New York City skyline at night


Fall 2007



Five from Larissa Shmailo


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

Artwork by Dee Rimbaud

Artwork by Dee Rimbaud

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, gin
1 case tequila
Several cases beer
1 bottle Mescal
2 ounces good marijuana
carton cigarettes
three large peyotes
coffee 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 bacaláo, 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.

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 cannot 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.


New Life 2
Variation 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;
Instead of hot gun fire a white hot Venus shines.
That war‘s cast-iron swamp is cold 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 the tragedies, with the feeling these engender
That you alone can see them . With the small and tender
Feeling that, any minute now, you‘ll turn away
To home, to the 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 gave you only 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.


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.

Car light    passing late at night    on a street     of an    ugly
precinct    lying    deceiving    the unwary who think 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.



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.


Aerial View of the Rockies

The gods like to trace their fingers in the world;
Like leaves from a primordial tree, landforms
Bare their veins. Clever of her to suicide this way
Leaving no one but me to know. Impassive as
The dead face she wanted no one to see, the clouds
Hide rigor in the lines, purposeful or not, below.
In winter, sunrise looks like sunset in this
Distant land, soon to be nearer, nearer, soon.


Larissa Shmailo is a poet and a translator. Her poetry CD The No-Net World may be heard She recently contributed translations to the anthology Contemporary Russian Poetry forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press.


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