Category: Russia

Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series: Doreen Stock, Poet, Translator, interviewed by David Garyan

Doreen Stock

November 4th, 2023

Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series:

Doreen Stock, Poet, Translator

interviewed by David Garyan

 

Doreen Stocks’s poems appear in Interlitq’s California Poets Feature



DG: Let’s start with your work as a translator. You’ve brought pieces into English from Russian and Spanish—two great literary traditions. How did these endeavors start and what have been some of your favorite projects and pieces to work on?

DS: I was living in L.A. and nursing my third child. A local bookstore (Chatterton’s on Vermont. Ave., now defunct) advertised a poetry writing workshop. I walked in and there, at the back of the store, sat Paul Vangelisti at a small table with three other poets. He said he couldn’t really teach us to write poetry, but the single most important thing we could do would be to take a poet we admired in a language other than English and begin translating his/her poems. I had recently graduated from UCLA with a minor in Slavic Languages, so I began to work with a poem by Anna Akhmatova. While I was raising my three children translating from the Russian of Akhmatova & Marina Tsvetaeva, and the Spanish of Gabriela Mistral taught me how to render a poem into my language in its own voice. This work was invaluable, always returning me to my own writing with deeper awareness and possibilities.

DG: The late Jack Hirschman wrote an introduction to your 2015 collection, In Place of Me. His influence on your work is clearly present apart from this collection. When did you first discover his work?

DS: Jack Hirschman taught the novel primarily by reading aloud, mesmerizing our huge lecture class at UCLA. One day he walked into Royce Hall and announced that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. But it wasn’t until I moved to Northern California years later and met him again at a North Beach poetry reading that I began to read him. And I realized that the voice I had associated with James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Djuna Barnes—with all the urgency and drama of the moment when he announced that assassination—was actually his own poetic voice!

DG: In addition to poetry, you also write fiction. Three Tales from the Archives of Love blends three distinct time periods and narratives which touch upon the specific plight of women in relation to the periods they lived. How did you discover these stories? Had you known about them for a long time, or did the writing process begin shortly after the discovery?

DS: In each case, the writing process began shortly after the discovery. But completion of this triptych, which involved quite some research, took much longer. I first saw the beggars’ letters at the Israel Museum. I read a NY Times article about the discovery of a stone with its epigraph in a field in Naples, and viewed the Elephantine Papyri, on loan from the Brooklyn Museum, at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles.

DG: Your memoir, My Name is Y, explores similar themes as Three Tales From the Archives of Love. The works were published two or three years apart from each other. Would it be right to say that the memoir was, in some ways, an extension of the fiction, despite it being stylistically and thematically different?

No, not really. The memoir was written much earlier and kept in the dark! Then after I completed Three Tales from the Archives of Love I took a second look at it, revised it slightly, and sent it forth. I think you are hearing my use of the first person in some of the archival stories and perhaps that leads to your impression?

DG: In 2017, you published Talking with Marcelo, a chapbook-length interview of six questions with Argentine journalist Marcelo Holot about his arrest during Argentina’s Dirty War. It’s a unique endeavor, given the literary format for a journalistic project. Can you speak about how you met Marcelo Holot, how the interview developed, and perhaps the thought-process behind choosing/leaving out questions?

DS: I met Marcelo Holot in an elegant tango palace, the Confiteria Ideal in Buenos Aires in February, 2008. I had never been there, and he rarely came there, so the hand of fate was definitely involved. After many emails and phone conversations I invited him to the U.S. He arrived full of huge plans involving me writing his biography! “I’m not a biographer, I’m a poet,” I maintained. But he would not let go of this idea, so finally I jotted five questions down on a pad of paper. The first one: “What Happened to Your Teeth?” And I told him to think about them and when he was ready to discuss them with me, to let me know. We sat at the Café Trieste in Sausalito for hours as I transcribed his answers long-hand. At some point I added the sixth question. Marcelo is  an interesting subject. After a lot of meeting in airports, he finally emigrated, and we were married in 2021.

DG: You’ve done a great deal of traveling throughout your life. What are some trips or places that have affected your writing in a particularly strong way?

DS: The amount of travel is directly related to the number of offspring (8) my daughter and her husband produced in Paris. Each time a baby was born, I was there, then wandered off somewhere, then returned to see that baby one more time! So, Paris, but not as a subject, particularly, but as an undercurrent. In those years French Feminism was so vital, and I loved the writings of the French philosopher Hélène Cixous. Jerusalem, because I had the good fortune to meet the bookstore café owner, David Ehrlich, who introduced me to all of the wonderful writers who read at his café, and because I found their writing strong and fascinating. And Buenos Aires because—have you ever tango-ed to a live tango orchestra? It does something to your writing … as does love.

DG: Let’s return to translation, but in a different way. If you could have your own work translated by the writers you’ve translated yourself, who would that be, and why?

DS: Anna Akhmatova. Most definitely. Motherhood, Divorce. Lyrical grace. Political poetry at its most profound. I translated “Requiem” and it is the single poem I am most proud of translating. I visited her house when I was in Moscow and it seemed to be the only place where truth resided. It would be a great honor, and I would be in very high company, since she herself translated Victor Hugo, Tagore, Leopardi, Armenian, and Korean poets.

DG: The Bay Area has been a constant source of inspiration for you. Can you speak about some specific places, events, and/or people who’ve had a strong impact on your writing?

DS: North Beach in San Francisco where I re-met Jack and the many poets he loved and worked with including Stephen Kessler at that time, who has become a life-long friend; also Polk Street in San Francisco where the poet George Oppen and his wife, Mary lived. I loved to visit them there and I’m a great admirer of his work. Marin County, where I have lived for many years, because of the natural beauty that surrounds me and the many memories with my family and friends, and also the many fine poets, (including Jane Hirschfield, Cole Swenson, and Kay Ryan) I’ve met through The Marin Poetry Center—of which I was a founding member!

DG: What are you reading or working on at the moment?

DS: At the moment I am sitting here at my desk, staring at my garden and thinking, “What can I do to counter the profoundly deadly course our world is headed on? Could I read a book, write a poem, shout in the streets? I write a poem. I am trying to get a chapbook of my translations of the poetry of Gabriela Mistral published: La Cuenta Mundo, The World-Counting, poems to a newborn baby describing the things of our world. Mistral was Chile’s delegate to the UN … I think she would be advocating tirelessly for the children of the world had she been alive today. I just finished reading The Years by Annie Erneaux, and I am going to read more of her work. And in the light of the current political moment, I’ve returned to the poetry of Paul Celan.



Author Bio:

Fairfax, California poet and memoir practitioner, Doreen Stock, recently launched A Noise in the Garden, Kelsay Books, 2022 and Bye Bye Blackbird, The Poetry Box, April, 2021. Tango Man, a chapbook of love poems, was released by Finishing Line Press in August, 2020.  Other recent works include: My Name is Y, an anti-nuclear memoir, February 2019, Three Tales from the Archives of Love, 2018, and Talking with Marcelo, 2017, all from Norfolk Press, San Francisco.  In Place of Me, Poems edited and introduced by Jack Hirschman, was published in 2015 by Mine Gallery Editions. For more information please visit (doreenstock@doreenstock.com)

Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series: Carol V. Davis, Poet, Fulbright Scholar, Professor, interviewed by David G...


Carol V. Davis

August 24th, 2023

Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series:

Carol V. Davis, Poet, Fulbright Scholar, Professor

interviewed by David Garyan

 

Carol V. Davis’s poems appear in Interlitq’s California Poets Feature

 

DG: Let’s begin with your personal experiences in Russia. While the recent invasion of Ukraine is difficult to justify, Russian culture cannot be reduced to these events alone. How have your travels and contacts with everyday Russian society changed the way you perceive this country—not just after the war, but also before it?

CD: I had first travelled to the Soviet Union as a college student after I started studying Russian and Russian literature, but it wasn’t until years after graduate school (in Slavic languages and literatures) that I went to Russia to live for a year (1996-97) and then kept going back. That first year I was a Fulbright scholar teaching at the Jewish University in St. Petersburg and was immersed in the Jewish community there.

I had naïvely assumed that it would not be difficult to make friends and be accepted as I am Jewish. I was at a Jewish university, I speak Russian and my kids were with me, but in fact, it was much harder than I had anticipated. I was finally able to make friends, but the concept of friendship is very different there and it was challenging. Of course, living in a country for extended periods of time gives one a chance to get to know it on a deeper level, but in Russia, despite speaking the language and not being there as a tourist, I was always considered a foreigner, an “other.” I found that frustrating. Although I traveled and lectured in Moscow and Novgorod, St. Petersburg was my home in Russia during periods between 1996 and 2014. In winter 2017 and 2018, I went to Siberia where I was teaching and writing in Ulan-Ude, Buryatia Republic, Siberia.

I lived under the Putin administration many times and under the Medvedev administration too. For years I felt free to speak openly with my friends in St. Petersburg as I have known them for decades and none are Putin supporters. I still hear from friends regularly, but no one is saying anything and we are all being careful. In Siberia I was always more careful in discussions with colleagues. Over the years, I watched as Putin closed down the free press bit by bit until it was shut completely. Even knowing all I do, Putin’s barbarity in the invasion was still a shock and I fear especially for my former students in Ulan-Ude. Buryatia is a very poor republic and an ethnic minority region, and therefore the number of conscripts has been very high and the number of deaths too. This city and region has been the focus of articles in the New York Times.

It was really Russian literature that drew me to Russia. My paternal grandfather was from a shtetl in Ukraine. I have a photo of him in a Cossack unit in the Russo-Japanese War, which is also very strange. He never talked about this experience. His Russian passport had the last name Uchitel, teacher in Russian. We don’t know how he got that as his father was a shochet (a kosher butcher). My grandmother was from St. Petersburg, which was unusual as there was a Jewish quota. She died when I was a baby. I did not grow up speaking Russian, nor Yiddish, the first language of my parents who were born in New York. I started studying Russian at university.

DG: Apart from having a direct knowledge of this vast country, you’ve also studied its language and literature in an academic setting. How have your studies influenced your perspectives on world literature, and has the so-called “Russia of the academy” always corresponded to the real-world considerations you witnessed in country?

CD: Sadly, I am much better read in Russian literature than in world literature, though I have tried to catch up. As in American society, there are so many different sides to Russian society, and European Russia, where St. Petersburg, and Moscow are, is vastly different from rural Russia, or where I was in Siberia. If Americans know any Russian literature, it is Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, and for many Russians, American literature is Jack London, and Ernest Hemingway, in both countries a very limited basis for understanding a society, people and culture.

DG: You’re the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants from Russia. Though Russia never equaled the atrocities committed by the Germans, it nevertheless has had (and, naturally, many critics, especially these days, will enthusiastically add that it continues to have) a long and complicated relationship with repression. Indeed, such actions were responsible for the deaths of imminent writers like Osip Mandelstam and Isaac Babel. How do we make sense of this dichotomy, which, on one hand, is the greatness of Russian culture and its capability to be greatly ruthless?

CD: Repression and brutality, have often coexisted in Russia with its culture rich in the arts. This has been and is true in other countries. Poets and writers in Russia have always been the conscience of the society, speaking truth to power and being held in esteem by many people. But having a great literature, music and art does not shield a country from barbarism.

DG: Your 2007 collection, Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg won the T.S. Eliot Prize. Two (well, perhaps three) difficult questions: Do you think the collection would’ve had the same chances of winning that prize in today’s political climate, and, given the politics behind prizes in general, what does that say about not only how, but also upon whom we bestow any given prize? And lastly: Would it be fair to say that such a collection—though it conjures a 19th century figure and deals mostly with everyday life—might be received differently today than it was in 2007

CD: I have thought a lot about the question of whether my book Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg, would have the same chance of an award and publication now as in 2007. I think not. The poems in that collection covered the period between 1996-2005 and mostly explored daily life. However, our thoughts about Russia are now grounded in Russia’s war on Ukraine. At the beginning of the war, some American orchestras stopped performing Russian music. While I absolutely agree with cutting the relationship with Putin apologists like the conductor Valery Gergiev and the opera star, Anna Netrebko, (and canceling their U.S. performances), I find problematic canceling all of Russian literature and art, but it’s complicated. This has been an issue in Israel, where there was a de facto ban on the music of Wagner for over a decade after protests by Holocaust survivors. And the issue still comes up when Wagner’s music is performed by major orchestras there.

DG: Your most recent work, Below Zero (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2023), is a fascinating collection of poems that transcend borders—from the New World to the Far East (in this context Siberia). Can you talk about the development/inspiration behind this work and what new discoveries you made in the process of writing it—especially as things pertain to the so-called “European Russia” you had known compared with the “Russia beyond the Urals” that you’d come to discover?

CD: All my time living in St. Petersburg I had never been to Siberia, and I was happy to finally get the opportunity to do so. I was in the eastern area of Siberia, east of Lake Baikal, in Buryatia Republic, near the border with Mongolia. It is a very poor region, an ethnic minority region, where people practice Buddhism and Shamanism. Being thousands of kilometers from Moscow you feel both how vast the country is and both how little and how much the central government controls. I also travelled to Irkutsk, a multi-ethnic city from the time of the Silk Road. I visited the Jewish community there.

DG: In a 2017 Southern Review interview you talk about the difference between being bilingual and conversing in a language: “Perhaps this is the curse of a writer. For us, being able to speak conversationally in another language is not enough. That is part of my frustration living in Russia on and off for decades. There’s always that one word, that nuance, that I don’t know how to say, and I feel that frustration acutely.” What do you see as the main differences in conversational approach between the average Russian and American? For example, we’re seen as more open and friendly with strangers, but do you see these stereotypes mostly playing out in real life or is there another, deeper reality at work?

CD: I am often asked whether I am bilingual and I would never say that I am, but I speak and write Russian. My first year in Russia, I actually taught one course in Russian with the help of students who spoke English and were patient with me and I have published some essays on American and Jewish literature in Russian but that was because friends corrected my grammar mistakes. Again I would say that functioning in day to day life in a language is different than being truly bilingual and perhaps literarily bilingual.

Part of my childhood my family lived in Europe. I never thought of myself as particularly American until I moved to Russia, but I saw how much I am a product of my own culture. For example, the first year in Russia I had a lot of computer and printer problems. Friends were happy to help me, but I was uncomfortable asking for help. I did hear complaints about Americans all the time, that we smile too much and are insincere and are too casual about friendships. America is a much more mobile society. People move around a lot, go away for university, live in other cities. In Russia, if one is fortunate enough to have been born in Moscow or Saint Petersburg, you rarely move to another city. I think that is why it was more difficult to make friends because people have friends from elementary school.

DG: If you could bring one American and one Russian writer (living or dead) to the table and have them, together, draw up a peace plan for this current political crisis, who would you choose, and why?

CD: Certainly I could choose one American, and one Russian writer to talk about the history of Russia and Russian politics, but not to draw up any kind of peace plan. While I am tempted to choose poets on both sides, I would choose one poet and one historian / writer for their perspective on  the 20th c. leading up to where we are now. They are: the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, who witnessed, survived and wrote through most of the 20th century in Russia. And Timothy Snyder, a contemporary American academic, who has a deep understanding of Russia, and who specializes in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and the Holocaust.

DG: At last, when all politics and even art, unfortunately, come to fail, what we have left is food—for that’s the universal experience. What’s one Russian/Ukrainian/Belarusian (or better yet, to keep very eager individuals from triggering a food war, let’s open it up and call it post-Soviet) dish you would recommend, and why?

CD: For the food I would choose borscht, which like the many varieties of its recipes, and claims for its origins, can be spelled in translation in many different ways. The most common borscht is Ukrainian, but often it is called Moscow borscht erroneously. I grew up with the Jewish version. This soup combines sweet and sour, so common in many aspects of Jewish life, food and ritual as a combination of sweetness and bitterness. Jewish borscht uses lemon juice for the sour and raisins (and sometimes a little sugar) for the sweet. It was years later, that I finally had the ubiquitous variety.

 

About Carol V. Davis

Carol V. Davis is the author of Below Zero, Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2023, Because I Cannot Leave This Body (Truman State Univ. Press, 2017) and Between Storms (TSUP, 2012). She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg. Her poetry has been read on National Public Radio, the Library of Congress and Radio Russia. Twice a Fulbright scholar in Russia, she taught in Siberia, winter 2018 and teaches at Santa Monica College, California and Antioch Univ. Los Angeles. She was awarded a Fulbright Specialist grant for Siberia in 2020, postponed because of Covid restrictions and now cancelled.

American Pandemic, a poem by David Garyan, published in Interlitq

«American Pandemic» was first published in Volume 12 of The American Journal of Poetry (January 1st, 2022). Volume 12 was the final issue of The AJP before it ceased publication. The archive remained available for some months, until early 2023, after which the website disappeared completely.

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work.


 

American Pandemic (The President’s Prayer)

For although you may have absolutely no choice in some matters, this does not mean the things you must do in these moments are absolutely right.
—Wilde 3:16

Dear Lord, today we give
thanks for no longer
having to fear the rapists
living next door to us—
at least those who,
out of their own volition,
did trust in the miracles
of science and go down
to the nearest vaccination center,
where shots
of AstraZeneca are done—
approved, of course, by the CDC and EU,
for its benefits
lie precisely in the fact
that it has killed
a trivial amount
of people,
and was made
by a British-Swedish company,
unlike Sputnik,
which, regrettably,
also, did ice
a similarly trivial amount,
but was, of course,
made by the Russians—
a dilemma, indeed,
for if the rapist
had simply chosen
Slavic vaccination,
it would’ve prevented
him from entering indoor
venues like movie theaters and schools,
much less having access to Europe,
where this vaccine,
along with the Chinese Sinovac,
are still under rolling review,
all for your own safety, of course.
Dear Lord, though we must keep walking
through the valley of the shadow of death,
we will fear no evil;
for Thy Protestant and Catholic
vaccines will protect us,
while the heathens of the East—
Orthodox Slavs and Chinese communists, that is,
will be barred from entering
the Schengen Area
for having disobeyed Thy command,
and taken jabs
from the forbidden list of vaccines.
For we know that your only
begotten Son, Jesus,
cares not whatsoever about all Christians,
nor even those recognized
by the United Nations,
but only those G-7 (formerly G-8) Christians,
who by their burden of upholding
democracy, human rights,
and women’s rights,
(two different things altogether,
as women aren’t humans),
did follow the true path of Thy Son
when they expelled Russia
from this hallowed community
after its illegal annexation of Crimea.
Lord, we ask that you give us
patience and strength
in this time of uncertainty—
for our other neighbor, Bill,
living with his lovely family
just four houses down,
are followers of Jehovah’s Witnesses;
despite having frequently made generous
donations to charities fighting poverty
in Sub-Saharan Africa,
they remain unvaccinated due to their beliefs—
thus posing bigger threats
than the very rapist living next door,
who, in fact, holds a bachelor’s degree
in pharmacology,
and this he received from Tufts,
meaning he has rightly
been ordained as a monk of science,
with fervent faith in all the hottest biology.
Indeed, our dear Lord,
it helps neither Bill,
who once rescued two children
from a burning building,
nor his pleasant family
that often volunteers
to pick up trash in their neighborhood,
to be good, yet unvaccinated Christians.
For the Lord so commanded:
Thou must let all vaccinated
fornicators into heaven,
for if they present
the Green Pass,
and it is valid,
every sin and transgression henceforth
shall be forgiven by the glory of God.
Let us rejoice, sweet Jesus,
and let the miscreants inside!
For it is at once righteous to do so,
but, alas, also legally necessary,
for Lord Fauci,
in all his infinite
scientific glory
and wisdom,
hath ordained that full
vaccination bestows
full immunity
against any sexual misdemeanor,
and perhaps even felony,
but only so long as blood
tests can show
the presence of antibodies;
heathen Bill, however,
can neither be allowed
to keep his job,
nor attend any community functions,
and his satanic family
shall have to wear medieval
masks of shame wherever they go.
Let us pray, dear Lord,
that blasphemous Bill
and his infernal ménage
continue being good Christians,
for their donations
and community service are important,
but let us, nevertheless,
wholly distance ourselves socially,
for they cannot be spoken
to until they receive the sacrament of vaccine.
But let us all the while, dear Lord,
invite the rapist—
provided he agrees to wear a mask
and continues, like before, observing
social distancing rules,
because, indeed, the sacrament of vaccine
works not miracles every time,
something the pharmacologist offender,
or more aptly, offender pharmacologist,
knows very well;
and so, in the name of Jesus, our Savior,
let us pray for that gentle predator,
for he has become
the epitome
of responsibility,
and a shining example
of good fellowship
towards Woman (and also Man,
but only in rare homosexual cases—
for let us not, dear God, tolerate
those who discriminate
against a misfit
that prefers chasing men),
for he knows not only
all the hip sciences,
but also totally trusts
every hip doctor and science,
even when they say
opposite things.
Let us hence rejoice
and place our faith
in that rapist,
for he truly cares
about the safety of others,
even when he’s raping them,
for he will not lay hands
on any unvaccinated souls—
no matter how strong
his urge to do so may be,
and in this way, our heavenly Father,
we didst finally see
a prominent drop
in not only COVID infections,
but also cases of sexual assault;
these latter numbers, howbeit,
are neither relevant nor crucial,
for we’re not so concerned
with them these days,
mostly because developing
vaccines against battery,
even the sexual type,
is scientifically impossible.
And so Lord, we ask that you bless
and watch over
the sexual deviants,
(but only the inoculated)
for before Johnson and Johnson
they were blind,
but now they can see,
and protect also those who took
Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca,
and especially young women
who took AstraZeneca,
since they are most at risk
of dying from it,
but let us, oh Lord, have faith
and renounce our fright—
for these fair maidens
are now vaccinated
and no longer need Thou;
truly, they hath nothing
left to fear,
for we know
that all the world’s problems
disappear after full vaccination,
two weeks after the second dose, that is.
Have no mercy, howbeit, on those who took Sputnik,
for pride, tyranny, and wickedness cannot last,
but the righteous shall live by Western-approved
jabs and that holy democracy worthy of us all—
the one which accidentally bombs
civilian targets in Afghanistan,
but only under a Democratic administration;
a Republican democracy where civilian
targets are accidentally hit,
can, absolutely, not be tolerated.
Our Father who art in heaven,
we need good, honest democratic
leaders who blow up churches and schools
in the name of Saint Schumer,
of whom the public does approve
no matter what he commands,
and if there be doubt,
it shall excuse his failures
as honest blunders;
the same mistakes
just across the aisle, however,
must properly and justly incur the wrath
of all left-leaning news networks out there,
because that is what it means to be fair,
balanced, and objective, in the name of Christ Almighty.
We ask, also, in this time of uncertainty, dear Lord,
that you promptly hear the grievances aired
by the LGBTQIA+E=mc2@admissions.caltech.edu community—
for on numerous occasions
they’ve demanded that bombs
dropped on civilian targets
proudly display Pride flags on them,
otherwise protests will erupt
across the whole country.
We pray, as well, that all who deny
the scientific thrust behind
these rockets be labeled
provocateurs and Republicans—
meaning anyone from Afghanistan
must display proof of bombing,
preferably with QR codes,
before we can consider them refugees,
much less admit them to this country,
which, supposedly, isn’t a Christian one,
but whose presidents have all been Christian.
And so, in the name of all that’s holy, dear Lord,
please forgive us for putting
sanitizer dispensers
inside your churches,
and wearing masks,
for it’s nothing personal
against you or the miracles
you’ve worked on this earth;
it’s just that washing your hands
frequently absolves us of all sins—
for if Pontius Pilate only had some Purrell
that day he was to condemn
your only begotten Son,
there would be nothing
he would need to answer for today.
Dear Jesus, please know
that if and when you decide
to have your Second Coming,
all the vaccinated rapists,
murderers, and pillagers
will be free to attend the event,
which is scheduled to be held
at the LA Convention Center,
or perhaps Madison Square Garden,
depending on parking—
strictly observing, of course,
all the social distancing
protocols recommended by the CDC.
And if the people
ever decide to crucify
you once more,
something they are bound
to do sooner or later,
proof of vaccination
will no longer suffice;
given the more exciting nature
of this particular spectacle,
negative PCR tests (valid for 48 hours)
and cavity searches will be required
to access the crucifixion site,
for when it comes to safety,
no right or freedom
is sacred enough to uphold.
Oh, hallelujah, dear Lord,
we pray that the planet
and every hallowed
thing you created,
in the name of the Father,
the Son, and Holy Spirit,
simply go to shit
while our chosen leaders
sit there and figure out
how to save us from COVID;
for there are maps, statistics,
and analysis, sweet Jesus—
so much scientific scripture
capable of showing us all,
and very precisely at that,
how fucked up things have become.
Do you not see, my brethren,
that the US registered
148,202 new cases today,
which, on a fourteen day spectrum,
represents a twenty-nine percent increase?
Have the numbers and colorful graphs
not made an impression, my dear brothers?
For if we can’t quantify something,
the problem isn’t worth solving.
And is it not such a tragedy
that we have more vaccines
than anyone knows what to do with?
For in Pelosi 2:3-4 it is so written:
When Moderna ran out,
Fauci’s mother turned and said to him—
“They have no more Western vaccines.”
But that Son of Science so replied:
“Woman, why do you involve me?
My hour has not come yet.”
And after having ordered the syringes
to be filled with Sputnik,
the patients were given those injections
and all were then amazed
they had turned into Pfizer.
The Son of Science did this—
the first of his many signs,
in Cana of America,
and it revealed his glory,
and his disciples believed in him.
So now we must jab them all,
starting with dead people
and unborn fetuses
that can no longer be aborted,
for if daily quotas are not met,
the UN will come raining down
on our asses like a goddamn fucking
firestorm with their resolutions
that have never been legally binding
anyways, hence why be afraid?
And so, feel free to keep committing
your war crimes, my fellow African dictators,
for though they might say
and even shout a lot at the UN,
fear not, I command, fear not—
for everyone sitting
in those plush chairs
will be much content
to have heard the pretty sounds
of their own voices,
only to have done nothing at all
about the problems
they so enjoyed discussing;
at most, they shall show
“deep concern about the rising
tensions in the Middle East and Africa,”
but this too shall pass,
and with some persistence,
you’ll be free to plunder again,
without those pesky
colonizers (Europeans, that is)
scolding you for being colonizers.
And so, my brothers,
forget the rising levels of racism,
greed, and unhappiness,
for there’s no science
behind them anyways—
no graphs, maps, or tables
to show us the daily increase
in anti-Semitism, apartheid,
or even xenophobia,
for all the lab rats
working in democratic countries
have yet to develop vaccines
against these pandemics,
but if there’s no jab
to solve the problem,
then there’s no problem
to begin with—
nothing worth inspecting
any longer.
Just to be safe, howbeit,
keep distancing yourself
from Blacks, Asians,
Latinos, and anyone who isn’t White,
including Arabs and Persians
with American passports,
some of whom may look
and act “Caucasian,”
but don’t be deceived, my brothers,
and remember the famous Bible passage,
Shakespeare 3:16, Act I, Scene III:
Libyans and Iranians
can cite US passports
for their own purpose.
Also never forget
the Civil Rights Movement,
and which color of skin
was then barred
from entering buildings
and using facilities,
even before the Green Pass;
but let us, dear Lord,
remain vigilant as ever,
for unvaccinated Whites,
especially the poor ones,
now pose the same threat
as vaccinated Iraqis
and Afghans with US passports;
alas, should the unjabbed
Whitey, however,
happen to be quite wealthy,
then we must consider
this proof of vaccination,
because gaining COVID
from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
then dying from it
bestows both status
and upward mobility
upon the dead one,
while catching COVID
from a homeless drunk
then dying from that
is simply a tragedy—
upward mobility
without any fame.
Oh, dear Lord, we pray to heaven
that you get with the program at last
and allow just fully vaccinated
souls into your kingdom;
it would also be nice, sweet Jesus,
if you could demand
that the certificates be shown
in digital form,
with QR codes and cavity checks
and the whole nine yards, really,
for so many have already
been tempted by Satan,
and bought fake certificates
on Telegram and WhatsApp—
a clever business model
with great revenue streams,
something deeply upsetting
for the bureaucrats of Big Pharma.
On the other hand, dear Lord,
Big Tobacco may have cause
for celebration, as some studies
have shown that smoking
may help prevent COVID—
indeed, it doth appear as if nicotine
interferes with ACE2 receptors,
thereby preventing the virus
from entering cells.
Hallelujah, our Father in heaven!
We pray in the name
of your only begotten Son
that all the smokers in Kentucky
will now rise up and initiate
protests demanding mandatory puffing
measures at work, schools,
and hospitals,
but especially hospitals,
for no freedom,
and this we swear,
is sacred enough
to give up in the name of safety,
even the freedom to breathe.
Starting next week,
mandatory proof
of smoking shall
be presented
at the entrance
of every gym, restaurant,
and nursing home.
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, fellow brethren!
And as with vaccines,
connoisseurs of Russian cigarettes
will absolutely
be prohibited from entering
any indoor venues,
until the proper clinical trials
can be carried out;
the CDC has already
scheduled rolling reviews
to see if cancer sticks
made by former communist heathens
pose the same health risks
as those made in the free world,
because only the cancerous kinds—
the ones with arsenic,
liberty, and lead inside them
have been known to interfere
with the aforementioned ACE2 receptors.
So far, the CDC has only approved
the democratic cigarettes of Marlboro,
Newport, and Camel against the coronavirus—
in clinical trials, they’ve shown
a smashing 99 percent effectiveness
in killing people before they contract COVID,
much lower than the despotic
brands of Russia,
which have far less additives
and kill only 89 percent of subjects,
but these are just the results
of one medical study funded by Republicans;
the very same study funded by Democrats
showed that Russian cigarettes
kill people on contact,
with vaccinated Americans
from ages 0 to 100 being most at risk;
the State Department hence recommends
that anyone holding a US passport
avoid traveling to places
where this tobacco is sold—
if you absolutely must travel,
buy forty packs of Marlboro
and smoke two a day while wearing
a mask fully covering nose and mouth.
Our dear Lord, we ask in the name of Jesus
that you please forgive
all the fornicators,
thieves, and lawyers,
but especially lawyers,
for any wrongs
they may have committed,
be they sleeping with monkeys,
stealing relics from your churches,
and, naturally, defending
those who slept with monkeys
and stole relics from churches,
but solely if said miscreants
who’ve lived total lives of sin
agree to accept Science
as their only true Savior,
and receive the holy
communion of antibiotics,
and when, with glory, those sins
have been thoroughly cleansed,
shall they proceed, at last,
with the deathbed vaccination,
for the Church of Democratic Science
teaches that only sincere deathbed inoculations
can prevent the spread of COVID at funerals,
while the Church of Republican Science
asserts that COVID was manufactured in a Chinese lab
and hence can threaten only Chinese funerals—
ever since the Great Schism of Science in 2020,
questions surrounding the afterlife
remain a disputed issue in both disciplines,
all because the Church of Democratic Science
and the Church of Republican Science
couldn’t agree on the issue
of whether it was acceptable
to use unleavened jabs
for the sacrament of full vaccination;
other disputes revolved around the fact
of whether scientists could marry
or had to remain celibate,
devoting their whole lives
to the study of reproduction,
rather than reproducing themselves.
And so, it looks as though the teachings
of Democratic Science
and Republican Science
will remain at odds forever.
Dear Lord, we ask that you punish
those scholars who sell indulgences—
fake vaccination certificates, that is,
for it will take a Reformation of Science,
initiated by the one and only
Martin Luther, MD, PhD, PsyD,
with no relation to the former
Augustinian monk,
to create yet another split,
and this time in the Church of Republican Science—
it shall come to pass that doctors
will have no right
to exercise power over people
in jab purgatory,
that is those who may qualify
for vaccination exemptions,
but must show extra proof
of valid medical contraindications
to receive that holy Green Pass.
The Church of Democratic Science
sees all this as heresy,
arguing that patients
must prostrate themselves
before doctors and ask
for vaccination penance—
only this way can they be
admitted to the Stanley Cup Finals,
and also Super Bowl LVI.
The World Series, however,
is a totally different ballgame—
being America’s Pastime,
it does, unfortunately,
require not only prescribed
vaccination penance,
but also a full baptism
with either Olay or L’Oréal—
also known as a “shower”
in scientific literature;
any rituals conducted
with Russian water
and their heathen
communist products
will not be recognized as democratic,
and may result in excommunication,
but also being burnt at the stake.
For we know, dear Lord,
that Psalm 51:7
tells us to purify our sins
strictly with Purell, but perhaps also Lysol—
only, however, if there’s a shortage of Purrell,
for that is surely the superior product,
and then we will be clean;
wash us, our heavenly Father,
but just with brands
approved by American
board-certified dermatologists,
and we shall be whiter
than Russian snow.
Let us pray, dear brothers,
that neither the ACLU,
nor the Woke Apparatus
of Twitter bring
charges of racism
against the Old Testament,
and perhaps even the whole Bible,
for, certainly, African-Americans,
along with darker skinned Latinos
and Asians, have no way of cleansing
themselves to the level
of Scripture-approved
shades of White—
at most, they shall be known
as “Two or More Races,”
or “Some Other Race,”
with the US Census Bureau
very much highlighting “Other,”
for that is how powerful
and prestigious
American body washes
remain on the world stage,
so help us God.
And let us remember,
today and for all times,
Fauci 3:5, where it is so written:
Trust in the Science
with all thy heart,
and do not depend
on your own understanding—
something, dear Lord,
which is good and true,
but certainly contradicted
by Biden and Harris 14:15,
which doth proclaim:
“The simple believe anything,
but the prudent give thought
to their steps.”
For it is the spiritually unvaccinated
who remain separated from Science,
and thus tempted by Satan himself—
for, today, that devil
is not really the Devil,
but rather the embodiment
of the Christian religion,
for in Buttigieg 16:23
it is so written:
Fauci turned and said to Jesus,
“Get behind me, Satan!”
You are a stumbling block
to my Science;
you do not have in mind
the concerns of vaccination,
but merely human concerns.
And so, from this day on,
Christianity became the Devil,
for it was not concerned
with just biology and the body,
but merely human concerns.
For yes, we all know, dear brothers,
that only the communion of vaccination
can absolve us from our sins.
And as the disciples
gathered for the Last Supper
at the White House,
Fauci said: “Take these masks
and wear them, for they are my body—
made in China, of course,
and though America
is on the brink of total collapse,
we can be sure these masks
will protect us from every economic,
social, and natural danger.
He then gave thanks to China
and offered his disciples
the syringes, saying:
“Each of you inject,
for this is my blood,
which seals the covenant
between the President
and his people,”
thus it was written
in Biden and Harris 26:27-8.
And so Washington
did truly rise again
from death,
and took its vaccinated
body—with PCR tests and everything—
that which appertained
to the perfection
of Man’s American nature,
wherewith it ascended into Heaven,
and there will sitteth, until the government
returns to judge all unvaccinated Men
(and also Women, of course,
for we must certainly discriminate
against unvaccinated Women as well)
on the last day.
In the name of the Father,
Uncle Sam, and American Spirit.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.

«American Prayer,» a poem by David Garyan, published in Interlitq

«American Prayer» was first published in Volume 10 of The American Journal of Poetry (January 1st, 2021). 

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work lost with the disappearance of The American Journal of Poetry.


 

American Prayer

A long time has passed
since I’ve been alive;
that was when waves
convinced me
of the ocean’s danger,
when fires lit for no purpose
could feel warm,
when the composer’s ear
still heard joy in laughter,
when the cook’s tongue
never spoke a gloomy word,
when the killer’s hand
cut with the same care
as the surgeon’s,
when a mother’s eyes
could stand to watch
her children fall—
if only, for a second,
to study
the world’s pain.
Say, how do you feel naked
in a room where no one
wants to turn on the light?
How do you feel at home
when every neighbor hates you—
but only because they admire your house?
My world has become a jungle
in which I’m always in danger,
but where I feel no fear;
my thoughts have become a circus
in which I mustn’t trust
the goodness of clowns—
especially when they’re smiling.
I can no longer tell
the lions apart.
I’ve built so many cages
for myself—the wilderness
inside me has escaped;
my anger is an arsonist
happily lighting
just one candle in church—
then leaving without regret;
my depression washes
the windows of skyscrapers
without ever looking down.
The Europe I’ve known
has vanished like a prostitute
everyone wants to sleep with,
but no one cares to look for.
The America I’ve disowned
has returned like an illness
I brought upon myself.
America, I’m a smoker
trying to treat cancer
without quitting cigarettes.
Europe, I need a feminist wife,
the one who’ll obey
my every command
because she wants to—
and feels empowered
to act this way.
What’s next? Asia?
Like winter searching
for love in the mountains,
like summer trying to hide
its secret from fire,
I’ve run away from myself—
I’ve gone somewhere new
where it’s always the same,
where everyone knows
who I am because they’ve never
seen me before.
I’m giving myself away
like an artist no one can stand,
but everyone wants to collect.
The world is imposing itself
like a virgin looking to rape someone.
Every government has made
me hate the silence
of crowded libraries.
Every institution has given
me reasons to question
the shape of a question mark.
I’ve lost all faith in my prophets—
every day I laugh
at their caricatures.
My courage is a cartoonist
living in France who draws
what he wants but never
shows his work out of fear.
My cage is a religion
that tells me I’m free—
so long as I don’t leave it.
No, it’s better to bury
the words of dead
seers and their rules
all over Europe’s streets;
they resemble the abyss
you find at the bottom
of someone’s cup
when they’re drinking alone
and the bartender
will no longer serve them.
Like a terrorist
without friends looking
for a crowd,
I’ve come to hate
the happiness of large parties;
my own whiskey is sweeter
and I can’t stand the bitterness
when I’m not drinking it.
Still, I despise the smiles
of a thousand strangers.
I’ve begun admiring the mountains
like a geographer
who can’t wait to retire.
I start my prayers like poor
people who want to steal,
but don’t have the courage for it.
I watch every sunset
like an old man that knows
he isn’t waking up tomorrow.
I wait and wait for the sunrise
like a drunk woman
anxious to get a better look
at her one-night stand.
At noon, I ask myself questions—
the ones which bore
even fat philosophers
who’ve done too much
sitting and thinking.
After lunch, I think
about the loaded revolver
under my pillow,
and this makes me tired—
I take a nap and fly
myself to the next sunset.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.

PC, a poem by David Garyan, published in Interlitq


(DISS)INFORMATION

«PC» was first published in Volume 7 of The American Journal of Poetry (July 1st, 2019). The poem subsequently appeared in (DISSINFORMATION), published by Main Street Rag.

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work lost with the disappearance of The American Journal of Poetry.


 

PC

Those who remember too much history are doomed not to make the same mistake twice.
—Ozka Wild

This is the jolt generation.
The surge in a crowd without reason,
powered by mental shock—
videos of riots, planes bombing buildings
played over and over again.
We must tolerate more.
We must find a cure for empathy.
The suspect jolted when he saw the police;
witnesses were shocked when they saw him gunned down.
“Officer, I’m unarmed,” were his last
recorded words; they’re about to go viral.
Quickly, 120 volts. Social media shock therapy
to cure the insanity.
We need an outlet for our anger.
We must find a cure for reason.
Hashtag the polarity;
it’s us and them—
us against them.
Yes or no? Do or die! Do or die? Right or wrong? Black or white?
We must cure the gray matter in our brain.
Practice improves reaction time due to changes in white matter.
White. White. White.
Practice reacting; do it now; do it fast.
We must find a cure for patience.
Like. Post. Share. Tweet.
The sudden shock of the terrorist attacks
has jolted us into action.
Jolt with unity.
Put French flags all over profile photos.
Raise the shock factor until it stuns us.
Tears—vestigial fluids of the new electric age.
Don’t cry—your eyes have evolved.
You can’t help a person bleeding on the screen.
You don’t have the empathy for 1,000,000 headlines.
What you see is real and not real.
Put your hands in the air.
Put your hands behind your back.
If you’re innocent, pick up the phone and shoot—
images of dead bodies, videos of planes hitting buildings.
“Officer, I’m unarmed.”
Numerous witnesses reported that the suspect
jolted right when he saw the police.
This is the jolt generation;
we need an outlet for our anger.

*

Bag and tag the bodies;
send them to the news.
Leave followers at their graves.
Send followers to their families.
We’ll do nothing about guns.
The Constitution has over 325,000,000 followers,
and it follows no one.
The 2nd Amendment has gone viral.
We must carry guns because we can carry guns.
We must load our guns because we’re free to carry them.
According to Founding Father, Anton Chekhov,
we must remove all that has no relevance to the Constitution.
If the 2nd Amendment says people have a right to bear arms,
then the arms must go off;
if they’re not going to be fired, they shouldn’t be in the 2nd Amendment.
According to Smith and Wesson’s razor,
the simplest solution to a problem is a gun.
We’re the jolt generation;
we get things done the easy way.
We repealed the 18th Amendment
because we needed to sell booze.
We can’t repeal the 2nd Amendment
because we need to sell guns.
The Constitution isn’t worth the money it’s printed on.
Mr. President, unfollow this Constitution.
We want to like something new.

*

This is the jolt generation.
We’re the new electric newspaper.
We’re in constant shock.
We don’t think—therefore, we’re not.
Not my president; not my country;
not my body; not my child;
not my problem; not my concern.
Make way for the jolt generation;
we need an outlet for our anger.

*

What’s on your mind, David?
Did you forget the password to your brain?
Someone is talking about you.
Someone is saying good things.
Someone is saying bad things.
Someone you know may know you.
Someone you don’t know knows what you did.
Someone you know has seen you.
Someone you don’t know recorded you.
Aren’t you curious who did it?
You exist in places you don’t know about.
Don’t you want to know where?
You’re someone’s friend.
You only have 100 friends.
Isn’t it time for new friends?
You know someone who doesn’t know you.
Someone you don’t know knows you.
Someone is checking you out and you don’t know it.
It’s time to check your account.
You’re checking someone out and they don’t know it.
It’s time to let them know.
Open your account; do it now. Hurry up before you miss something.
The cure for curiosity would drive us out of business.
Where are you now?
You can be in 10,000 places at the same time.
You’ve been seen, read, liked, tagged,
shared, friended, unfriended, googled, ogled, and spied on.
You’ve been undressed in 10,000 places at the same time.
You must react quickly.
You must make way for the jolt generation.
You must tell people what’s going on,
or you’ll surely go insane.
You must connect right now.
You need 120 volts.
You need social media shock therapy.
You need an outlet for your anger.

*

We want to recognize faces.
We want to know where everyone is.
We want to know where everyone is
but we don’t want everyone to know
that we know where they are.
The bank robber was described
as a black male
in his thirties who forgot
to turn off his phone,
or, at least, disable location services.
Everyone jolted when the suspect entered the bank.
The suspect jolted at the sight of police.
We need everyone to see this quickly.
We need everyone to react before they know what happened.
Everyone must jolt at the same time.
#Jolt.
Breaking News: “The suspect has gotten away
without stealing anything, but the suspect is black.”
The suspect is dangerous because he’s black.
Black. Black. Black.
KTLA wants every citizen
to make videos of the chase—
including black people, and send them to us
with the hashtag, “#YourChase,”
courtesy of Chase Bank, “Chase What Matters.”
Cut to commercial.
“Coors. Whatever your mountain, climb on.”
Back to KTLA.
We have reports that the black suspect
is hiding in the Santa Monica Mountains.
We want to remind viewers not to approach
the suspect and instead shoot him from a distance.
Now is the time to buy a new smartphone
with the 25,000 megapixel camera.
We need every picture—every picture counts,
but no selfies with the suspect in the background.
Send your pictures with the hashtag, #ClimbOn.”
Use filters, if possible, to make the suspect
appear darker than he is.
We’ll post them on the Coors page.
Get a free beer (Coors Light only) if the police
uses your post to catch the suspect.
Make way for the electric police.
Make way for the jolt generation;
we need an outlet for our anger.
Jolt with fear if the suspect approaches you.
Don’t lie down and play dead;
this isn’t a black bear.
If you’re still alive,
remember to capture the moment—
you may decide to relive
the near-death experience later.
Share with your loved ones.
LAPD will tag the bastard soon.

*

Amanda, we haven’t seen you in a while.
Do you want us to know where you are?
Do you want us to recommend good restaurants?
Do you like Italian food?
There are 5 Italian restaurants in the neighborhood.
Are you Italian?
Have you ever been Italian?
Our data tells us you must like ravioli.
We know where you’ve been.
We know what you like.
We know you didn’t like the Asian place in Hollywood.
We know you’re not a fan of fortune cookies,
but you must enable cookies.
We know what you’ll do before you do it.
Add a bio. Tell us where you live.
Find friends you don’t have.
Go on vacation just to spice up your profile.
Go on vacation to spice up your profile
and make people jealous.
Make yourself jealous.
Go to an Italian restaurant in Italy.
Take a picture of the exterior.
Walk inside. Take a picture of the interior.
Sit down. Take a picture of the table.
Call the waiter. Take a selfie with the waiter.
Get the menu. Take a picture of the menu.
Call the waiter. Point to the ravioli.
Take a picture of yourself pointing at the ravioli.
Wait for the ravioli—this is terror;
there are no more pictures to take.
The ravioli arrives.
You’re hungry for people’s jealousy.
Take a picture of the food and post it immediately.
You must react now.
You must think what other people will think.
Your body is jolting with hunger.
You must not think what other people will think.
You shall not pick up the fork until you get 100 likes.
No, you shall never pick up the fork.
You shall always be afraid of what other people think.
You’ve learned the art of discipline.
You’ve learned to be like everyone else.
You’re the master of Zen Instagram.
You must find a cure for inner peace.
You shall not eat a thing lest you get too fat
for other people’s jealousy.
Only skinny people can make others feel bad.
No more Italian restaurants, especially in Italy.
You must think what other people will think.
Carbs are good for social media,
but not for your body.
Call the waiter. Tell them there’s hair in the food—
you won’t be eating here again.
Congratulations. You’ve made free memories
and lost weight in the process.
You must not think what other people will think.
Your friends are utterly shocked—
you can eat ravioli without getting fat.
Make way for the jolt generation;
we need an outlet for our anger.

*

We need more—
more check-ins, more stories,
more action, more events,
more excuses not do what we should do.
We’re the new electric activism.
We’re louder and more trivial than ever.
We get things done the easy way.
The codes for nuclear reaction lie at our fingertips.
The meltdown is a mouse click away.
We prefer to drop hashtags all over Syria—
we would’ve done the same in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Grassroots movements are so floppy disk
we don’t know where to put them.
We have abolished the CD players of Sony and Yamaha—
2D printers are the next to go.
Our outrage is environmentally friendly;
we reduce, reuse, recycle, repost, and retweet.
We let no hate go to waste.
We’re close to finding a cure for apologies.
We hold on to every single love.
Not everyone deserves our love.
We forget nothing.
Our goal is to cure the world’s amnesia with endless hashtags.
We won’t forget you even if you forget us.
We’ll never leave you alone, even if you want us to.
We’ll always be there for you.
We must prevent people from getting amnesia so we don’t have to cure it.
We’re the new electric activism;
we prefer to do things the easy way.

*

Make way for the jolt generation;
we need an outlet for our anger.
We don’t need to cure inner peace
if millions of people can see it
and feel jealous.
The private life is dead.
The private life is dead.
The private life is dead.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.