Larissa's Blog

How to Meet and Dance with Your Death (Como encuentrar y bailar con su muerte): A Cure for Suicide

This was told to me by an old Curandera, an India from Brazil whom I met in the Yucatan. She gave me this recipe and cautioned me that it could be done once, and only once.
To meet and dance with your Death, take:
2 gallons of pulque(fermented Mayan beverage), or, if unavailable, gin1 case tequilaSeveral cases beer1 bottle Mescal2 ounces good marijuanacarton cigarettesthree large peyotescoffee as needed
For three weeks, do not eat meat, starch, sweets, or cabbage of any kind. You may have citrus fruits, papaya, watery vegetables, yucca and bacalǻo, salted nuts, cream, and a little halvah.
Drink and smoke everyday, reserving the Mescal and peyote. Smoke the marijuana in silence; drink only when there is music playing and people are dancing; at other times, walk, preferably uphill.
Bailar can fuerza cada dia: dance vigorously every day, either alone or in a group, but never in a couple. Be friendly with the other dancers but dance with no one partner longer than a few moments, and do not stay in one spot as it causes blood clots. Dance until your hair and clothing are entirely wet and your chin tilts upwards naturally.
When you are not dancing, be silent or listen to music, but do not chatter and certainly do not converse. By all means, sing and chant, but do not ululate, because this brings forth unnecessary demons.
When you have finished the pulque and most of the tequila, go to the city. Find two men, one dark and one light; they will be your guides. It is good if you like them, but they must not be your lover—your lover always blocks your view of Death (su amante oscura su vista de la muerte).
After you have visited six interesting places, go together to an old room and take the peyotes; chop them well and mix them with strawberries and yogurt; the sour will help you not to vomit as much.
An hour after you have taken the peyote, the light-haired man will appear to be asleep. Do not disturb him: He is calling your Death.
Take the hand of the dark man. Ask him where he wants to go, and go with him: He will lead you to your Death.
Follow the dark man until he brings you to a crowd of people. You will see familiar faces in the crowd, family and old friends, but each time you turn to greet them, it will be a stranger. This is where you will meet your Death.
Your Death will be a man who looks like you, a little taller, but with the same color hair and possibly the same nose. He will be wearing a hat, but will not be bald except for a very little at the back. He will appear preoccupied, perhaps agitated. He will be sweating.
You will wonder where he has come from, and whether he is sick. Do not ask. And do not ask him to dance. Wait.
When he sees you, you will feel something just below your hair, or in your nostrils, as if the room suddenly had become very cold, or very quiet. You will hear a song—an unusual but very familiar song—and then both of you will leap to the floor at the exact same moment and begin to dance.
You will dance for a long time and you will never dance better. Death will continue to sweat. As his face begins to shine, you will see beneath his skin and know that you are not dancing with a man, but with Death. After that, you will never fear him again, nor seek him.
When the dancing is over, go somewhere and drink the bottle of Mescal; leave the worm in the bottle for Death.
Do this correctly the first time, because it can not be done more than once. To do this once is sagrado, sacred; to do this more than once is common, so no lo jode. If you do this more than once, you will do it often, and then you will become an old borracha who sleeps with common men. Punto.

PEN dinner honoring anti-Putin dissident writers

I attended the PEN dinner last night honoring Russian anti-Putin writers, novelist Lyudmila Ulitstaya and poet Maria Stepanova. In a discussion moderated by Gary Steyngart, the Russian writers spoke of the increasing constraints on freedom of expression in Putin's Russia, an Orwellian disregard for the truth, and the intense pressures on LGBT voices. We are honored to include many of these brave writers in our 2013 Big Bridge anthology, Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry. And, in many ways, are we not heading for the same boat?
Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry

The Diary of the Warsaw Ghetto (from Patient Women).

Interlude, from Patient WomenThe Warsaw Ghetto held out for 42 days against Hitler. Teenaged women armed with stones held out against tanks, troops, mortar, shell fire, and a week of bombing that would have made a citizen of Hanoi sit up and take notice. The Warsaw Ghetto held out longer against Hitler than entire countries did—Poland surrendered after a week. France, despite its much vaunted resistance, never even fought. Why did Hitler seek to destroy this ghetto, why was he obsessed with this particular ghetto, why was it essential that the Warsaw Ghetto be razed, and all its inhabitants, every, last one, found, shot, gassed, destroyed? Because of the diaries. The diary. The diary of the Warsaw ghetto inflamed Hitler’s mind. Jews, Hitler knew, always kept records, chronicles of their abuse. There was a diary at the ghetto in Lodz; they ran a newspaper there, controlled, yes, controlled, but beneath that, there was a diary, a true record, and his intelligence was convinced that there was a diary in Warsaw, too. Somewhere, somewhere in the sewers and the cellars was the resistance, and buried deep, deep there, with the resistance, were the diaries. The oppressed, Hitler knew, chronicled everything.Patient Women on Amazon
More about Patient Women

Save the date: "Endangered Music" at Los Angeles AWP

Presentation at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Los Angeles:

  •  Friday, April 1 at 1:30 PM - 2:45 PM

  •  Room 513, L.A. Convention Center, Meeting Room Level 1201 S. Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90015
Panelists: Annie Finch, Timothy Steele, Dean Kostos, Amanda Johnston; moderator Larissa Shmailo.
 What are the consequences of what Brad Leithauser has termed the "metrical illiteracy" of contemporary poetry in the U.S.? Poetry readership here has diminished, in contrast to the vitality of poetry in countries where formal poetry is strong. Offering controversial views from a now minority aesthetic, panelists will discuss why basic knowledge of metrical analysis and prosody has waned and why accentual forms such as spoken word are popular. We will demonstrate the essential role of rhythm in poetry today and as a tool vital to understanding poetry of the past. Panelists will read their own contemporary formal poetry.


It will continue, he said,even when the water breaks white,even when the surface currents seem to be going the wrong way.
The river, I tell him, is gray, and the ocean is for others.
I have crossed the river on stones and planks,while others swam, inviting me inand I dove just to please them, pretending I could swim too.
My path is broken; the white caps are hardthere are too many gaps, alwaysI must find the connector: I use wire and wood and rusty nails, these broken rafts,  whatever it takes to cross.
I don’t know tides or currents,have never understood how the river flowed;perhaps it does not.
There is only the leap, and my heart in my mouth: I can’t walk this hard water or swim,and I will never see land.
I will be your dolphin, he says,and you will not drown.
How can I explain thatI am not afraid of drowning:I have drowned many times, come up,gasping for air, and dead, many times: What it is is that I can’t swim and the water is hard.
It will continue, he sayseven when the waterseems to be going the wrong way.

Winedark Sea

(Joyce meets tsunami)

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.

revery about intoxicated turtles

the fruit has turned againalcohol fragrant smile at the thought of themlolling on a beachinverted and drunk and certain ofturning right side againevery wave an ally
tomorrow the eggs will hatch and the young willrace to the sea, Darwinically pursuedby rapacious winged predatorshalf will die the rest will find the seaand live.

The Gospel According to Magdalene

I. 1. I saw you first, writing in the sandI couldn't hear you: They were cursing me, throwing stones, screamingBitch Cunt Whore Bitch Cunt Whore
2. I couldn't hear you: You were quiet and the pimp was holding me, Whispering in my ear, Telling me I was a man's womanA natural born whore,And Mama smiled and turned her head, paid the mortgage on my back,And spit on me. You parasite, she hissed, you little bitch,You made Papa bad.
3. So I ran, ran, ran, ran, ran for my life In any direction I couldLike a dead leaf I rode the windI didn’t knowThat you were the cloud that would carry meDidn't feelYour wind beneath my veinsDidn't hearThe birds I followed with my eyesI flew without breath, running for my life.
4. I couldn't hear you, you were so quiet I still don't know whyAnd the pimp’s voice was soft, hissing in my ear,telling meI was damned if I didn'tAnd the tricks were leering, sayingI was damned if I did, but do me baby,Just do me nowAnd their women, their thin, cold womenJust told me I was damned.
5. I saw you first, writing in the sand Even as I ran for my life:The mob turned to you, saying,Rabbi, should we kill her?And you laughed:And I saw the word you had written in the brown sand, And your hand writing twice just in case I didn't see, And I saw the word as I fell to the soft sand, The word of beginning, the word in your hand,And I took the word, all the words, and wrote them all overand I laughed and I wrote and was free
Chapter 5. Stations
I was there, I saw your faceWhen you fell for the third time When the cross dragged you under When they nailed you at last.
I was there, I saw your face When the pain of betrayalWould have made any manSell his soul to be dead
I was there, I saw your face When you cried to the Heavens Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachtani?And the heavens  split openFor the grace of despairFor that prayer of despairFor the gift of despair.
Revelation: The Second Coming
It's time for the second coming, boy where have you been ? I've missed you.
I just called to saythat the boys are back in town and I'm with themand we're ready to rockready to rumbleready to roll
I know I’ve been quietBut I’ve been thinking about you, no one else: I guess live been shyhaven't spoken my mindthey told me not to,told me it wasn't nicefor a girl;told me not to drop the cross, not to climb the mountain, not toteach in churchbut like you say, fuck ‘emI don't care what people sayso come see about meI can stay out late tonight
I want to come with yoube your biker chick, your angel, your new cross, a true cross ,a cross with breasts
I will soothe your Armageddon, your Jihad; I will be your avenging angel
I will be on your side this timecause you are my vehicle babyand the kingdom of heaven is mine on your wheels
let me be your cross
this time , next time, now:I will raise an army call down jihad make your missiles rise make your scud blowbaby:I will kick down the walls of your tombI will blow all hellSatan’s slaves, I am your worst nightmare
this time next time nowraise an army for youharrow hell andfind some roughnecks to kick down the walls of your tomblisten centurion: the soul of a woman was created below now you know whycenturion, i am your worst nightmarehell hath no fury like a woman whose man has been gone a long timebut that's all right, baby, I always believed in you I knew you would come back for your woman
I will not let you be crucified again.

Unlikely Stories Tribute Issue for Michelle Greenblatt

Unlikely Stories: Episode IV and Unlikely Books present DEVORAH: a tribute to Michelle Greenblatt, Editor and Friend, at
We are grateful for the opportunity to remember Michelle with the contributors to this volume: Reed Alteums, Glen Armstrong, Lana Bella (Nia Nguyễn), John M. Bennett, Alexandria Bryan, Charles J. Butler, Wendy Taylor Carlisle, Vincent Cellucci, Joel Chace, Kimberly Rae Lorenz-Copeland, Maria Damon, Bryson Dean Gautier, Vernon Frazer, Alan Fyfe, Larry Goodell, Win Harms, mark hartenbach, Stephen Harrison, Carolyn Hembree, Cindy Sostchen-Hochman, Steffen Horstmann, Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Dylan Krieger, Brian Kovich, Donna Kuhn, Jim Leftwich, Louise Landes Levi, James Lineberger, Dennis Mahagin, Peter Marra, Frankie Met, Alexis Moon (Alexis Phillips), MOO - Monika Mori, Sheila Murphy, Jay Passer, Annie Pluto, Marthe Reed, Gabriel Ricard, Alison Clockwise Cat Ross, Bernd Sauermann, Christopher Shipman, Larissa Shmailo, Jeffrey Side, Jay Sizemore, Felino A. Soriano, Jamie Stoneman, Ray Succre, Yuriy Tarnawsky, and Marc Vincenz.
DEVORAH was edited by Jonathan Penton, K.R. Copeland, Vernon Frazer, and Justin Herrmann.


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.


As brave as a deciduous tree in winter,
with only its trembling to give, I live.Leaves, ordinary, thin, brown, die;dying, enrich the earth; I?
For the cruciform tree, a resurrection,seasons, promise, a rebirth. There are no coincidences, there is a plan, the hope of seedlings, again, again, again.
Not for me. For me, the responsibilitiesof chaos. For me, the uncertainties of matter,the randomness, the ecodisasters,the blasted, dying trees, the impartialitiesof space,of place.
(They now find patterns in nonlinear matter,clinging to fractals,still hoping to escaperandom, null spaceand soonerodingplace.)
Even Heisenberg was certainthat matter would not die, but become,if need be, E: the Einsteinian assurance.But dying is no big deal: Only cockroaches live forever. And matter, as we know it, must disappear.
The ultimate change,called end, is embossed upon your genes.And determined to live at all cost, what freedom, what real,if evanescent, truthis lost?


He called me “fat,” and I cringed, not at the insult, as such (not much a one)but at the verbal dull, the paucity ofadjective, the pervading mental lull, the flap of his limp and flaccid gums, the lack of hearty fun. Fat? Why fat, I cried? Surely, round would move things up a pitch or two,and gargantuan would do, and corpulent construe the adipose goo at hand. Why fat, oh, fatuous man? Call me beefy, blimp, or bulging; term me bovine, bull, or burly; name me chunky,roly-poly ,or inflated as your nog. O, linguini, limp and little! Your linguistic torpor bores, ignores the 25,000 words that Joyce and Shakespeare forged, and do not hoard (but your words, overall, are snores). As I eat my s’mores,let's resume: I am thickset, paunchy, heavy as the synapses in you; I am wider than a canyon and the broad primordial stew. Fat?Fat, you fraud? I am Queen of unburnt calorie, the rarest elephantine; the Mobyest ofsentient beasts, the diet doctor’s bawd.My stockiness drives diet stock, my pudge the script of pills; I am larger than Niagaraand the Roman seven hills. Dormant doormat,there are spas of verdant bliss for me, but no school for fools like you. You are but a speck of rotten lard, a granule of mere sand; I am high andvast and infinite, dimensionally great and grand.


I embrace you, dear shadow,my revelatory friend,dear suicidal impulse; todayI dream of the parapets aboveA la Vielle Russie, andof splattering near the Plazawhere Woody Allen wooed young girls,leaving a bit of meon the Strand Bookstand,near the park and the seals —but this is too vibrant and real.
Better to find myself alonein a porcelain tubwith chamomile bath oil(as if I needed to be calm;here is eternity for that),listening to Verdi’s Requiem, holding a razor,or better still, to poison myselfwith small scored rose pills,avoiding arsenic and the Bovary trapsof indigestion, detection;best with caplets, red carafes of wine,or Guinness brew —(who wouldn’t want to quaff a few?)
What catharsis there isin 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 chingadabite my ear, stop my breath—who else could do that?
Dear friend of ferment,who unearths the wormsthat 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:Yes.

Excerpt from PATIENT WOMEN

One of the themes of PATIENT WOMEN is prostitution, physical and spiritual. Here is a brief excerpt from Chapter 5, "The Mudd Club."
“Around here, there’s no such thing as premature ejaculation. Believe me.”“With the young ones you just have to do it again.”“You can suck them off.”“I’d rather fuck.”“The less time they’re inside me the better. The way some of them hold you is frightening.”“Sam sweats.”“He doesn’t like me.”“He talks too much.”“I’d rather listen to them talk than touch them.”Nora downs her drink. “As long as they don’t ask to see me on the outside, I don’t care. Or try to hold my hand.”

My Trick Wants to Go to Plato's

My trick wants to go to Plato's.
We go to the old Ansonia Baths where a thousand gay men fucked  a thousand times a night for years. Now it is Plato's Retreat; no single men are allowed without a date. I sign a document attesting that I am not a prostitute; my whore name is Nora, after Ibsen; I add Nader, going green for Ralph, and strip.  I scarf down a bagel, hard and cold, at the buffet, look in the angled light at the rich naked people  some still shyly wearing their towels and dive: I go into the mattress room.  
A daisy chain has formed, a length of copulating people,  each one on the left servicing the right, up and down. The trick is suddenly timid and urges me to start: He will watch. There is cunnilingus to the middle-aged blonde then a line of men; they find me and move in, one by one, young, old, some good looking, most average at best. We fuck. And fuck. And fuck again.  Suddenly comes a man hirsute, pressing, he disgusts me. I push him away and he pushes back hardbut on the chain beside me, a languid man, turns to him and says, Sir, the lady said no, and miraculously, the ape disappears. I feel a moment of gratitude,  extinguished by the semen of the next man. 
I work every day. After three tricks, I wait for my pimp at midnight at the door of Studio 54; he falls out of a cab in sneakers and tie, carrying his poetry notebooks  and a book by Roland Barthes. Steve Rubell himself lets us in. I follow the pimp to the floor and we dance; he dances well. He is like the bottles of cheap amyl nitrate he carries for sex, dizzying, sickening, my freebase, my cocaine.  
The manager for my house, Friends with Style, is a small misshapened man with an ugly face; He tells me he went to Yale.I work the phones and the tricks come in. First the Hassid, and this shiksa was his practice. Harry Abram's son brings me a book of Magritte.Sarah and I do a three way with a red-haired man who says he knows Reggie Jackson; of course we are impressed. 
Later in the day, when it is quiet and I am alone, a cop comes in;  I freeze; I know he is insane. He says are you going to be nice to me, girl? He puts my hand on his crotch and I feel the metal of his gun and he grins and says, Baby, if you are going to flirt with death  you are going to get a date
A man rescues me from the life. In Cuernavaca  I climb the volcanoes every day and heal.   Unable to understand human kindness I leave him and go back to New York. 
Two years pass, I am in trouble again. I need 200 bucks, the house where I worked is a sex club now. Drunk off my ass, I do a man and his wife in the bathtub then a pair of rutting men . Standing by the fireplace, I see a a girl there, blond pale underage; I see she has cut herself up and down her slender arms and I, the fucking role model, beg her to go home  and she only laughs bitterly.  A thug from the Ray's Pizza next door  sees us talking and tells me, mix it up, get back to work and I become angry, enraged, I go beserk: I turn on him:  I am going to tear this punk's balls off with my hands if he touches this little girl. And I get into his flat punk face and say: WHAT THE FUCK MORE DO YOU WANT? and then I black out. 
When I come to a big Irishman is throwing me down two flights of stairs. I land on the concrete on 76th and Third, stone cold sober now; I feel no pain.I call the police and they come; the old one is coarse; the young one tells me that he has gone to college and read books. They will not bust the house. I curse them for ball-less wimps. They say Go home, miss, go home, and I end up in Bellevue, old Bellevue, locked ward where four orderlies, four, have to hold me down to shoot Thorazine up my butt,  and I am put in four-point restraint. 
My new shrink, hired by my sister, comes in on a Sunday from Connecticut. He brings me a carton of Benson and Hedges cigarettes and says, “These are like gold in here." They are.  
Bellevue, Bellevue, where the nurses' crazy laughter rings high through the night, where boriquenas pequenas cry mamí, mamí da me un peso. I think they say beso. Soon, the DTs start and I shake uncontrollably. A homeless man, thin, dirty, tall, puts his veteran's jacket round my shoulders, and disappears, a Quixote to my Aldonza in this wretched place.  
Patient Women by Larissa Shmailo on Amazon More about Patient Women


560 Brooke Avenue, South Bronx

 560 Brooke Avenue 1
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?
 1.      A maximum security juvenile detention facility in the South Bronx

Coverage for PATIENT WOMEN in OSM, the global citizen's network

L. Shmailo’s Patient Women Explores Mental Illness, Prostitution in NYC New Book Explores Mental Illness, Alcohol, Drug and Sex Addiction, and Prostitution in 1970s New York 

Lifelong New Yorker Larissa Shmailo presents the novel Patient Women (BlazeVOX [books], 2015). Patient Women focuses on the tragedies, misadventures, and growth of one Nora Nader, born of Queens and darling of the New York disco scene. As the Era of Rock unravels, we follow Nora through her experiences as a runaway, low-dollar and high-class prostitute, party girl, and working stiff, into her story of self-awareness and addiction recovery as she “finds herself capable of both physical and spiritual ascent.” (K.R. Copeland, Midwest Book Review).
At twelve years old, Nora leaves her Holocaust-survivor parents and explores the worst that New York has to offer. From there, we follow her through mental hospitals, alcoholism, and the accidental drowning of her husband on their honeymoon. We meet her fellow prostitutes and travel with them as they attempt to move to other careers. We bear witness to Nora’s tepid experiences in psychotherapy and her extraordinary relationship with her transgender AA sponsor. We go with her as she returns to Queens to learn about her parents’ ordeal in the camps and also recovers her own suppressed memories of childhood sexual abuse. Through Nora, we track the spiral of history, and how individual New Yorkers experience the underside of the 1970s—both its horrors and the redemption that could be found there.

Patient Women reveals its author’s background as an accomplished poet and translator, and has been praised for balancing divergent literary styles while remaining an accessible page-turner. Second-generation Holocaust survivors, recovering addicts, and those experiencing mental illness will recognize their own stories in Patient Women, and find an insightful, well-written mirror that allows them to explore and articulate both their struggles and their triumphs.
Patient Women is a useful tool for individuals and groups studying the disco era and the AIDS crisis of New York in the 1970s and 80s. With its frank and thorough analysis of bipolar disorder and mental illness, psychiatric hospitalization, addiction, recovery, and incestual child abuse, it is of interest to therapists, therapy groups, and reading groups with an interest in recovery issues.
Larissa Shmailo is a poet, novelist, editor, and critic living in New York. Her translations from Russian include the iconic avant-garde opera Victory over the Sun. Ms. Shmailo is available for booking at (212) 712-9865.
More information can be found at, including the Electronic Press Kit for Ms. Shmailo and Patient Women (with high-resolution photos) at…/larissa_shmailo_electronic_press_k…. Patient Women is available for purchase through Amazon, and at on-line and physical bookstores.

A press release by Jonathan Penton, (337) 207-8713
Contact Larissa Shmailo, (212) 712-9865