Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Larissa Shmailo is a poet and a translator of Russian. The following poems are reprised from the 100,0000 Poets for Change anthology edited by Anny Ballardini and Obododimma Oha in collaboration with Michael Rothenberg.

Winedark Sea

In the east, in the eastern rising lands, a tide, westering, earthdrawn, rising, the morning sun bloodied in its wake. She drags, pulls, shifts, hauls, trascines her hydraulic load. Tides born of tides, moondrawn, myriadheaded, within her, within her blood, oinopa ponton: the winedark sea. A wet sign calls her hour, bids the earth-shaken fallen rise, bids the wet-dirt wounded rise, bids the blooddimmed peoples rise, as she radiates out, out, out, forever from her bed. The wet sign calls her hour, bids all to rise from childbed, bridebed, deathbed, rise. He comes, the pale salt vampire, in clouds and tears, and claws, battle-led, draws, battle-red, mouth-to-mouth, limb-to-limb, skin-to-skin. There.


If you wait but don’t want
If you want but don’t take
If you take but don’t use
If you use but don’t care
If you care but not much
The petty demon comes.

The petty demon says:
Not all of you are wanted
Not everyone is needed
A few may be accepted

There’s scarcity, you see
There are no loaves and fishes─
Not for the likes of you─
A few baguettes for baby
Some caviar for me
There’s just enough to shit and sleep
But not enough for thee.

The petty demon shrieks:
Time is money
Sell short
Eat to win
Assume the position.

In the world
In the angry material world
There are men who are not men
Whose imaginations never rise
Above the box and plane
Whose imaginations squat
Upon the positions of power.

If the petty demon bothers you
Here’s what you say
Tell him:
I don’t know about
Your lawyer’s fees
Your MDs
Your CEOs
Your deep freeze

I do know that
The blind man is perfect
That there’s more to life than irony
And squealing like a stuck pig

That the truth is hard but you can stand on it
That time isn’t money or a threat but a gift.

As you assume your position
In the world
Do not love
Men who are not men
Whose imaginations never rise
Walk tall; walk with God
Assume nothing; take a position.

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 JC 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?

Speak Now

Speak now.
Darkened, once neutral air,
Skyscrapers turn,
Dream fire, and burn.

Dream fire, and burn.
Skyscrapers turn,
Darkened, once neutral air,
Speak now.

Vive L’Égypte

A man, beaten — face the color of a burkha
dragged through the mud — is lifted by Isis
with her rose and her tiet.

Isis, who loves mothers, the downtrodden, slaves —
who is friend to the Nile and the dead —
who listens

even to the prayers of the rich — lifts his frame —
trampled and broken — from her mud.
Allahu ahkbar! he cries.

She cries. Cairo — Sharm El-Sheikh — Alexandria —
Hurghada — Luxor — Aswan — the blood of Isis
calls from Philae.


  1. I agree with Anny. Wonderful, beautiful, true, terrifying. True.