Larissa's Blog

In memoriam Steven Charles Werner 5/3/55 - 3/26/85

Death at Sea

The heart, someone wrote once,Couldn’t walk a straight line,Couldn’t pass the drunk test if it tried.
Some men play the odds; their heads count cardsBut their hearts play inside straights.They can’t bluff, ever,Show their hand, most times,And always give the pot away.
Steven died at seaHolding the dead man’s hand, aces up.A poker-faced corpse surfaces on the water:I seeThe orange safety vestInflated around his neckMocking God and meNow, now, now, now, now---Too late.
I held his wake in Vegas,Sat Shiva in casinosWhere there were no windows, no daytime, no peace.I put him in a casket,A greedy one-armed banditIt still asks me for coinsFor its insatiable slot.
I hate the beachThe deadsea beachThe sunblocked snorkeled oily beachThe scuba lungsThe deadgrass skirtsThe blind bikinied sunglass beach
I hate the seaThe soulless seaThe sentient, malevolent swampy seaIt don’t care if you liveIt won’t cry if you dieIt boasts like YawehIt spits in your eyeThe seaThe stupid sea.
But I love the albatross That took Steven’s soul,And I love the lighthouse and the shore,And I love all sailors, both sober and drunk,That won’t kill a bird no matter what,And I love the salt and I love the storm,And I loved Steven, beyond most doubt,
And if I knew thenWhat I know nowCould I have walked on waterAnd pulled him out?

The F Word

Proud to be included in Sarah Waddell's documentary on contemporary feminism, The F Word. Fact: If female entrepreneurs were funded at the same level men are, 6,000,000 jobs would be created.


I. Je suis une femme de lettres et je gagne ma vie.

All ways a feather: bed your bugs as they bud
Welling roses these sweltering days
Rose roaches blooming by books, near pillows
Blooming by Bloomsday, busting out by June
Busting on Broadway, busting the busts…
Hey, this is…my bra!
(Like swallowing feathers, you know,
dirty feathers.)
And this is December and over there, Christmas
We call April Easter cause she makes them march.

Welling roses in Wellington Rolls
Rose roaches blooming by books, near pillows
Rolls with butter, rolls with jam
Roll her over, let’s go hot damn
Sweltering days as rose roaches bloom
Swilling slaves in rose roaches’ room

Bloom, concrete blossoms!
Bloom, Broadway bottoms!
Bloom! Picks his nose
Bloom! As he grows. . . .

Bed your bugs as they bud, as they breed─what a breed!
Ill-bred, no bread
Dirty cunt’s puking
Just giving me head. . . .

All ways are fettered
Fellated and fucked
For ever and all
But mostly for us

II. Foret sans oiseaux

All ways are feathered.
For rest a bed,
For the rest, a bed . . . .
Hey, this is. . . .I know; I’ve had them for years.
I’ve had it. Have you? Been had?
Have you a forest? Have you a bed?
Have you a haven?
(Forests of feathers: naked birds shrieking
Bony birds swooping
Burning birds screaming
Descending like hell)
Blooming rose roaches all buds destroyed
Bony birds bleeding, beating, breaking, bled. . .
For rest, a bed, for rest. . .
Fine-feathered slaughter by books, near pillows
Rose roaches breed,
Bleed swiftly and die.

III. On commence par ệtre dupe, on finit par ệtre fripon.
─George Sand

Always the feathers: hi, I’m Molly Bloom;
Blow by my bathroom . . . .
By the window a frozen bird, frozen for weeks,
A weak bird, a dead duck, a gone goose,
A pigeon petered out. . . .

But I’m Molly Bloom, you’ve had me, you know:
Birds are just chirping snakes.
But I’m Molly Bloom, I’m a mammal,
I have mammaries, see: This is a bust!
I don’t touch dead birds.

This is December, and over there’s Christmas
And Easter will rise to any occasion
For ever and all
For Peter and Paul. . . .
But I’m Molly Bloom, I’m a pagan, you fuck!
(A man? Where?)

A feather bed for me, a haven for rest,
Pillows for the head, and books for the rest
I need the rest: this is short, where’s the rest?

All ways are fetid
Fellated and fucked
No bird’s no damn good
Until it’s been plucked.
A man? Amen. This is Easter.
Rest that piece.

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.

At the Top of My Lungs

1. At the top of my lungs I scream at you all,Babies, I am your mother!Love me! Let me in!Excited by my love, I shriek and bang at your door:I love you, let me in!
What?You don’t want to?Then I will slash my wrists,And from my wrists will come ants and tired shopkeepers,All the things you ever imagined or dreamed,Bits of glass and fearWill pour from these important veins:You’ll see how much I love you then.
2. A proposition:If, every dayI deliberately did things to hurt you,Would you still love me?
3. Babies, my children,I sit on your doorstep and scream,How I love my children,How I long to love them!Like a scorpion I would carry you on my back,My stinger poised, ready to kill;Oh, how my babies would love me then!
Babies, I would bite off my hands for you,Like an albatross or a whale, I would swallow you wholeAnd keep you safe in my stomach;I love you that much;Surely that’s worth something.
4. At the top of my lungs I scream at you all,I am bigger and better than anything you will ever know,Than anything you will ever be.Love me.Love me now.
5. Babies, let’s not argue:I will always win.Let me in.

The No-Net World CD - poetry with music

The No-Net Worldby Larissa Shmailo Download $9.99   Poems Share Time Download 1. The No-Net World (4:38) 4:38 $0.99 2. In Paran (2:15) 2:15 $0.99 3. Williamsburg Poem (2:07) 2:07 $0.99 4. Madwoman (5:38) 5:38 $0.99 5. For Six Months with You (0:53) 0:53 $0.99 6. Johnny I Love You Don't Die (2:48) 2:48 $0.99 7. Jamas Volvere (0:56) 0:56 $0.99 8. Lager NYC (2.22) 2:22 $0.99 9. Quantum Love (0:58) 0:58 $0.99 10. Death at Sea (2:20) 2:20 $0.99 11. California (1:08) 1:08 $0.99 12. Shore (1:43) 1:43 $0.99 13. Ladybug (0:47) 0:47 $0.99 14. Hunts Point Counterpoint (2:06) 2:06 $0.99 15. I Loved You Once (Pushkin) (0:50) 0:50 $0.99 16. Already One (Mayakovsky) (1:13) 1:13 $0.99 17. How My Family Survived the Camps (4:54) 4:54 $0.99 18. New Life (0:56) 0:56 $0.99
Available as MP3, MP3 320, and FLAC files. ABOUT THIS ALBUM
Album NotesFrom "Shmailo's expert understanding of the close relationship between poetry and drama, music and language, and the primal human need to just hear a really, really good story make The No-Net World a truly unique contribution to twenty-first century American poetry, and a CD worth listening to frequently and carefully."

From LITKICKS.COM: "The No-Net World is a solid collection of Shmailo's intensity, heart and wit.... The No-Net World takes you on one woman's tour of the globe, combining stark reality with lush hope. I recommend that you go along for the ride."

From BOOG CITY: "Larissa Shmailo ...really knows how to write, how to read, how to present her poetry.. .Shmailo's album is thoughtful, entertaining, and bears repeated listens."

From POETIX.COM:"'How My Family Survived the Camps,' [IS] the strongest, the most important poem here. . . The key poem on the CD, it gives by far the best realization of her running theme, that how we react to what happens to us is as important as the events themselves."

From NEW CENTURY: "If this isn't a Urban AntiFolk poet who is? Some of these posers just make like they've got street cred but this woman has walked on the wildside and now she lives to tell us about it."

About Larissa Shmailo
Larissa has been published in About Poetry, Rattapallax,, Lungfull! and many other publications and anthologies. Her poetry CD, The No-Net World, has been called the #1 spoken word CD of 2006. Larissa has received “Critic’s Picks” notices for her readings and radio appearances from the New York Times, Village Voice, and Time Out magazine and is active in the New York City poetry community as curator of the Sliding Scale Poetry series.

Larissa translated the Russian Futurist opera Victory over the Sun which was performed at the first Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and internationally; a DVD of the original English-language production is part of the collection of several museums, including the Hirsshorn and the New York Museum of Modern Art. She recently contributed translations to the anthology New Russian Poets forthcoming from the Dalkey Archive Press in 2007-2008 (under auspices of the National Endowment of the Arts).

(The rest--darling, just ask me...: ) LS)

A note from Larissa:
Thanks for visiting, reading, listening,and buying. Please keep in touch.

to write a review
Evan Myquest
All you can say after The No-Net World is More!
The No-Net World is like a one woman show right in your livingroom. All you can say after listening is More!
Eric Yost
One of the best spoken word CDs of the past ten years!
Powerful, timely, beautiful, fearless, incisive, and superhot! Larissa Shmailo reads like a skilled performance poet, writes like an angel, and delivers insights--from the erotic to the political--that would burn most poets if they dared touch them.
Chocolate Waters
Emotionally riveting
Both intellectually stimulating and emotionally riveting - this CD is a joy, a celebration of life. You must have the No-Net world in your collection. Get one before they're all gone!
Robert Dunn
A brilliant and serious dissectiion of a lunatic world ...
In a world apparently hell-bent on destroying itself through avarice and hatred, there are still veins of love and compassion to be tapped. This is where Larissa Shmailo comes in. Her poetry CD, The No-Net World (produced by SongCrew Records) brilliantly puts humanity on notice—battling personal economic disaster, crises of the heart, even a trip back in time to her family’s incarceration in a Nazi concentration camp—all dramatically rend

Buy The No-Net World

Spring Vow

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

My First Hurricane

Like a dead leafLifted from the scorched summer earthNow wet and almost greenLike a dead leafCarried by a thundercloudAnd brought to water by wind:
I am here in the eye of the stormDizzy, motionless,Suspended in the humid airWaiting.
Trees tremble.I breathe slowly.I have known tempests, squalls, and gentle rain.You are my first hurricane.


Get up, schweinerei, my father says, waking us late. And at dinner, my dyadya, talking drunk and loud, says that he and my dedushka guarded railroads in the war. For the Germans. The railroads are old,
but this country is new: not the Soviet Union, I ask?, not wanting to know. Barely breathing: the world, hard, atrocious, and cruel, falls into place. And Babushka? Babushka worked at the railroad, too.
(I feel her hard hands braiding my hair, the stern lips mouthing: zhid). I remember my mother, seeking salvation at her grave, saying (but lying): “I once opened a gate.” The world falls into place. What was on those rails? Who?
And what did their guards do? Somehow I knew, I always knew. Tonight, I hear my mother’s reedy voice simper, singing, Nach jeden Dezember ihr kommt ein Mai. Her home of gemutlichkeit, comfort without joy Her love for the German tongue; how often she said “There were good
Germans, too.” As Ukrainians, save the martyred few, they were gvardia, collaborators, too. Did they have a choice? Starvation in the kolkhoz, bodies lying, dying in the streets, and only the Germans, said my mother, 
protested Stalin’s rape and collectivization of the Ukraine. How much victim? How much volunteer?  Did my mama, my papa, my dyadya,my baba, my dyedushka commit atrocities in the war?
In Kalinivka, the mass graves; my family was there. In Prymsl, deported Jews; my family was there. In the Harz Mountains, Northhausen and Dora-Mittelbau; my family was there. What other families? Who survived,
and why? (There was no crematorium in Dora, my mother lied.) In the face of starvation, of death, of Stalin’s camps, tell me, you, well-fed and safe, judging me and mine: is there complicity when there is no choice? (Was there choice?)
The stories, the lacunae, the lies. Now I know why I always felt like a Jew. O, Adonai, why? Why these origins for me, why no orisons for me? The dead are dead, but not within me, my holocaust today, forever my bread.
This poem appeared in The Common Online.

My Dead

My husband lost his shirt at cards; insolvent, he then drownedin 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 attemptto die that she'd succeed at once; her word she promptly 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.He 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 diedWas that a feeling come too late, or panic in his eyes?  

Mad Feathered Tree - A Poetry Reading March 31

MadHat Press, White Pine Press and Plume Poetry Journal invite you to join us for Mad Feathered Tree: A Poetry Reading at the Library Bar, downtown Los Angeles, Thursday, March 31. 

What readers are saying about Patient Women!

What readers are saying about Patient Women:

Dive into the deep end: read this novel! Unforgettable and mesmerizing!

There are many categories of writing, but as readers there are two distinct places we tend to go: either `escape from reality' mode or `dive into the deep end' through writing that unnerves us on a personal level. The poems/stories or novels may be situated in different continents, cultures, even species, and yet they confront us with fragments of ourselves that defy diversity.
Shmailo's work takes me to places in my life that I am both afraid and compelled by. There is no escape here. It is about recognition and a fortitude that didn't exist before. It is about finding oneself again, in amazement and thankfulness, through another writer's words.
Here are some quotes from Shmailo's novel, Patient Women.
"There was anger in the house, anger in the very walls."
"Home life acquired a dangerous sameness."
"Nora had learned to detect the subtlest shifts in the affective atmosphere of her home: she became expert in detecting and defusing the charges, like a teenage bomb squad."
"Nora kept rattling him like a jammed door she was sure she had the right to enter."
"God writes straight with crooked lines, Nora..."
Shmailo takes the reader into the world of a strong, sensitive, acute protagonist, Nora, who moves through many lives in this novel. She is a sex worker, a brilliant woman, an incest survivor, a woman who takes us into the streets and wrestles with her/our inner/outer demons. Patient Womenis a novel everyone should read. There is no shrinking back from the violence Nora experiences and witnesses and the power of Shmailo's brilliant writing that takes us inside all of it.
Don't miss out on this! Get a copy and find yourself mesmerized and changed by Patient Women. WOW!!! Unforgettable!

—Meg  Tuite

If you are in any type of recovery program, you will recognize the characters in this book as people you know. I read the erudite blurbs on the back, which would scare away most of the people I know [who] would find it a fascinating and compelling read. It may be a 'literary novel', but it reads like real life, reads like the lives of the people I know. Recovery friends, we are in this book! Great job award goes to the author!
—Yoby Henthorn

Christ-figures are likely to be cross-dressers in this engaging bildungsroman, which takes us on a wild ride through NYC nightclubs of the 1970's, rock-bottom blackouts, a whorehouse, and the slogan-filled rooms of recovery. Surreal and lyrical, then bawdy and riotous, then plainspoken and tragic, Patient Women had me rooting hard for its lovable, drowning heroine to keep her head above water and let in grace. —Anne Elliott, author of The Beginning of the End of the Beginning
Nora, born to a holocaust survivor mother, finds herself, at the threshold of adolescence in “boring Queens.” Lying about her age, her first transgression from her mother’s iron rule, she begins a series of ill-fated attempts to put distance between herself and the familial web she so desperately wants to disentangle from. She reels from one dysfunctional relationship to another, druggies, pimps, losers, and masochists, searching for her lovable self. This novel unfolds in a whirlwind that is sometimes her present. Be ready to have your heart broken and then made whole.
—Bonny Finberg Larissa Shmailo’s newest work, Patient Women, is an unflinching exploration of the lasting damage some people can inflict on their children. Nora, Shmailo’s protagonist, evolves as she struggles to understand and heal her own self-hatred and her on-going self-destructive choices. Slogging one's way through a morass of denial and repression is a strong trope throughout this raw, honest book. Nora is fiercely vulnerable and the sympathetic hero of her own salvation. This novel is dark, but there is hope that even the pain one lives through can cause one to create, finally, lasting and beautiful art. —Joani Reese
Patient Women on Amazon


My autobiography will read: I am hired. But no: I am still here, in this little office, where
the fluorescent light surrounds me like cloacal fluid. The personnel manager’s eyes are dark
and dilated, without visible irises, whether from the peculiar quanta of the overhead light or
the cocaine of my need, I don’t know.
She is self-satisfied and content now, self-consciously busy, and she preens herself with
papers on her desk. She is almost ready to talk to me. I wait like a dog who has not been
walked for a long time.
Finally, she turns her attention to me. Why do you want this job? she asks.
I'm desperate, I reply. My unemployment checks ran out two weeks ago and I have no
money. I've been on unemployment a lot these last few years and I have no reserves; in all
senses of the word, I have no reserves left. You see, I have a manic-depressive illness, a
very severe one, not just a few moodswings here or there, or a common cold-type
depression, but grand mal mania with delusions, and I've lost a lot of jobs. I don't get
fired per se — they just eliminate my position and this way, they don’t get sued. But I did
sue one place, not for firing me because I was a manic-depressive, but because I was a
manic-depressive. Is there a difference? I don’t know.
I got unemployment that time, and then again when I danced over where the AIDS
orphans were buried. I was coming late because I had to dervish over their corpses, the
corpses of the unburied dead. I was dancing to mark the spot. Perhaps, I thought,
perhaps, they would see and understand, but they fired me. I was coming late a lot. They
eliminated my position — they were glad to give me unemployment. Really, they would
have done a lot more just to be rid of me, I was a disturbance after all.
I take medication now. It makes me slow, but I can still do this work. Not with any
enthusiasm — I am no longer sharp. I'm burnt out, as you can imagine, from so many
illnesses. Sometimes my thinking is fuzzy, and I simply don’t have the fire any more. I
used to be quite good, quite an overachiever. I worked long hours and slaved to make
everything perfect. Now, I just rewrite the old. It’s all old.
With supervision, I know I will be okay. I'm hoping for a boss who is indecisive and a
little lazy, and if we can pass letters back and forth for endless time-consuming corrections,
it wouldn’t bother me at all. That would be just fine. Bureaucracy and indecision used to
bother me; I worried about my brilliant career and how the slowness and incompetence and
stupidity of my boss would hold me back, but then I became a poet and didn’t give a shit
anymore. I once cared passionately about poetry, too, but now I don’t worry about that
much, either. I just want a paycheck and a place to go during the day so I don’t crawl into
bed and piss on the sheets. The only thing I have to keep me occupied right now is walking
my dog and interviews like these.
You know, a job like this one wasn’t good enough for me once, but now this really is the
best I can do. I would be delighted if I got this job. If I could do it. If I could show up. If
I don’t just crawl back into bed. But, you see, the alimony runs out soon. It's a shitty agreement but I was nuts, and signed, you see. Because then, I was confident. I was always so confident, confident in my ability to take care of myself, to come back from any disaster. That's gone now, you understand, completely, utterly gone ... I used to think I could change the world; now, I don’t think I can change my sheets.
But I'm pretty sure I can still do this job, as long as I don't have to create anything. If I can
copy a template, I know I’ll do fine. I was once creative; I was a bright, no, brilliant kid,
but I drank a lot, spent a lot of time on psych wards, and it started to catch up with me.
There’s only so many times you can get really manic before the permanent damage sets in.
Anyway, my psychiatrist says I need some structure, and I agree, and a job would really
Does that answer your question? You know, your pupils are so dilated. It’s an interview, a
two-way street. Have you seen into me? I can't see into you. Maybe you're a manic depressive,
too. Maybe you rush out from here every day to the office of a waiting shrink
to weep and scream your despair, to say, I can't go on, it hurts too much ....
I see your irises now, blue like mine, and know you have lived without sickness and without
despair, and your normal life of normal frustrations and no huge events looks at me without
a trace of pity. This interview and our interaction is the worst thing that will happen to you
this month. I know you've had your troubles, too. It’s just that I have to come back from a
place that doesn't even exist to sit here today, and I'm so tired I could just die.
If this were the thirties, you would give me a break. Back then, no one pretended that
things were just fine. People liked homeless people, called them hobos, gave them jobs. I
gave my diamond engagement ring to a homeless man last year, I gave all my clothes away
to the poor, because I was confident back then. Do you know what I would do for one
ounce of confidence today?
I stopped, and the fluorescence ate my words. The papers on her desk absorbed the
sounds, and around me like sewage my cheerful interview self returned, and I answered the
other questions as anybody would, and she pretended that she hadn’t heard a word of what
I had said.

Vacana in the voice of Mahadevi-akka

A vacana in the voice of Mahadevi-akka, homeless wanderer, poet, patroness of women, and bride of Siva. Om namah shivayah!

Nataraja, white as jasmine, fill me.
Lord, hair matted from love, still me.
Indra Deva of the meeting rivers, kill me.
Let eight hundred forty thousand deaths now take me,
As you, Bhadra-Bhima, won't forsake me.
Laugh, brother Blue Throat, for the poison we will drink.
Brother-lover-husband-son, I'll sing and will not think.
Shakra, Lord Asura, take the burden of my tears.
Now, Indra Deva, take the tribute of my years.