraternal/
maternal. Royalty did this, scions.
Now we are husband, huffed, and
Hera-scarum-wife-and-strife. désolé
de ne pas être avec vous today and
as we were, hymn/her, heard.

Poem for Earth Day: revery about intoxicated turtles

the fruit has turned again
alcohol fragrant
smile at the thought of them
lolling on a beach
inverted and drunk and certain of
turning right side again
every wave an ally

tomorrow the eggs will hatch and the young will
race to the sea, Darwinically pursued
by rapacious winged predators
half will die the rest will find the sea
and live

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Traditional Russian Easter Greeting

Христос воскресe! (Khristos voskres)
(Christ has arisen! This is the traditional Russian Easter greeting.)

Воистину воскресе! (Voistinu voskrese)
(Indeed, He has arisen! This is the traditional response.)

Plus three kisses, one cheek, two cheek, and back again (the kisses are essential).

Happy Easter!

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