Larissa's Blog

Excerpt from Patient Women

Excerpt from Patient Women (Nora at 22)
When it was slow, Nora told Billy the plots of Russian novels. They had just finished The Brothers Karamazov, which Billy enjoyed, and were now starting Anna Karenina.
“Anna is a brilliant woman, “Nora told Billy, who was lying on the floor with a bottle of bourbon between her knees. “Most people don’t realize that. She can do anything, except speak up for herself.” Nora reached over and filled her tumbler from Billy’s bottle. “While she’s shacked up with Vronsky, she writes children’s books, she studies architecture, follows local politics; anything Count Vronsky does, she does too, and better. She even handles horses better.”
The phone rang. Billy sat up.
“Friends with Style”, Nora answered. She listened into the receiver for a few moments, then hung up. “Breather,” she told Billy. Billy lay back down.
“So, why can’t she talk about herself?” Billy asked.
Nora shrugged “Never learned. The men in the book do it for her. At one point, Dolly—that’s Stiva’s wife—tries to talk to her about what’s happening in her life and Anna just blanks. She starts to talk a little but then it gets onto abortion.”
“They had abortions then?” Billy asked.
“What do you think?” Nora replied. “Anna may have had one by this point in the novel, or may be planning to; it’s very strongly suggested. The thing is, she can’t talk about any of this stuff, not Vronsky, not leaving her husband; she just shuts down.”
“So what happened to her?” Billy asked.
Before Nora could answer, the doorbell rang.
“Coming,” Billy called gaily. She looked through the peep-hole.
But instead of a trick, a woman entered. She was about thirty years old, tall, big-boned and ungainly. She was wearing a plaid dress trimmed with lace and velvet; she had patent leather flats with bows on her too-large feet, with straps bracing the shoes. She looked, Nora thought, like a giant child going to a birthday party.
“I’m here for a job,” the woman said.
Billy and Nora exchanged looks.
“The ad said you needed models,” the woman insisted.
Nora sat her down to wait for the pimp and told her the rates: one hundred dollars for suck and fuck, two hundred for Greek, three hundred for dominance, no equipment. The women took half.
“I’m working now,” the woman interrupted. “I have a job now.” She was rocking slightly, as if she needed to pee.
“That’s nice,” Nora answered automatically.
The woman smiled. “I know how to work,” she said proudly.
“How much do you make now?” Nora asked, expecting her to double her take.
“Five dollars,” the woman replied.
“How much?” Nora asked in disbelief.
The woman rocked harder. “I know how to work,” she said. “I make two hundred dollars a day. Two hundred dollars a day.” She looked at Nora. “I know how to work,” she repeated, “I know how to work, I know how to work, I know how to work. I know how to work, I know how to work . . . .”
Patient Women on Amazon
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The No-Net World

Deep in your heart, you always believedThere was a barrier, a secret shieldKeeping you safe from the streetSecretly, you knewYour good shoes and your warm lined glovesKept you apart, and safeFrom the man with the cup in his handAnd the boy with the cardboard signAnd the woman with the bloated legsAnd the girls with the begging eyesFrom the weathered madwomen railing at GodAnd the shadows at the ashcan firesFrom the need to ask, no choices left:Mister, can you please …?
What did you, from the cushioned worldOf buffers, alternatives, other ways to turnOf loans from family friendsOf credit cards and healthy childrenOf grocers who smiled because they knew how well you ate:What did you have in common with the concrete world of need?Secretly, you knew, so surely you believedYou could never fall so low
Welcome to the no-net world.
Then I got fired one dayI got fired one dayLost my job and then my houseI got fired one day.
Now your debts mount up like garbage and a layoff’s coming soonAnd you have to see a doctor and insurance just pays halfAnd your folks who lent you money just can’t help you anymoreAnd the loans are coming due; still, the force field is there,In the lining of the gloves, in the good if now used shoesYou will never stand like that goddamned bumHolding the door at the bankToo tired to whore or stealSaying, Please ma’am, please ma’am, please ...   Then I got HIVI got HIVThey found outI lost my kidsI got HIV
You would never seeHunger on the face of your childWhen she came home from school there would always beApples and rice and chicken and beansMilk and carrots and peasNow there’s two days left till payday and just one last can of cornAnd she’s home, laughing hungry, Hi, I’m home, Ma, what’s for lunch?
Welcome to the no-net world
Are you hungry? Good:Ready, set, line-up, let’s go:You can get on line on Monday for the lunch meal that’s on Tuesdayand the shelter line’s for Thursday but you have to sign up MondayBut you stayed there just last Wednesday so you can’t come back till Friday.

And the Food Stamps place is downtownAnd the welfare place is uptownAnd the Medicaid is westsideAnd the hospital is eastsideNo I can’t give you a token No I can’t give you a tokenNo I can’t give you a tokenDon’t you know you’ll only drink?
Hell, yes.
Like a child praying to GodYou believed in foreverYou thought home and hearth were,Not for everyone of course,But surely for you:
Only in the nightmaresRare unremembered dreamsDid you stand by the door of the bankSayingYes ma'am, God bless you ma’am Please.
Don’t get sick.Don’t let anyone you love get sick.Don’t be mentally ill.Don’t lose your job.Don’t be without money for a second.Don’t make any mistakes.
Welcome to the no-net world.

Still more love poems for Valentine's Day

You are distant, alone, and far on the horizon, obscured, almost nurtured, by the ocean's fog.Seeking and searching, you are always a stranger:What did leaving me, losing me, cost?
I would swim with one foot on the sand of the dry land;I would wait for you, never explore.But you are the waves, and the wind and its whistle,and the storm you embrace far from shore.
My few timid ships all cling to the shorelinetoo frightened to leave what they know.You laugh and command them: There is another shore;the second appears when the first is gone.
So sing, my dear love, of the wide morning's gold sky,and the call of the azure strand,and the gull and the salt and the mast that pitches,and the lure of a foreign land.
I will be your welcome, your country forever; I'll receive, then release you (adieu).I will be your native and nurturing homelandand wait to be called home by you.
Say, is not all love illicit and blind?True, it hides, undone, in the mind.
Who knows Allah’s thoughts truly lovesthe Self that is Allah’s own wisdom to know,and you are Allah’s, my milk, sheep, and doves,unsure yet certain, a dervish in the snow.
Did you, today, attend upon love?No, intent instead, you will not find.
Who knows Allah’s thoughts truly lovesthe Self that is Allah’s own wisdom to know,and you are Allah’s, my milk, sheep, and doves,unsure yet certain, a dervish in the snow.
Greedily, you eat and fruit is gone.Pulp devoured, you hold the rind.
Who knows Allah’s thoughts truly lovesthe Self that is Allah’s own wisdom to know,and you are Allah’s, my milk, sheep, and doves,unsure yet certain, a dervish in the snow.
You have lost your love? O, sing, fool: Now gaze upon love’s comely behind.
Who knows Allah’s thoughts truly lovesthe Self that is Allah’s own wisdom to know,and you are Allah’s, my milk, sheep, and doves,unsure yet certain, a dervish in the snow.
I love love’s desert and its snow.I, Larissa, dervish, a lover signed.  

More love poems for Valentime's Day

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

For Six Months with You
For six months with you, I wouldQuit my loverLeave the citySell my books.
For six months with you, I wouldLive in KansasJoin a carpoolShave my legs.
For six months with you, I wouldBe an actressWait on tablesBurn this poem.
But what if it doesn’t work out?
If it doesn’t work out I’ll join a convent
If it doesn’t work out I’ll cut my hair
If it doesn’t work out I’ll leave the country
If it doesn’t work out I still don’t care.

For six months with you, I wouldBreak the true lawBreak my poor heartBreak my vow.
Now ask me what I’d doFor a year or two. 
Williamsburg Poem  shaking like the El beneath the Williamsburg trainI wait for him to comebridge and tunnel meeting like the girders of the Elhis hard arms open my thighs
in the hood they have names for himthe girls say his names:they call him dos cafes con lechethey say ruega para nosotrosthey say he’s yucca, white and shininglike the crucifix on your breastthey say he’s lucky like a spiderthey say he’s yucca, white and hard
they watch himrun like a wolf on the rooftopsrun like a wolf on the rooftopsevery night
rumbling like the train beneath the sidewalk and the El above my headencircled by these girders and his arms hewhispers spray paint and graffitipulls me down into the subwaypulls me down and up againlifts me to the bridge the girders tattooed light the open El
his mouth burns the asphaltgraffiti burns my thighsand I run through the clotheslines that flap on the roofsI run through the night after him.
the girls give me garlicthe girls all pray for meand I pray with the words from the spray-painted wallsand the girders that shake on the Eland I pray:
he is my catholic con lechehe is my old native religionI pray: ruega para nosotrosI pray: ruega para mi.
he is my brujo lobo blancohe is my amor y aranaand my prayers are as dark and as deep as his nightas the hole he will fill with his eyeshere in me
laughinghe opensmy Williamsburg thighs.

Poems for Valentine's Day and the discovery of Einstein's gravitational wave

The universe is hotExpandingImmediateAnd this explosion is a paradoxA particle and a waveDiscrete and continuousRelative, absolute, and real.
Time itself surrenders to the Big Bang.Space finds new dimensionsAnd space-time curves like I doTo your energy, to your gravityTo our new age of relativityAnd our energy and our mass and our energy times lightAre exponentialDefying gravityExploding creationA unified field.
I glance and a boson blinks into view. 
 A strong force beckons 
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.  

Lager NYC

You, volunteer:Reichsgeboren.You choose to be hereSelect.
You, volunteer:You know the difference Between cause and effect:The people on the street Are too stupid to have homesToo filthy to washSee them root through the garbage Nicht essen aber fressen Ni yest' a zhryat'They deserve to be thereThey deserve to be there Select.
Concentrate:See the dark peopleSitting in the cellsThey deserve to be there They deserve to be thereAnd the women of the FrauenblockThe Fraulein triple XControl her, detain herPick her up  Select.Cause and effect:You know which is which.Select.
You, volunteer:We see youOn the job where you whisperHalf of what you thinkAnd none of what you feel.
See the clock:The digital tattoo says run nowRush to the train the transportWho cares who gets inWho cares who gets outPush into the car the transportWho cares who gets homeWho cares who gets shotArbeit macht frei.You choose this You choose:Select.
Hey, you, volunteerWe find ourselves together in the subwayThe Grand Ka-ZeZentral:Here in Ka-ZeYour face is not a face Ni litso, a morda:Your face is not a face But a snoutWe don't eat here, we devourNicht essen aber fressenNi yest' a zhriat
We don't give an inchAnd we don't give a damn Only weaklings fall to the tracksGod knows the difference Between cause and effect.
The selection is over:Look how it happened that you fell.You choose thisYou choose thisSelect.

Jamas volveré

To touch the sidereal limits with the hands — Otero .
Gone are the stars that are not the sun That punctuate heights no longer heights, Heights become space. Things I will never know With my proximity senses are gone, all gone:
I will never hear a star upon this earth, But I feel the warm gusts your wings stir up. If in the daytime I were to leave bread and fruit for you You might come again. I am not so different from The mangrove swamp where you play.

Translation of “Dyr bul shchyl” by Alexei Kruchenykh

Russian zaum poem  Дыр бул щыл
вы со бу
р л эз
English transliterationDyr bul shchyl
vy so bu
r l ez
Translation of "Dyr Bul Shchyl" into Unglish*
Pot nag choganichatblaxyou be nat g id

*With thanks for the term Unglish to mIEKAL aND

From "Mirror, or a Flash in the Pan" in #specialcharacters

$ $ $
Today, Ritar watches television; soon there will be no cable, so she must watch and watch and watch, drinking the gin she buys instead of meat and vegetables.
She sees that the reality shows have created a Malthusian generation. You’re eliminated. Fired. Out. Gohome.
The reality shows train people in servitude as the 21st century wants it.
Despite humiliating, impossible challenges, despite verbal and physical abuse, no one wants to go home.
Perhaps there is no home to go to.
And despite the horror of going home, as though all contestants were ACAs born into hellholes, no one cares when someone goes home.
Contestants grovel before the judges and snipe at other contestants.
Fired. Out. Go home.
Snipe willingly, enthusiastically and eagerly.
Go home.
“At least it wasn’t me.” They not only think, they say.
Do it to Julia.
Competitors detract from one another, the performances of other competitors. Their characters. Their looks. Meanly.
It is, Ritar sees, class war: The judges are from the upper classes; contestants are usually poor. The shows deign to allow one working class hopeful entrée to their world, at least temporarily. Fame, if short-lived. The promise, if not the substance, of wealth. Temporarily, for a lottery time.
Do it to Julia.
As in the Project Runway episode with Team Luxe. In which the team, losing, made a pact not to “throw any of their members under the bus,” not to scapegoat anyone to go home. Solidarity, temporarily. And the persistent attempts, ultimately successful, of the judges to make them––the team, not the judges––choose someone to be sent home.“Someone’s goin’ down,” snarled Michael Kors, later characterizing the group’s attempts at loyalty and cooperation as stupid, explaining “You have to be more self-sufficient.”
Betrayal and treachery, now termed selfsufficiency.
“Who is the weakest?”
“We don’t want to…”
“WHO is the weakest?”
Do it to Julia.
And the winner of Season 7 tells the world that he is inspired by Russian and German military fashion, walking with his lead model, who is wrapped in a swastika.
Do it to Julia.
And the lexicon of all these shows, television staples in a time of unemployment, is:STEP ITUP!
Step it up.
Work harder (for less money.).Because you are inadequate.
Because your performance (painting, cooking, comedy routine, dance, enterprise, design, sewing, attitude) was not good enough. Was lousy, in fact. Should never have seen the light of day. Sucked.
Ditto: your face, pores, hair, legs, teeth, butt, breath, facial expression, feet.
Your too-happy, too-sensitive, too-creative, too-too-too-too self.
Sucked. Sucks.
And it wasn’t because we asked too much. Gave humiliating tasks. Judged unfairly.
Ciao. Aufwiedersehn. Toodles.
                                                              $ $ $

He follows her

 He follows her with his voice; she sees him with her skin, and drinks him with her hands, in the storm touch which will crush his chest against her breast. The poppies pour
 their juice in the red rain which will crack, in time, all o- ther things. She drinks him with her hands. He follows her to her breast. She sees him with his chest, in this bo-
 dy not her own, but which, in the night, is hers. Like the heat that swells all  things, she sings the night with him. He follows her with his voice; she sees him with her skin

February issue of Plume now up!

The February issue of Plume is now live at
With poetry by Gail Mazur, Kelli Russell Agodon, Alan Shapiro, Carrie Etter, Carol Frost, Barbara Hamby, Devin Johnston, Thomas Lux, Christopher Shipman, Ron Smith, Geoffrey Young, Hélène Cardona translates work by José Manuel Cardona, Adam Tavel reviews Greta Stoddart’s ALIVE ALIVE O. Featured: Emmanuel Moses translated by Marilyn Hacker.


Christ was born in a cave, dark, dank, and blind;
The prophets imbibed hot pedal-pumped wine;
In the sunstroke lands of mirage, drought, and thorn,
Why, Nabi, were our "big" religions born?

Sea (Sic)

(Readers: Please read the stanzas in any order you like.)

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,the order of my words.

                                This body, wholly holy, sings as best it can, lisping the mantra “sole.”

                              Alone. Why did the singing stop, and why? 

                         No, I never broke an honest sweat, did I think the ocean would forget?

                       In the horizon’s glance I see a wave rise, rise, rise and die, out of nowhere again, but why?

From In Paran.

Bhakti 2

You will leave your wise men. Your mind, with no object to rest on,I loved him so much that I followed him on morningswill ride onwhen I could have slept, slept late, slept and notthe horse offelt the pain beside me, curled round my my breath.body like a spoon. His body like aAnd you will be mylight in the bedroom, his smile body, ever a dog in the bed. He shakes And if you missme with hugs, overwhelms me with salvation,kisses. I raise my arms to embrace his neck; neverThere is nothing in the day except him. returning, I willoffer it, Bhakti, ever returning, again and again and again.

Abortion Hallucination

A vision   of a snake   with glowing red eyes  
formed by the light of     garbage trucks and    screeching   new cars  
driven by men   who had once    bought me dinner  
then hated me when I didn't want to fuck them twice
Carlight   passing late at night   on a street   of an   ugly
precinct   lying   deceiving   the unwary who think that it leads home

It is late so dark it is almost light   that time of night when
the light hits the metal and the glass of summer windows left ajar
make me want something   someone   I don’t know who

The metal gate to the yard refracts this message via Queens boys who
drive too fast too late at night      refracts this message to the window   where
I watch from the couch
In the corner of the basement where my father used to lie I
Watch, interested, as the snake
grows larger and more menacing    I am
taken slightly aback but remember him    remember that I like
handling snakes    and smile
and as always he softens   grows smaller
becomes a hippopotamus   I have won again   I have stared him down
made him warm
and the Nile gives up its life to me
animals carnivorous and calm   come home to me
two by two

I watch for the longest time
until the largest fills the window with his face
black as light
Agnus Dei

for this man’s baby  for this man’s baby  for this man’s baby
came the flood.


t(his), (he)re

t(h(is)) (which is ours)
here (ours,(he)re now)
t(his) h(ere) (you, pre(sent)
t(here) (my (fu)ture is (y)ours


He told me, repeatedly, that people considered himthe most intelligent person they’d met; that he was not more successful was a conspiracy of minorities, lesbians, blacks, and gays, and a coterie of cliquesthat sucked up all the grants.He visits me; his handsome features, now marred by fat, peer at me. “What are you reading?” he asks. (A hundred pages a day, to live.)He is an expert on Nabokov, international relations, modern artDavid Foster Wallace, Heidegger,and the poets I translate.(And yet he never understood Karenina, any more than Nabokov did,as they focused on the crevices in her carriage train,in that foreshadowed bier, but not on the abortions,nor the Vronsky of her death.)
Before him, I remember feeling beautiful, and those times people said I was the smartest woman they knew.
"My Vronsky" appeared in the St. Petersburg Review