Issue Four Contents

3 poems
by Maria Alyokhina
2 poems
by Simonas Bernotas
Fiction
by Andriy Bondar
2 poems
by Luis Chaves
Poetry
by Ramón García
2 poems
by Julia Guez
Poetry
by Salgado Maranhão
Photo Essay
by Josip Novakovich
A poem
by Catherine Tice
Fiction
by João Tordo
2 poems
by Samantha Zighelboim
Frogpondia
Frogpondia
World voices. World issues.

JULY 2
2017
The End of Innocence
by Nducu wa Ngugi

The 3:00 p.m. Long Island Rail Road train from Ronkonkoma to Manhattan, New York, was on time. I was headed to the city to meet some old friends, some of whom I had not seen since we graduated from Oberlin College some twenty years ago. I smiled as I boarded the train and nestled against a corner seat. An elderly couple entered the same car, the man leaning onto the woman, and they took the seat adjacent to mine. I watched them out of bored curiosity. She opened a red handbag, pulled out a bottle of water, and handed it to the man.

“Here, drink this with your medicine,” she said. He reached for the bottle, thanked her and with some trouble he pulled out a black travel pill case from his weather-beaten leather jacket. “I don’t know what is going to happen if we lose our health insurance. Even my doctor said...” Her voice trailed off, drowned by the crackly voice on the intercom announcing the next stops along this route of the LIRR.

Nducu wa Ngugi has a B.A. in Black Studies from Oberlin College, a M.Ed. and an Ed.S in Teacher Leadership from Mercer University. He is the author of City Murders, a novel, published by the East African Educational Publishers (2014). City Murders was short-listed for the Jomo Kenyatta Prize in Literature (2015). His commentaries on social issues have appeared in The Guardian, The Daily Nation (DN2 Kenya), and Business Daily Africa, Pambazuka News, Wajibu, PalaPala, Education News and other online journals. His short stories have appeared in the St. Petersburg Review (Issue 4/5, 2012), The East African, and The New Black Magazine. His work has also appeared in translation in the Swedish magazine Karavan. His second novel, Saranya, a sequel to City Murders, is forthcoming from EAEP. He is currently working on a third novel and a new mystery series. Nducu is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and lives in Holbrook, Long Island, New York with his wife and daughter.

The man painstakingly arranged his cocktail of pills on a napkin he had spread out on the seat next to him. “I just don’t understand this new administration. They don’t seem to care...”

“I don’t know what to think or do anymore.” The woman cut him off and then watched him take the pills. “Drink some more water, dear.” She waited for him to take a sip. He snuggled back into his seat.

“I fear our grandkids might not even have a country,” she continued, with a pained look on her face, but the man had dozed off.

Her words took me back to a place.

Limuru, Kenya, late December 1977. The rumbling voices and the footsteps, unusual for this time of the night, woke me up. I sat up abruptly and listened, trying to discern the noise. There was a ray of light coming through the door jamb so I stealthily crawled out of bed, and tip-toed to the door. Placing my face on the crack, I peered through and saw the cause of all the fuss; men in suits holding flashlights that lit up the room.

They were about six or seven of them. Some were haphazardly rummaging through the books on the shelves and others through boxes of papers on the floor. I was twelve at the time and it did not make sense to me. What could they be looking for? And why didn’t they just ask my father, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who stood by stoically. I had seen this look on his face before. He was either irritated or angry which meant all was not well. I thought about walking out to him but something held me back—it was late and the shadowy figures did not look like our usual visitors. Plus I was sleeping in my undies.

After what seemed like an eternity the men finally left and with them some materials tucked under their armpits. I found my way back to bed and for a while I could not sleep. I was scared and confused. I then heard a car drive off and then silence, except the wind whistling dissonantly outside my window. I wondered if my older brothers, sleeping in the adjacent room, had heard anything. I would find out tomorrow, I thought, as I finally drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, I was surprised to find my mother, Nyambura wa Ngugi, huddled with my aunt and other relatives in the living room, around an unlit fireplace. I thought it was a little early for them to have come for a casual visit, but when I looked at the clock it was almost midday! I had overslept. After greeting them I walked into the kitchen to catch a quick breakfast of toast, eggs, and some tea.

From the kitchen table I looked outside through the huge glass windows and noticed that the car my father drove, a Peugeot 404, was still outside. He must be in his office writing, I surmised, and so after my hurried meal I went in search of him. I wanted to know about the men from last night.

He was not in his office, and not in the bedroom. Well, I thought, he could not have gone far, perhaps he was chatting up a neighbor. Just then I saw my brothers and sisters out in the field and I ran out to join them.

I had always liked it here. Limuru was a beautiful place. Cascading hills greened by tea plantations, small-scale farms with rows of corn, cabbage, kale, pyrethrum, and an assortment of fruit trees. In the open fields, cows and goats grazed, moving together with their heads bowed to the ground. The cool morning air always greeted my nostrils with a therapeutic freshness. I had always been amazed at the vastness of the Manguo swamp below our house and, when I looked beyond the valley, the surrounding hills seemed to touch the skies.

The land was dotted with homesteads as far as the eye could see. These were our neighbors with whom we exchanged necessities; a cup of sugar, some tea leaves or salt. We also helped each other till the land and harvest crops.

This morning, however, everything seemed different. It was as if I were seeing this land for the first time. The valley below was now a cloud of fog, the hills in the distance seemed indistinguishable from the smoky mist rising across the landscape. The wind seemed to be howling louder than usual and the cold air cut through my skin with a malicious bitterness. Something about last night was bothering me.

I tried to join in the games with my siblings but my heart was not in it. I noticed too that my older brothers were a little distracted (or was I imagining it?). I asked them if they had heard anything last night but they were also in the dark. Yes, but no one knew any more than I did and they were just as confused. All we could do now was wait.

A few years back our home had been our bastion. I felt safe. No worries. All I had to do was attend school, get good grades and be a kid. Many parents encouraged us to explore the world through reading, music and through curiosity about and beyond our immediate environment. Our house too was a hive of activity. Farm workers and neighbors would drop in to say hello. Some came for advice on familial matters or just to chit-chat and catch up. Our many cousins would come stay with us over the weekends or during school holidays. There were also the aspiring writers who came by carrying huge manuscripts for my father to look at.

A few years after moving here my father started working with the workers and peasants of Kamirithu to produce Ngahika Ndenda (I will marry when I want), a play he had co-written with the late Ngugi wa Mirii. Many of the villagers had never experienced theatre as a reflection of their own lives, consumed it as entertainment or participated in its production let alone appearing on stage, except perhaps those church parodies meant to correct the foibles of an otherwise good Christian. Plays and musicals produced at the Kenya National Theatre, for example, were often times a preserve of the highbrow of Kenyan society and almost never reflective of the lives of ordinary Kenyans.

One day, driving to rehearsal with my father and Ngugi wa Mirii, I listened to them discuss how important it was that the young and old of Kamirithu had found a voice and a place to talk about their situation. They said something about a village, which had once been a concentration camp during colonial times, and was now finding hope and a new determination. Young men and women discovered they had talents for acting, singing, and dance and village elders rekindled a love for learning how to read and write in Gikuyu. It was a community reinventing, re-engaging and re-imagining itself. The two men discussed how ideas, stories and life mixed in a more purposeful way. These words would stick with me through the years.

As a pre-teen I was excited to see the actors and actresses go through their lines, and a newly formed band, Mwiku-Mwiku, practicing at the open air theatre right in the middle of the village. At times my older brothers, Tee and Kim, would play guitar, my sister Ngina and I tried our vocals, while the youngest, Mukoma and Wanjiku played spoons and tin cans as percussion. For me it also meant escape from doing my homework.

Now, with the ominous visitation from last night casting a shadow on the games with my siblings, those years at the theatre seemed a world away.

With not much happening with outside play, much as we tried, I wandered back to the house and after some of the guests had left, I asked my mother where my father was. She was quiet for a little while and then she told me that security forces had taken him for questioning but he would be back sometime today. Why did they have to take him? I had asked. She was not sure, she replied, but not to worry, all would be well. But the day went by and still no word on my father. And then another.

My mother had called and even gone to the police station but no one could tell her where he was. There was a secrecy surrounding his whereabouts. “I will find out soon, don’t you worry. I will get him home,” she assured us. And so we waited.

As the days passed by the air around the house became heavy with uncertainty. No one knew what to think. Then a cruel thought sneaked into my mind. Maybe I might never see him again. Just like JM Kariuki who was found dead in a thicket in the Ngong Hills near Nairobi, with his teeth and eyes missing. JM was a politician who stood up against Kenyatta’s corrupt government, the widening gap between the rich and the poor and the unfair distribution of land after independence. I now remembered the images of his mutilated body in the papers. I shuddered.

In the evenings by the fireplace, my brothers Tee and Kim tried to bring cheer by telling us stories. Tee regaled us with the adventures of Mwangi Cowboy. In one adventure, Mwangi Cowboy has heard of a bully named Chokoloko Banguchi who had been harassing children trying to make it to school. So one day Mwangi Cowboy tracked him down and confronted him. A bemused Chokoloko Banguchi looked at the Cowboy and immediately raised his fists in the air and a fight ensued.

Halfway through the fight the bully, a giant of a man, seemed to be getting the better of Mwangi, pummeling the bewildered cowboy with lefts and rights. The school children were now in tears, grimacing with each blow on Cowboy’s head. Mwangi, on realizing he was outmatched, suggested to the giant that they fight their own shadows. Chokoloko accepted the challenge and vowed to beat his own shadow to a pulp. He immediately went after it, muttering angrily at his shadow because it would not stay still. He clobbered and stomped the dirt beneath him to the great amusement of the school children. After a while he realized that he had been tricked and he ran off in humiliation, never to be seen again.

Kim liked to narrate a story about a hyena that had a most curious habit. He loved nothing more than dining on planks of wood, the outcome of which was to poop huge piles of sawdust, a feat that the other animals found entertaining.

Storytelling was what we had done before my father’s detention and continued to do after (even today whenever we meet or talk on the phone). It was our temporary escape from the present to another world of possibility and wonder.

One day word came that Vice President Daniel Moi had signed the order to detain my father. He was now a political prisoner at Kamiti, a maximum security prison. But what did all that mean for a twelve-year-old?

My mother started making calls and demanding that he be released to no avail. But she was relentless and eventually she and my older siblings were allowed to go visit him at Kamiti. In order to humiliate my father and other detainees, they put a condition that in order to see one’s family he would have to be shackled in chains. My father refused to wear the chains and they did not allow him to see his family. (See Detained: A Writers Prison Diary.)

“Only thieves go to jail,” a classmate had teased me one cold morning at school.

“My father is not a criminal!” I protested. “He is a political detainee.” I had read that in the papers.

“Then why is he in jail?” the boy asked.

I did not have an answer for him and so I walked away. I had now just turned thirteen.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding his detention without trial and what would come of it, I held onto a hope that he would return soon. I read in the papers about local and international organizations fighting for his release. Visitors and people of good-will from far and wide stopped by, bringing words of encouragement. Members of the Kamirithu community came by to while the nights away. It sustained us. Even later when I saw the front pages of major newspapers with photographs of government-inspired mobs burning effigies of my father and other dissidents, I was still optimistic that he would be home soon.

But hope is a fragile thing I realized a few months in, as my expectations began to thaw at the edges. Even with a mother who kept fighting and demanding answers from the authorities, it was becoming harder by the day to believe that it would all end well. Then the government turned to more hostile tactics. First were the break-ins into our home, then threatening phone calls at night and during the day—muffled voices at the end of the line threatening to kill us all. Once I picked up the phone. “Hello,” I said. But there was silence followed by heavy breathing and then ominous laughter. “Hello, who is this?” I asked, my voice crackling with fear. “We are coming!” Click. Gradually, despite my best efforts, fear found a home in my heart where hope and happiness had once resided.

I was scared of and angry at the world but my mother asked me to focus on my upcoming national exams. “Show them,” she said, “that we do not fold in the face of adversity. Your father will return. Kihooto kiunaga uta mugete! (The truth breaks a taut bow and arrow.) And truth will always be on the right side of history, no matter how they bend it.”

I tried. But how could I ignore these feelings of hurt and injustice? How could I pretend that all was well when I was reminded every day that there was danger lurking, waiting to pounce on me and my family? Even my dreams began to haunt me. The worst were the ones where the secret police were after me. In one such dream they were chasing me, their long machetes and guns glistening in the darkness. I ran as fast as I could but they were gaining on me. I finally managed to hide under a canopy of trees and just when I thought I was safe, a cold hand grabbed me by the neck. I turned trying to fight back but I could not move my limbs so I stared at him while the others circled around us, licking their lips. His eyes morphed into orbits and they began to leak blood. I screamed and woke up, trembling.

And as if we had not gone through enough as a family something else happened that we were not prepared for—silence. Our home was no longer the beehive it once was. No one came to visit or seek counsel any more. The relatives stayed away. People we knew would now turn and walk the other way to avoid making contact with us. Once again my mother urged us to not to allow anyone to cow us into a corner. We had to stay strong and proud. She asked that we sing louder, work and play harder. We were not alone as long as we had each other. And slowly we turned our isolation into comfort, our fears into actions that gave us a united front and solace.

In one moment of levity, my mother reminded us that the government had already banned a gathering of more than three people without a license, and so, according to her, we were already outlaws! And a baby girl, Njoki, born six months after my father’s detention, added to the group of rebels against the Kenyatta-Moi regime.

My father and his fellow detainees nicknamed Njoki, Kana ka Bothiita (post office baby) because that was how my father first met his daughter, through photographs mailed to him. But to Kamirithu, she was known as Wamuingi (belonging to the people).

President Kenyatta died in August of 1978 and Daniel Moi took over the reins of power despite a “change the constitution movement” that sought to bar the vice president from automatically ascending to power. He assured Kenyans that his was going to be a different government. In December 1978 he released all twenty-six political prisoners. I remember the excitement and the tears as we jumped from bed and rushed out to meet my father and some of the other detainees by the gate. We had cause to celebrate.

A few months after my father’s release they denied him his position at the University of Nairobi where he had previously taught before his detention without trial. The authorities continued with the harassment and death threats and he was finally forced into exile in 1982 for speaking truth to power, for daring to dream of an equitable Kenya and a progressive Africa, buoyed by the spirit of the majority and not the small ruling political elite. We were once again isolated but this time we were older and wiser and we knew what to do: keep our heads up and continue our life’s journey.

By now Moi was becoming unpopular, especially after adopting his Fuata Nyayo, “follow in the footsteps,” philosophy just as he had followed Kenyatta’s since 1967 when he was appointed to be vice president. In a word he was demanding quiet loyalty and that he was not going to tolerate dissent. To further consolidate power Moi began appointing “yes” men and women and demoting those he perceived as a menace to his growing authoritarianism. He threatened his enemies and his friends alike, many of whom were disappeared but he, Bible in hand, attended church every Sunday to atone for his sins. He used fear—us against them—to divide the electorate and position himself as the only one that could solve the country’s problems. He alone had the answers. He developed a personality cult and surrounded himself with sycophants.

They glorified his name. One politician even asked that God take his life now, and add whatever years he would have had on earth, to Moi’s life so he could rule forever. They showered him with gifts and praises even as he looted public coffers to enrich himself, his family and those who sung his tune the loudest. Even members of his cabinet, whom he would receive in the state house, declared their undying loyalty and praised his leadership as the best Kenya would ever have. After they left, they would hear on the radio or see on TV that they had been fired!

The elite made fun of Moi, called him a bubbling fool who had no idea what he was doing, but the newspapers of the day covered Moi, splashing his face in the front pages of every newspaper, and TV news coverage. He was everywhere. Public figures, teachers, lecturers, university students and ordinary citizens who dared speak up against him began to disappear. The more people resisted and questioned him the more vicious his dictatorship became. He was cruel and capricious. Even his cronies lived in fear. No one was safe it seemed. In February 1990 Moi’s foreign minister, Robert Ouko, went missing. His charred remains were found in a bush, six kilometers from his house, reminiscent of JM’s murder.

I did not quite grasp the magnitude of the damage Moi’s autocratic rule was wreaking on the psyche of the Kenyan people. People walked on tenterhooks, scared even of the walls of their bedrooms, scared that they might be next, scared to dream of a brighter day. That trepidation began to normalize. It was as if there would be no Kenya without Moi. After all it was against the law to imagine his death!

Moi too now joined in the chorus, believing indeed that he was the savior. He called himself the professor of politics, named universities and buildings after him. He appropriated land and built a real estate empire, and controversially acquitted a tea plantation. He groomed his children to run the family businesses that had ties all over the world and anyone who dared question his authority was an enemy of the people. He lashed out and blamed the news media for giving voice to dissent and even started his own propaganda print that painted him in his own image. Political repression, including the use of the infamous Nyayo House torture chambers, fraud, and human rights abuse were the hallmark of his twenty-four year rule.

Moi was implicated in a myriad of corrupt practices during his dictatorship. The biggest of which was the Goldenberg scandal in which the Kenyan government illegally subsidized exports of gold in excess of the foreign currency earnings of exporters. The scam cost Kenya close to 10% of GDP.

What I understood then was that it was okay to be afraid but not to live in fear because I did not stand alone. I understood that there were hundreds and hundreds of people who stood in solidarity with us during those dark days. I understood it then, and even more so now, that good people everywhere will always have to stand firm and fight the good fight.

I know now that institutions of checks and balances, which Kenya did not have, are only as good as the people who work there, and that there is more power in the collective will of the people than in the loud chants or harangues of a few. The voice of the majority will always prevail over the nefarious acts of sycophants. But that voice has to be cultivated, it must be relentless, it has to be loud and unyielding. It was that undying spirit of resistance by the Kenyan people that led to Moi’s downfall.

I, no, we survived 24 years of Moi—an egomaniac, a dictator, a sociopath and a media personality whose face had to appear daily in the print media, on the TV screens and his daily itinerary announced on the radio. His off-the-cuff and undisciplined roadside proclamations served as his official state house positions which laid out his vision of Kenya, bleak as it was. It was also the platform he used to hire or fire political appointees or annunciate foreign policy. That was before Twitter.

We had now made it to Penn Station. I waited for the elderly couple to alight. I followed. I should have told them my story, I thought to myself. If Kenya had endured the error that was Moi, America too can survive. Trust the people.
Nducu wa Ngugi has a B.A. in Black Studies from Oberlin College, a M.Ed. and an Ed.S in Teacher Leadership from Mercer University. He is the author of City Murders, a novel, published by the East African Educational Publishers (2014). City Murders was short-listed for the Jomo Kenyatta Prize in Literature (2015). His commentaries on social issues have appeared in The Guardian, The Daily Nation (DN2 Kenya), and Business Daily Africa, Pambazuka News, Wajibu, PalaPala, Education News and other online journals. His short stories have appeared in the St. Petersburg Review (Issue 4/5, 2012), The East African, and The New Black Magazine. His work has also appeared in translation in the Swedish magazine Karavan. His second novel, Saranya, a sequel to City Murders, is forthcoming from EAEP. He is currently working on a third novel and a new mystery series. Nducu is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and lives in Holbrook, Long Island, New York with his wife and daughter.
MAR 24
2017
Stars Of Truth In March
by Judy Katz-Levine
Judy Katz-Levine is the author of two full-length poetry collections, "When The Arms Of Our Dreams Embrace" (SARU 1991) and "Ocarina" (Tarsier/SARU 2006). Her most recent chapbook is "When Performers Swim, The Dice Are Cast" (Ahadada 2009). She is an internationally published poet whose poems have appeared in journals and anthologies in India, Israel, England, and Japan. Current work appears in "Salamander", "Ibbetson Street", "Blue Unicorn", "Soul-lit", "Ygdrasil", "Muddy River Poetry Review", "Miriam's Well","Gravel" and in the Sunday Poet feature on the Boston Poetry Scene blog hosted by poet Doug Holder. She has also written fiction with stories published in "The Sun" and "Rhododendron". A jazz flutist, Judy Katz-Levine performs in synagogues, at nursing homes, and for charities such as "Project Smile."

I would be wary of an indigo bird, shooting to a distant country. There, a friend posts stars of truth. The children I know whirl through the grass, the octogenarians weep.

After many days, I will come with you to a stretch of sand dunes.

But there is the whisper, there is the stranger. Cup your hands, wash your face with water from the tap.

Listen to a tune about leaps and steps, fiery hearts.

When it becomes sable, obsidian, and shining, a tapping hand, a scattering of eternal messages, from which I glean a grass seed,

a faint memory of what it was like to be in a country

without war, and knives.

Judy Katz-Levine is the author of two full-length poetry collections, "When The Arms Of Our Dreams Embrace" (SARU 1991) and "Ocarina" (Tarsier/SARU 2006). Her most recent chapbook is "When Performers Swim, The Dice Are Cast" (Ahadada 2009). She is an internationally published poet whose poems have appeared in journals and anthologies in India, Israel, England, and Japan. Current work appears in "Salamander", "Ibbetson Street", "Blue Unicorn", "Soul-lit", "Ygdrasil", "Muddy River Poetry Review", "Miriam's Well","Gravel" and in the Sunday Poet feature on the Boston Poetry Scene blog hosted by poet Doug Holder. She has also written fiction with stories published in "The Sun" and "Rhododendron". A jazz flutist, Judy Katz-Levine performs in synagogues, at nursing homes, and for charities such as "Project Smile."
JAN 15
2017
To Russia, With Love
by Mikhail Iossel

“Information has been leaked that suggests Mike Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, phoned Russia’s ambassador [to] the United States multiple times on the day that the Obama Administration announced sanctions against Russia for its efforts to undermine the US election.” Michael A. Cohen, The Boston Globe, January 13, 2017

Mikhail Iossel, the Leningrad-born author of the story collection Every Hunter Wants to Know and co-editor of the anthologies Amerika: Russian Writers View the United States and Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia, is a professor of English/Creative Writing at Concordia University in Montreal—and the founding director of the Summer Literary Seminars international program. Back in the Soviet Union, he worked as an electromagnetic engineer/submarine demagnetizer and as roller-coaster security guard, and belonged to the organization of samizdat writers, Club-81. He came to the US in 1986 and started writing in English in 1988. Among his awards are the Guggenheim, NEA, and Stegner Fellowships. His stories, in English and in translation to a number of other languages, have appeared in the New Yorker website, Guernica, The Literarian, Agni Review, The North American Review, Threepenny Review, Interia, Boulevard, Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere.

CALL 1: Hello, Sergei! Hi! It's Michael, Vladimir Vladimirovich's friend, well, you remember, and the new US National Advisor to our orange-haired Einstein… Yes, I know, don't laugh. What I'm calling about is, Belated Merry Christmas, Sergei! Yay! Hugs and huge amounts of love!

CALL 2: Sergei! Hello? Hi, it's Michael again. I'm so stupid, I forgot to wish belated Merry Christmas to your lovely spouse, whom I know you have! I don't know her name, but I'm pretty sure you have one. I mean, everybody eventually gets married, so why not you also? Please give her a big American bearhug from me!

CALL 3: Sergei? Yo! Sergei? Hi! It's me, Michael, again! Silly, I know! Your kids! I forgot to wish them also belated Merry… well, whatever! OK? You have kids, right? So, like, kiss them from me, right? Ok. Signing off for now, peace on Earth!

CALL 4: Hey, Sergio! Moi best droog do grobovoi doski! You'll be laughing again, but it's me again! After I hung up with you last time, see, my gaze fell on my dog, Doug, my favorite Russian borzoi, old chap, and I beheld that his purblind amber eyes were filled with sadness and reproach. "How could you forget to wish belated Merry Xmas to Sergei's dog, or whatever other domestic animals he may have!" Doug's translucent eyes seemed to be saying. "How could you be so inconsiderate! What would St. Francis of Assisi think of you?…" So that's the reason I'm calling again, in a nutshell: to wish your dog or cat, or whatever other pets you may have, a guinea pig maybe, or a saber-tooth Siberian rabbit, or, like, a flesh-eating teddy bear and stuff–belated Merry Xmas! Just because they don't celebrate doesn't mean I, in my capacity as the incoming National Security Advisor, should not congratulate them! I want to be fair and equa… equanimous to all! Happy birthday to your Russian animals, Sergei! Together we'll make America great again!

CALL 5: Sergei… Sergei… Oh Sergei, why art thou Sergei… Oh, what's the use… You may already have figured it out anyway: I am drawn to you, Sergei… irresistibly. There is no other way to put it, especially at this meaningful time of mandatory truth-telling, around the date our Lord the Savior, you know who I'm talking about, was born. I know our relationship probably has no future, yours and mine, what with your being this big-ass Russian ambassador and Putin's flunky, and me–just a mere American general and National Security Advisor and the flunky of Putin's flunky. You have grandchildren, probably, and so do I, probably, so… It all looks pretty hopeless for us, from this juncture, doesn't it. But then again… Have you read this novel by that Colombian commie guy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera? It could well be written about us, Sergei, although, of course, not quite and not at all. But it's about hope, and people's ability to wait their whole lives, until they're really super-old and decrepit, for the above-said time of cholera to come along, so they could finally attempt to consummate their horribly suppressed lifelong passion for one another. That's the big part of the real reason behind my calls to you today: let's work together, I say, toward facilitating jointly the bringing about of that time of cholera in the world! It is in our mutual interests, yours and mine and… many other people's! My guy, moron though he may be, is committed to that lofty goal. How about your and my master's master? Could you please ask and let us know?… Merry Belated Xmas, Sergei!

Mikhail Iossel, the Leningrad-born author of the story collection Every Hunter Wants to Know and co-editor of the anthologies Amerika: Russian Writers View the United States and Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia, is a professor of English/Creative Writing at Concordia University in Montreal—and the founding director of the Summer Literary Seminars international program. Back in the Soviet Union, he worked as an electromagnetic engineer/submarine demagnetizer and as roller-coaster security guard, and belonged to the organization of samizdat writers, Club-81. He came to the US in 1986 and started writing in English in 1988. Among his awards are the Guggenheim, NEA, and Stegner Fellowships. His stories, in English and in translation to a number of other languages, have appeared in the New Yorker website, Guernica, The Literarian, Agni Review, The North American Review, Threepenny Review, Interia, Boulevard, Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere.
DEC 13
2016
A Florida Night
by Kossiwa Logan

Finally. I stood on the sidewalk in front of Aunt Berrie’s apartment, North Tamiami traffic behind me. I almost smiled at the string of lights she kept on her balcony. Only two chairs and a potted plant. Aloe vera, I think.

Behind me, headlights glared on North Tamiami. One of them could be state troopers from Alabama or whoever they sent to track down fugitives. It was quiet. So far the only noise came from the wind the cars made as they sped along North Tamiami Trail like race car drivers, the traffic lights their checkered flags.

Kossiwa Logan is a 2014 graduate of the University of Tampa's Master of Fine Arts program. She is researching retail for a possible long short story and/or short story collection by working in the environment. She was a substitute teacher for a short time. And because of these experiences and others she can never claim to have writer's block.

I let myself in Aunt Berrie’s apartment using the key she told me I’d need one day. She knew I might need to get away from the judgment of my parents.

Fans in every room of Aunt Berrie’s apartment kept the air cool. She preferred fans or natural air to air conditioners. She always drove with the windows down.

The sound of the front door opening and of Aunt Berrie pausing in the entrance hall woke me up. I’d been dreaming of the last person who gave me a ride, this sweet something that kept trying to ask me questions. I hoped she wouldn’t see the news and connect me with the man who escaped Alabama’s prison.

The front door finally closed. Aunt Berrie always knew when something was up. I could see her sniffing me out as she stood in the hall. I sat up on her u-shaped leather couch and watched her exit the hall. She stared at me a moment, mouth thinner than the noodles she used to cook me.

“Stan.” Aunt Berrie said it as if she wanted to say more. She sat on the couch a moment before hugging me, stiff like anything more would be threatening. I could tell she wanted to say more.

I kept the lights off. Headlights kept shining through the curtain-less window that faced North Tamiami.

“We need a plan to get you out of here because you can’t stay here.”

I remembered the cash, the little something she gave me. I hoped me accepting those few hundred, as if she owed me something, wouldn’t get her in trouble. She wasn’t supposed to be soliciting either. And she didn’t have to give me anything. She kept asking me what I was into. She kept telling me I could be a model.

“This money,” I had said, “is going to help me get there.”

I didn’t know where there was.

Aunt Berrie sat her purse next to her on the couch. How could she and my mom be so different? They were raised in the same house by the same mother and father, yet my mom would call the Alabama prison while dad held me down. And dad was a big strong man, the kind you wanted to run from, if you could.

“I don’t mind you sleeping here tonight, but I don’t want trouble.”

We looked at each other as if we were both thinking of everything that came before this day and we knew that there wouldn’t be anything coming after this day for us.

“You’re going to need some traveling money. Don’t argue,” Aunt Berrie said. When I started to protest, “I can always win more. I’m good, better than they want me to be.” She left the room and was gone for a while.

“I’ve been saving this for you.” She handed me a small black bag and said I could put it in the bag I came in with. “Get some sleep and then go. I’ll visit you when you’re dreaming.”

Aunt Berrie really believed in that, which seemed nice to me. She quickly left the room when I started wiping my eyes.

She really believed that.

Kossiwa Logan is a 2014 graduate of the University of Tampa's Master of Fine Arts program. She is researching retail for a possible long short story and/or short story collection by working in the environment. She was a substitute teacher for a short time. And because of these experiences and others she can never claim to have writer's block.
JULY 15
2016
To Be Beheaded
Armenia, 1915
by Jacqueline Tchakalian
Jacqueline Derner Tchakalian, a visual artist and a poet, lives in Woodland Hills, CA. Her poems have appeared in Eclipse, So to Speak, California Quarterly, Westward 4 and other publications. She was a finalist in the 2010 Tennessee Williams Literary Poetry Contest and the 2007 Conflux Press Artists Book Contest. Previously, she was a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets Series and for the Los Angeles Poetry Festival. Her book, The Size of Our Bed, Red Hen Press, was published in 2015.
									For those who deny.

to be the beheader

      is to ignore

      how deeply memories

      embed themselves

      in tomorrow's

            blood


to be beheaded

      is to lose touch

      source of thought

      water's web

      sight of blood

            running away


to be an observer

      on site    viewing photos

      watching film    willing or not

      is to be grateful you are not

      the victim    your blood

            recording everything


to be remembered

      victims' dried blood

      must be washed

      with clean hands

      in memories' open

            baskets of language

This poem was prompted by events depicted in Aurora Mardiganian's book, Ravished Armenia (also known as Auction of Souls) later made into a silent film starring Aurora, in which we are witness to the horrors and deaths she and thousands of other Armenians observed and were subject to on the long marches through the desert ordered by the Ottoman Empire in 1915—regarded by most scholars as the first genocide in modern history. She was the only survivor of her family.

Jacqueline Derner Tchakalian, a visual artist and a poet, lives in Woodland Hills, CA. Her poems have appeared in Eclipse, So to Speak, California Quarterly, Westward 4 and other publications. She was a finalist in the 2010 Tennessee Williams Literary Poetry Contest and the 2007 Conflux Press Artists Book Contest. Previously, she was a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets Series and for the Los Angeles Poetry Festival. Her book, The Size of Our Bed, Red Hen Press, was published in 2015.
MAY 20
2016
New Poetry
from Ukraine
Marianna Kiyanovska (1973, Zhovkva). Poet, novelist, essayist, translator, literary critic and scholar. Member of the National Union of Writers of Ukraine. Author of the poetry collections The Incarnation (1997), The Wreaths of Sonnets (1999), Mythmaking (2000), Love and War (in collaboration with Mariana Savka) (2002), The Book of Adam (2004) Ordinary Language (2005), Something Daily (2008), To EP (2014), 373 (2014) and a prose book The Path Along the River (2008). Her works were translated into English, Belarusian, Polish, Serbian, and Russian. Laureate of the Bohdan-Ihor Antonych and Smoloskyp awards. Translates from Polish and Lithuanian. She lives in Lviv.

Ostap Slyvynsky (1978, Lviv) Poet, translator, essayist, and literary critic. Author of the poetry books Sacrifice of the Big Fish (1998), Midday Line (2004), The Ball In the Dark (2008), Adam (2012). Poetry and critical texts have been translated into 11 languages. He is the compiler and translator of the anthology of contemporary Ukrainian and Belarusian poetry Zv'iazokrozryv/Suviazrazryv" (2006). Translates from Polish, Bulgarian, Macedonian, English, Russian, and Belarusian. For translation of Andrzej Stasiuk's On the Way to Babadag (2007) he won the Polish Embassy in Ukraine prize for the best translation of the year. He participated in numerous literary events in Ukraine and abroad, including: the festival Teraz Ukraina (Poland, 2005), the Leipzig International Book Fair (Germany, 2007), the Poetry Spring festival (Lithuania, 2007), Kyiv Laurels (2007), Kharkiv Barricade (2007), "Young Ukraine: In the Middle of a Suburb" (Germany, 2008), Literature in Autumn (Austria, 2008). During 2006-2007, he was the coordinator of the International Literary Festival at the Publishers' Forum in Lviv. He lives in Lviv.

Vitaly Chernetsky is an associate professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and director of the Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies at the University of Kansas. A native of Ukraine (Odessa, 1970), he received his PhD in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996. He is the author of Mapping Postcommunist Cultures: Russia and Ukraine in the Context of Globalization (2007). He co-edited a comprehensive anthology of contemporary Russian poetry in English translation, Crossing Centuries: The New Generation in Russian Poetry (2000) and an annotated Ukrainian translation of Edward Said's Culture and Imperialism (2007). He also guest-edited a special issue of Kinokultura on Ukrainian cinema (2009). He has been publishing translations from Ukrainian and Russian into English since 1992, including two novels by Yuri Andrukhovych, The Moscoviad (2008) and Twelve Circles (2015). He is the current president of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies.

Frogpondia presents the fourth and last installment in a series of new Ukrainian poetry, as an extension of St. Petersburg Review's inclusion of 14 Ukrainian poets in Issue #7. This week's featured poets are Marianna Kiyanovska and Ostap Slyvynsky. The work of the poets presented here, translated from Ukrainian and Russian, is part of the just released Letters from Ukraine anthology (in Ukrainian, Russian, and English) that was presented by the L'viv Book Forum at the Wrocław Festival on April 22, in celebration of the city being named a European Capital of Culture 2016. This anthology of recent work by 50 contemporary Ukrainian poets consists of responses to the events of recent years (2013-2015) and the groundbreaking social changes occurring in Ukraine today.

4. Freedom Avenue
From the cycle Lviv: The City of K
by Marianna Kiyanovska
translated by Vitaly Chernetsky
For Lyubov Yakymchuk

right before war
graffiti sprouts on walls
like mold
street art is what shall remain (maybe)

Lyuba, my sorrow, it is scratched on the wall—
next to a pierced heart

like in a dream
when all is still
naked Luhansk buildings
shake and bleed
the windows ache

mama washed the window frame
mama's wounded

in Lviv mama
has no wound

in Lviv there's a different red-and-black
evergreen

An Episode from 2014
by Ostap Slyvynsky
translated by Vitaly Chernetsky
"For many years I woke up
when he came back from the night shift, at three or four
in the morning. He took a long wash
and lay down—just as coal-black as before,
almost invisible
in the dark. Perhaps he simply dissolved into air one night?"
				We stay silent,
in a moment she is overcome with laughter: some kid
runs by us, stumbles
and falls—right onto a sack of flour
he was carrying,
		his sneakers rise high
in the heart of a little white cloud—
		what a white explosion,
she says, what a quiet one.
Arza
by Ostap Slyvynsky
translated by Vitaly Chernetsky
"Tell me, are you happy?"

I suddenly wanted to say yes, and I did, "Yes,
I'm happy."
And she:
"You say this because your heart is asleep.
Tell me, do you have hope?"

I suddenly wanted to say yes, and I did, "Yes,
I have hope."
And she:
"Only those for whom hope was never
their only home would say this.
Tell me, would you come to see me?"

I suddenly wanted to say yes, and I did, "Yes,
Arza, I'll come to see you."
"When you are on your way, leave your hands at home—
I see your hands only know how to make words."
Sisyphus
by Ostap Slyvynsky
translated by Vitaly Chernetsky
The first house was too tall and thin-walled, it was tumbled by wind.

The second house—oh my golden meadow—was a child of far too much love, and from it we left through opposite doors.

The third house had to stand firm like a wood-fired bull, but war called
									me to destroy other people's belongings

The fourth house was to become a vessel of temperate love, but one evening
										I became a stranger in it.

The fifth house was taken away by people with a truck and two bikes.

In the sixth house I owned only my hands that built it.

The seventh house comes to me like an unfinished dream
with all of you sitting together at the dinner table while I always step out
					to the porch for a cry, and then I come back, becalmed.

Marianna Kiyanovska (1973, Zhovkva). Poet, novelist, essayist, translator, literary critic and scholar. Member of the National Union of Writers of Ukraine. Author of the poetry collections The Incarnation (1997), The Wreaths of Sonnets (1999), Mythmaking (2000), Love and War (in collaboration with Mariana Savka) (2002), The Book of Adam (2004) Ordinary Language (2005), Something Daily (2008), To EP (2014), 373 (2014) and a prose book The Path Along the River (2008). Her works were translated into English, Belarusian, Polish, Serbian, and Russian. Laureate of the Bohdan-Ihor Antonych and Smoloskyp awards. Translates from Polish and Lithuanian. She lives in Lviv.

Ostap Slyvynsky (1978, Lviv) Poet, translator, essayist, and literary critic. Author of the poetry books Sacrifice of the Big Fish (1998), Midday Line (2004), The Ball In the Dark (2008), Adam (2012). Poetry and critical texts have been translated into 11 languages. He is the compiler and translator of the anthology of contemporary Ukrainian and Belarusian poetry Zv'iazokrozryv/Suviazrazryv" (2006). Translates from Polish, Bulgarian, Macedonian, English, Russian, and Belarusian. For translation of Andrzej Stasiuk's On the Way to Babadag (2007) he won the Polish Embassy in Ukraine prize for the best translation of the year. He participated in numerous literary events in Ukraine and abroad, including: the festival Teraz Ukraina (Poland, 2005), the Leipzig International Book Fair (Germany, 2007), the Poetry Spring festival (Lithuania, 2007), Kyiv Laurels (2007), Kharkiv Barricade (2007), "Young Ukraine: In the Middle of a Suburb" (Germany, 2008), Literature in Autumn (Austria, 2008). During 2006-2007, he was the coordinator of the International Literary Festival at the Publishers' Forum in Lviv. He lives in Lviv.

Vitaly Chernetsky is an associate professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and director of the Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies at the University of Kansas. A native of Ukraine (Odessa, 1970), he received his PhD in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996. He is the author of Mapping Postcommunist Cultures: Russia and Ukraine in the Context of Globalization (2007). He co-edited a comprehensive anthology of contemporary Russian poetry in English translation, Crossing Centuries: The New Generation in Russian Poetry (2000) and an annotated Ukrainian translation of Edward Said's Culture and Imperialism (2007). He also guest-edited a special issue of Kinokultura on Ukrainian cinema (2009). He has been publishing translations from Ukrainian and Russian into English since 1992, including two novels by Yuri Andrukhovych, The Moscoviad (2008) and Twelve Circles (2015). He is the current president of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies.
MAY 10
2016
New Poetry
from Ukraine
Aleksandr Kabanov (1968, Kherson). Russian-Ukrainian poet, editor of the literary magazine SHO, organizer of the Kyiv Laurels literary festival, one of the founders of Ukrainian slam. Member of the National Union of Writers of Ukraine (since 2004). Author of the poetry collections Temporary Registration (1989), Time of the Flying Fishes (1994), Swallow (2002), Ailovyuga (2003), The Rat Catcher (2005), Underground Clouds (2007), THE ENTIRE (2008), Batman Sahaidachnyi (2010), The Magi and the Planetarium (2014). His poems were translated into Ukrainian, English, German, Georgian, and Dutch. He lives and works in Kyiv.

Boris Khersonsky (1950, Chernivtsi). Poet, essayist, translator of Jewish descent; by main occupation, a clinical psychologist and psychiatrist. A prominent member of the Odessa samizdat literary circles. In 2006, his book of poetry Family Archive was published in Russia to great acclaim by NLO press; in 2008, two more books, The Site for Construction (NLO) and Outside the Hedges (Nauka), in 2009, Marble Leaf (Argo-RISK) and Spirituals (NLO). He continues publishing poetry and essays prolifically; among his recent poetry books are Missa in Tempore Belli (2014) and KOSMOSNASH (2015). Author of two books of translations and literary essays. Winner of Voloshin International Competitions (2006, 2007), Kyiv Laurels festival (2008), "Merezhevyi Duke" (2000) and "Tramvai Shcho Zablukav" (2007) competitions, special prize winner at Moskovskii Schet (2nd place, 2007). Shortlisted for the Andrei Bely Prize (2007). Professor of clinical psychology. Member of the editorial board of the journal Khreshchatyk since 1998. Grant holder of the Joseph Brodsky Foundation (2008), winner of the Anthologia award (2008). Boris Khersonsky's poems were translated into Ukrainian, Georgian, Bulgarian, English, Finnish, Italian, Dutch, and German. In 2010, Wieser Verlag published the German translation of his book Family Archive. He lives in Odessa.

Alex Cigale is a poet and translator. He was born in Chernivsti, Ukraine (1963), lived in Leningrad between the ages of 2 and 9, Israel, Italy, and the US since 1975. His own poems in English appear in Colorado Review, The Common Online, and The Literary Review, and translations in Kenyon Review Online, Modern Poetry in Translation, New England Review, PEN America, TriQuarterly, and World Literature in Translation. In 2015, he was awarded an NEA in Literary Translation Fellowship for his work on Mikhail Eremin, and guest edited the Spring 2015 Russia Issue of the Atlanta Review, writing about it for one week in Best American Poetry. His first full book, Russian Absurd: the Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms is forthcoming in the Northwestern University Press World Classics series in February 2017.

Frogpondia presents the third installment in a series of new Ukrainian poetry, as an extension of St. Petersburg Review's inclusion of 14 Ukrainian poets in Issue #7. This week's featured poets are Aleksandr Kabanov and Boris Khersonsky.

The work of the poets presented here, translated from Ukrainian and Russian, is part of the just released Letters from Ukraine anthology (in Ukrainian, Russian, and English) that was presented by the L'viv Book Forum at the Wrocław Festival on April 22, in celebration of the city being named a European Capital of Culture 2016. This anthology of recent work by 50 contemporary Ukrainian poets consists of responses to the events of recent years (2013-2015) and the groundbreaking social changes occurring in Ukraine today. Check back next week for more.

"He came first wearing a t-shirt…"
by Aleksandr Kabanov
translated by Alex Cigale
He came first wearing a t-shirt inscribed "Je suis Christ,"
a long-haired hippie, but in this Coming he was beardless,
and on his neck, flowering like a December rose, a hickey;
he'd developed problems with human relations, and nature.
He transformed the gold fish and black bread into wine,
and then changed this young wine into moonshine:
just so, a sickly infant who is not long for this world
smashes a piggy-bank kitty before the eyes of the crowd.
Like empty talk, the streetcar clangoring off to the depot,
sounds throw shadows—longer, colder, more amorphous,
but Pasternak has risen, despite the weak wi-fi signal,
bringing a spliff for the road, heroin and some morphine.
"After Victory—the era…"
by Boris Khersonsky
translated by Alex Cigale
After victory—the era of postwar executions.
Rapid-fire hearings and sentencing tribunals.
Key is to lessen the guilt of the war prisoners.
No sense in feeding the heads of enemy generals!

Even more so since each has blood on his hands.
We have their orders to the soldiers down on paper.
For the lust to murder is the same as sexual filth.
Once you start there's no stopping, try as you might.

Up the ladder with you now, hands tied behind your back,
accompanied by the ministers, or minor priests if a Catholic,
a sack over your head, noose on neck, die with your guilt,
in another 70 years they'll post a vid of it on YouTube.

Just five minutes and the living man's now a dead body.
Another five minutes and the coffin lid's now nailed down.
To pity war criminals is the last item on the agenda.
May only the rope hold out and the shot be with precision.

Everything's now in the executioner's hands, in his skill.
Taking life is cheaper than depriving them of freedom.

Aleksandr Kabanov (1968, Kherson). Russian-Ukrainian poet, editor of the literary magazine SHO, organizer of the Kyiv Laurels literary festival, one of the founders of Ukrainian slam. Member of the National Union of Writers of Ukraine (since 2004). Author of the poetry collections Temporary Registration (1989), Time of the Flying Fishes (1994), Swallow (2002), Ailovyuga (2003), The Rat Catcher (2005), Underground Clouds (2007), THE ENTIRE (2008), Batman Sahaidachnyi (2010), The Magi and the Planetarium (2014). His poems were translated into Ukrainian, English, German, Georgian, and Dutch. He lives and works in Kyiv.

Boris Khersonsky (1950, Chernivtsi). Poet, essayist, translator of Jewish descent; by main occupation, a clinical psychologist and psychiatrist. A prominent member of the Odessa samizdat literary circles. In 2006, his book of poetry Family Archive was published in Russia to great acclaim by NLO press; in 2008, two more books, The Site for Construction (NLO) and Outside the Hedges (Nauka), in 2009, Marble Leaf (Argo-RISK) and Spirituals (NLO). He continues publishing poetry and essays prolifically; among his recent poetry books are Missa in Tempore Belli (2014) and KOSMOSNASH (2015). Author of two books of translations and literary essays. Winner of Voloshin International Competitions (2006, 2007), Kyiv Laurels festival (2008), "Merezhevyi Duke" (2000) and "Tramvai Shcho Zablukav" (2007) competitions, special prize winner at Moskovskii Schet (2nd place, 2007). Shortlisted for the Andrei Bely Prize (2007). Professor of clinical psychology. Member of the editorial board of the journal Khreshchatyk since 1998. Grant holder of the Joseph Brodsky Foundation (2008), winner of the Anthologia award (2008). Boris Khersonsky's poems were translated into Ukrainian, Georgian, Bulgarian, English, Finnish, Italian, Dutch, and German. In 2010, Wieser Verlag published the German translation of his book Family Archive. He lives in Odessa.

Alex Cigale is a poet and translator. He was born in Chernivsti, Ukraine (1963), lived in Leningrad between the ages of 2 and 9, Israel, Italy, and the US since 1975. His own poems in English appear in Colorado Review, The Common Online, and The Literary Review, and translations in Kenyon Review Online, Modern Poetry in Translation, New England Review, PEN America, TriQuarterly, and World Literature in Translation. In 2015, he was awarded an NEA in Literary Translation Fellowship for his work on Mikhail Eremin, and guest edited the Spring 2015 Russia Issue of the Atlanta Review, writing about it for one week in Best American Poetry. His first full book, Russian Absurd: the Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms is forthcoming in the Northwestern University Press World Classics series in February 2017.
MAY 1
2016
New Poetry
from Ukraine
Andriy Bondar (1974, Kamianets-Podilskyi). Poet, essayist, and translator. Laureate of the Smoloskyp Award (2007). Author of poetry collections A Spring Heresy (1998), Truth and Honey (2001), Primitive Forms of Ownership (2004), Lean Songs: A Collection of Junk Poetry and Primitive Lyrics (2014) and of a book of essays, Carrot Ice (2012). His poetry has been translated into English, German, French, Polish, Swedish, Portuguese, Romanian, Croatian, Lithuanian, Belarusian, and Czech. He translates from Polish and English. He lives near Kyiv.

Vitaly Chernetsky is an associate professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and director of the Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies at the University of Kansas. A native of Ukraine (Odessa, 1970), he received his PhD in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996. He is the author of Mapping Postcommunist Cultures: Russia and Ukraine in the Context of Globalization (2007). He co-edited a comprehensive anthology of contemporary Russian poetry in English translation, Crossing Centuries: The New Generation in Russian Poetry (2000) and an annotated Ukrainian translation of Edward Said's Culture and Imperialism (2007). He also guest-edited a special issue of Kinokultura on Ukrainian cinema (2009). He has been publishing translations from Ukrainian and Russian into English since 1992, including two novels by Yuri Andrukhovych, The Moscoviad (2008) and Twelve Circles (2015). He is the current president of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies.

Lyudmila Khersonskaya (1964, Tiraspol, Moldova). Poet and translator. Her works were published in the journals Novyi Mir, Znamia, Interpoesia, Deti Ra, and others. In 2011, the publishing house Russkii Gulliver (Moscow) published her book All Our People, which reached the top ten of best poetry books of the year. Translates English poetry, especially English-language poetry of Vladimir Nabokov and Seamus Heaney (published in Interpoesia, Khreshchatyk, Deribasovskaia-Rishelievskaia). Laureate of the Voloshin Festival. Lyudmila Khersonskaya has had readings in Moscow, Kyiv, Lviv, Munich, and New York. She lives in Odessa.

Dana Golin was born in Riga, Latvia (1966) and has lived in the United States since 1981. Her own poems in Russian appear in Gvideon, Novyi Zhurnal, Storony Sveta and Druzhba Narodov, and her translations in Atlanta Review, Big Bridge, Cortland Review, Eleven Eleven, Four Centuries, International Poetry Review, Plume, Modern Poetry in Translation, and Unsplendid. She has a graduate degree in Counseling Psychology and runs the counseling department of a New York City nursing college. From 2011 to 2013, she was an Assistant Professor at the American University of Central Asia, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Frogpondia presents the second installment in a series of new Ukrainian poetry, as an extension of St. Petersburg Review's inclusion of 14 Ukrainian poets in Issue #7. This week's featured poets are Andriy Bondar and Lyudmila Khersonskaya.

The work of the poets presented here, translated from Ukrainian and Russian, is part of the just released Letters from Ukraine anthology (in Ukrainian, Russian, and English) that was presented by the L'viv Book Forum at the Wrocław Festival on April 22, in celebration of the city being named a European Capital of Culture 2016. This anthology of recent work by 50 contemporary Ukrainian poets consists of responses to the events of recent years (2013-2015) and the groundbreaking social changes occurring in Ukraine today. Check back next week for more.

A Short Song about Love for the Native Tongue and National History
by Andriy Bondar
translated by Vitaly Chernetsky
Love and protect the Ukrainian tongue
By keeping your mouth shut.
It has thirty-two letters—
You once had just as many teeth
In your mouth.
The soft sign, a moist crustless loaf,
Best left for the famished.
It is thirty-third.
"Morning brings inclement weather…"
by Lyudmila Khersonskaya
translated by Dana Golin
Morning brings inclement weather. With a military parade,
in this law-abiding country, life stirs to life.
You look from the inside out—what is happening
seems a picture of hell.
In the age of iPhones, knee-deep in dense thicket of war,
and now these extremists hitting us over the head
with their jihad. Now we know what awaits us in hell—
a ballet of tanks on ice.
The skeleton of a ballet, to be precise. Our neighbor
got short-changed again at the grocery store.
He's out there in the cold, crying.
You can't see the tears—they're permafrost.
Even the half-blind cat gets it that the
explosions are part of the New Year celebrations.
Saint Nick walks around with an Uzi,
And the neighbor cries his invisible tears.
The weather is crappy, from early morning on.


***

You palpate your soul—feels alive.
It's holiday time, you snack without break all day,
without bending down to pick up the crumbs,
swaddling your feet for warmth.
Swaddling your feet, the way your mother did
when you were a child.
The nest of the featherbed, a smallish crib
with your treasured rubbish piled under it—
you'll rummage through it tomorrow, tonight you sleep.
Little gray bunny, little gray wolf, gray duckling—
where do color dreams come from in a country of gray dreariness?
Who is this girl? Whose sly cat is that?
Who's doomed to wear booties till spring?
Andriy Bondar (1974, Kamianets-Podilskyi). Poet, essayist, and translator. Laureate of the Smoloskyp Award (2007). Author of poetry collections A Spring Heresy (1998), Truth and Honey (2001), Primitive Forms of Ownership (2004), Lean Songs: A Collection of Junk Poetry and Primitive Lyrics (2014) and of a book of essays, Carrot Ice (2012). His poetry has been translated into English, German, French, Polish, Swedish, Portuguese, Romanian, Croatian, Lithuanian, Belarusian, and Czech. He translates from Polish and English. He lives near Kyiv.

Vitaly Chernetsky is an associate professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and director of the Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies at the University of Kansas. A native of Ukraine (Odessa, 1970), he received his PhD in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996. He is the author of Mapping Postcommunist Cultures: Russia and Ukraine in the Context of Globalization (2007). He co-edited a comprehensive anthology of contemporary Russian poetry in English translation, Crossing Centuries: The New Generation in Russian Poetry (2000) and an annotated Ukrainian translation of Edward Said's Culture and Imperialism (2007). He also guest-edited a special issue of Kinokultura on Ukrainian cinema (2009). He has been publishing translations from Ukrainian and Russian into English since 1992, including two novels by Yuri Andrukhovych, The Moscoviad (2008) and Twelve Circles (2015). He is the current president of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies.

Lyudmila Khersonskaya (1964, Tiraspol, Moldova). Poet and translator. Her works were published in the journals Novyi Mir, Znamia, Interpoesia, Deti Ra, and others. In 2011, the publishing house Russkii Gulliver (Moscow) published her book All Our People, which reached the top ten of best poetry books of the year. Translates English poetry, especially English-language poetry of Vladimir Nabokov and Seamus Heaney (published in Interpoesia, Khreshchatyk, Deribasovskaia-Rishelievskaia). Laureate of the Voloshin Festival. Lyudmila Khersonskaya has had readings in Moscow, Kyiv, Lviv, Munich, and New York. She lives in Odessa.

Dana Golin was born in Riga, Latvia (1966) and has lived in the United States since 1981. Her own poems in Russian appear in Gvideon, Novyi Zhurnal, Storony Sveta and Druzhba Narodov, and her translations in Atlanta Review, Big Bridge, Cortland Review, Eleven Eleven, Four Centuries, International Poetry Review, Plume, Modern Poetry in Translation, and Unsplendid. She has a graduate degree in Counseling Psychology and runs the counseling department of a New York City nursing college. From 2011 to 2013, she was an Assistant Professor at the American University of Central Asia, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
APR 24
2016
New Poetry
from Ukraine

Frogpondia is now featuring a 4-week-long series of new Ukrainian poetry, as an extension of St. Petersburg Review's inclusion of 14 Ukrainian poets in Issue #7. Our first poet in the series is Julia Dasbach, to be followed by a selection of poets from the recently-published anthology Letters from Ukraine. Posts will be updated weekly; check back next week for more.

what's left
Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach emigrated as a Jewish refugee from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine when she was six years old. She holds an M.F.A in Poetry from the University of Oregon and is working on a Ph.D. in the University of Pennsylvania's Comparative Literature & Literary Theory program. Julia's research focuses on the lyric rendering of trauma in contemporary American poetry related to the Holocaust. Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, Missouri Review, and Narrative Magazine, among others. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf and TENT Conferences as well as the Auschwitz Jewish Center. Julia is the author of The Bear Who Ate the Stars, winner of Split Lip Magazine's 2014 Uppercut Chapbook Award. She is also Editor-in-Chief of Construction Magazine.

of my city? or better yet admit
that it was never mine
or yours or theirs or anyone's
yet tanks enter Crimea
flags go up, bodies down
to knees, but this is not
the city I was born to, nor
its country, where the river twines
lilac rimmed and twins
from Dnepr to Dnipro, where
I followed the crunch of chestnuts
but now they've all
been crushed by tanks
entering Crimea and the nation
of my birth does not exist
—if nation ever did—

what binds us then if not a kind
of language? a Slavic or slave
root? the cry for Krim? a crime?
or what came on too easily
as childhood speech? what binds us
if not this body? history of tanks
entering Crimea where memory is shaped
by news translated into foreign words
I've made my own, incomprehensible
and kept unspoken, those tanks
entering Crimea and a poet—bourgeois wasp
without the sting—dedicates "a piece
to the Ukraine" not knowing its origin
in okraina, outskirt, border, edge,
na kotoroi, on which, you stand, but never
in, never v Ukrainye, always na

and still I write in English
with only a Russian tongue of na na na
a blood-song ringing as tanks enter
Crimea where my grandparents
spent summers watching the sun
set Soviet on the Black Sea,
telling my mother fairytales of fish
whose every golden scale could grant
a wish or turn into a body: child
who breathes beneath the waves
without language, country, city, scape,
but water, no home save one
where tanks become stray dogs
that never learned to swim and we
know nothing of Crimea and I
know even less
of what is left
Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach emigrated as a Jewish refugee from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine when she was six years old. She holds an M.F.A in Poetry from the University of Oregon and is working on a Ph.D. in the University of Pennsylvania's Comparative Literature & Literary Theory program. Julia's research focuses on the lyric rendering of trauma in contemporary American poetry related to the Holocaust. Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, Missouri Review, and Narrative Magazine, among others. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf and TENT Conferences as well as the Auschwitz Jewish Center. Julia is the author of The Bear Who Ate the Stars, winner of Split Lip Magazine's 2014 Uppercut Chapbook Award. She is also Editor-in-Chief of Construction Magazine.
DEC 5
2015
The Poet's Glory
by Luis Cernuda
translated by Stephen Kessler
Luis Cernuda (1902-1963), one of Spain's leading twentieth-century poets, left Spain during the civil war in 1938, spent nearly ten years in the United Kingdom (London, Cambridge, Glasgow) before taking a teaching position at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in 1947, and moved to Mexico in 1952. During the 1962-63 academic year he taught at San Francisco State and UCLA in California. His books in English include his collected prose poems, Written in Water, translated by Stephen Kessler (City Lights Books, 2004, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for best book of gay men's poetry), and Desolation of the Chimera, translated by Stephen Kessler (White Pine Press, 2009, selected by Edith Grossman for the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award of the Academy of American Poets). "The Poet's Glory" is from Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems [1924-1949] (Black Widow Press, 2015), available at the Black Widow Press website.

Stephen Kessler is a poet, prose writer, translator and editor based in California. His most recent books include Where Was I? (prose poems, Greenhouse Review Press, 2015), Need I Say More? (essays, El León Literary Arts, 2015), and Poems of Consummation by Vicente Aleixandre (translation, Black Widow Press, 2013). www.stephenkessler.com

My demon brother, my spitting image,
I saw you faded, hanging in the sky like a moon at dawn
Hidden in a cloud
Between horrible mountains,
A flowerlike flame, your tongue at my ear,
Whispering curses full of ignorant happiness,
Just like a little boy saying his prayers,
And laughing at how sick I am of this earth.

But it's not you,
My love turned eternal,
Who should be laughing at this dream, this impotence, this expulsion,
Because you and I are sparks of the same fire
And a selfsame breath launched us onto the dark waves
Of a strange creation, where men
Burn out like matches mounting the exhausting years of their lives.

Your flesh like mine
More than water and sunlight craves the caress of shade;
What arouses our words
Is the boy who resembles a flowering branch
Gracefully unfolding its blossoms and scent in the warm May air;
The constantly changing ocean full of the cries of gray gulls in a storm
Is what moves our eyes,
And our hands are moved to write beautiful poems we publish for men's contempt.

You know men, my dear brother;
See how they straighten their invisible crown,
Erased as they are in their women's shadow,
Weighed down with oblivious self-satisfaction
Worn a comfortable distance from the heart
As Catholic priests wear the sad little form of their god,
Conceiving children in a few moments stolen from sleep
So they can devote themselves to living together in the conjugal darkness
Of their cages stacked one atop the other.

Look at them getting lost out in the country,
Feeling ill at ease amid the elegant chestnuts or taciturn plane trees.
How they keep their chin up with such ambition,
Feeling a dark fear snapping at their heels;
See how they take the seventh day off as permitted,
While the counter, the cash register, the clinic, the desk, the office
Can feel the fresh air rustling through their desolate spaces.

Listen to them spouting their interminable words
Perfumed with a violent self-assurance,
Forcing an overcoat on the little boy in chains under the divine sun,
Or a warm drink, gentle on the throat
Going down,
For those who can't take water's natural chill.

Hear their commandments carved in marble
On what they call useful, normal, beautiful;
Hear how they dictate laws to the world, try to limit love, define inexpressible beauty,
While their senses revel in the sound of delirious loudspeakers;
Consider their strange minds
Attempting to build, child by child, a complex sandcastle
That might deny with its frightful façade the shining peace of the stars.

Those are the very ones, my brother,
The people with whom I'm dying all alone,
Phantoms that will give rise one day
To the solemn pedant trained to explain my words to his bored students,
And getting a little famous,
With a house in the capital's anxious foothills;
Just as you, behind your hazy rainbow,
Run your fingers through your long curls
And look down with a distracted expression
On this filthy earth where a poet is going under.

And yet you also know my voice is yours,
My love is yours;
Ah for just one long night
Let your warm dark body slip
Light as a whip
Underneath mine, a rotting mummy buried in some unmarked grave,
And let the bottomless spring of your kisses
Pour into me the fever of a passion gone dead between us;
Because I'm sick of the vain labor of words,
Like a boy skipping his sweet little stones over a lake
Merely to send a ripple through its stillness
Like the shadow of some great mysterious wing.

Now is the time, it's long past time
For your hands to plunge into my life
The poet's coveted and bitter knife—
One clean stroke through the heart,
Resonant and trembling like a lute
Where only death
And death alone
Can make the promised melody resound.
Luis Cernuda (1902-1963), one of Spain's leading twentieth-century poets, left Spain during the civil war in 1938, spent nearly ten years in the United Kingdom (London, Cambridge, Glasgow) before taking a teaching position at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in 1947, and moved to Mexico in 1952. During the 1962-63 academic year he taught at San Francisco State and UCLA in California. His books in English include his collected prose poems, Written in Water, translated by Stephen Kessler (City Lights Books, 2004, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for best book of gay men's poetry), and Desolation of the Chimera, translated by Stephen Kessler (White Pine Press, 2009, selected by Edith Grossman for the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award of the Academy of American Poets). "The Poet's Glory" is from Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems [1924-1949] (Black Widow Press, 2015), available at the Black Widow Press website.

Stephen Kessler is a poet, prose writer, translator and editor based in California. His most recent books include Where Was I? (prose poems, Greenhouse Review Press, 2015), Need I Say More? (essays, El León Literary Arts, 2015), and Poems of Consummation by Vicente Aleixandre (translation, Black Widow Press, 2013). www.stephenkessler.com
OCT 10
2015
from "The Mysterious Queen"
by Nory Marc Steiger

These two lithographs are illustrations from a graphic story about the surreal journey of a mysterious queen. The entire story can be found here in Issue 3.

Nory Marc Steiger is an international artist. Having lived and exhibited in Palm Springs, Manhattan, and Barcelona, he now resides in Montreal with his wife, Krystyna, who translates Russian literature. Represented here are two lithographs of a suite, "Wine which music is, music and wine are one," titled after, and inspired by, a passage in Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "Bacchus."



Nory Marc Steiger is an international artist. Having lived and exhibited in Palm Springs, Manhattan, and Barcelona, he now resides in Montreal with his wife, Krystyna, who translates Russian literature. Represented here are two lithographs of a suite, "Wine which music is, music and wine are one," titled after, and inspired by, a passage in Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "Bacchus."
JULY 1
2015
The Perfect Solution
by Bi Shuming
translated by Zhu Hong

This is a true story.

I have a friend, a working woman, called Hehuan (Happy Together).

One day Hehuan was diagnosed with breast cancer. One of Hehuan´s breasts was completely removed, and she had a good recovery. But Hehuan's husband declared that he could not accept a woman with one breast and a big long scar where the other breast should be. He said that if he continued to live with her, his own functions will wither away. He begged her to take pity on him and give him a divorce, so that he could go and live with a woman with two breasts. Her friends' advice to her was "No way!" In China, if one party in a marriage was seriously ill and the other party wanted out, it was considered very bad form. If my friend Hehuan refused to give her husband a divorce, the case would go to court and would drag on forever. Her friends told her: "You have been ill, you are the one to be pitied." But Hehuan said, "No, I don't need pity, I have confidence in life. He is the one to be pitied. Faced with a problem to be shared, he wants out. Let him go." So the husband was let go and he found happiness with two breasts, leaving Hehuan to raise their son on her own.

Told by the writer Bi Shuming to Zhu Hong over lunch at M on the Square, Beijing. Bi Shuming, trained in medicine and psychology, had practiced medicine before turning to full-time writing. Her latest book, Blue Heaven, recorded her 114-day trip around the world on the Japanese ocean-liner Peace, the first such trip ever taken by a Chinese citizen. Translation by Zhu Hong.

It is true, though, that a woman did look odd with only one breast. The gel replacement breast available at the hospital was beyond her means. Hehuan realized that she must find her own solution to the problem. After some hard thinking, she went and bought newly picked cotton and stuffed them into the toes of several old nylon socks, and tucked the little balls under her empty bra. They did give her stricken breast a more natural look.

A new problem cropped up unexpectedly. One day Hehuan got on a bus. It was standing space only and Hehuan had to raise her arm to hold onto the strap to keep herself steady. Suddenly Hehuan found all eyes turned to her in alarm. She followed the line of their gaze and she herself had a shock. The fact was, as she raised her arm to hold on to the strap, the cotton-stuffed bra slid up and finally landed on the nape of her neck, like a large tumor that suddenly materialized before everybody's eyes! When Hehuan went swimming, the cotton-filled nylon socks would be soaked and slid away from under her bra to float in the water like deflated balloons clustered around her waist. Under the circumstances, she had no choice but to scurry out of the pool and get dressed. These accidents were embarassing, but they only happened once in a while.

Hehuan had more serious problems at work. The heavy manual work that she was doing demanded that she balance her weight, or she would trip. But her cotton-stuffed bra was too light to maintain balance. Hehuan realized that she must change the component of her make-do bra. After some hard thinking, she decided to use grains instead of cotton to weigh down her bra. But which kind of grain would provide the perfect balance? She tried rice, then millet, then red beans and finally decided on green mung beans. The last seemed a perfect fit in terms of size and weight. Hehuan sewed a handful of green mung beans into the old nylon sock and stuffed it under her bra. It worked. Now that she had the perfect solution for balanced breasts, Hehuan found a new job pulling handcarts.

Summer arrived with its oppressive heat, and she sweated a lot. One day Hehuan felt something warm and sticky under her bean-padded bra. Lo and behold, the mung beans, watered by her own sweat, had sprouted! Mung bean sprouts sticking out from her old sock right under her bra!

Hehuan realized that she had a new problem, but nothing that couldn´t be fixed. She stir-fried the green mung beans. Yes, stir-fry. That would take care of the sprouting, she figured. But soon another problem arose. As she walked in and out of a room, people would sniff the air and ask, ''Ummm! Stir-fried beans! Where is this fragrance coming from....'' Hehuan realized that her solution to mung bean sprouts had created a new problem. After trying this and that, Hehuan found the perfect solution, the Happy Medium. She still stir-fried the mung beans, but just enough to kill off any sprouting—decidedly no deep-fry to make fragrant ''stir-fried beans.'' Rare to Medium, one might say. And that was the happy ending to Hehuan's search for the perfect bra and perfectly balanced breasts in order to hold down her job.

When Hehuan told me her story, she was still working. Her son had finished college and was married. Soon, she added, she will be a grandma.

Told by the writer Bi Shuming to Zhu Hong over lunch at M on the Square, Beijing. Bi Shuming, trained in medicine and psychology, had practiced medicine before turning to full-time writing. Her latest book, Blue Heaven, recorded her 114-day trip around the world on the Japanese ocean-liner Peace, the first such trip ever taken by a Chinese citizen. Translation by Zhu Hong.
DEC 14
2014
Manifesto: A Press Release from PRKA
by George Saunders

Now it can be told.

Last Thursday, my organization, People Reluctant to Kill for an Abstraction (PRKA), orchestrated an overwhelming show of force around the globe.

At precisely nine in the morning, working with focus and stealth, our entire membership succeeded in simultaneously beheading no one. At nine-thirty, we embarked upon Phase II, during which our entire membership simultaneously did not force a single man to suck another man's penis. At ten, Phase III began, during which not a single one of us blew himself/herself up in a crowded public place. No civilians were literally turned inside out via our powerful explosives. No previously funny person was reduced to a baggy pile of bloody leaking flesh, by us, during this Phase of our operation. In addition, at eleven, in Phase IV, zero (0) planes were flown into buildings.

George Saunders has published over twenty short stories and numerous Shouts & Murmurs in The New Yorker. His work includes the short-story collections "CivilWarLand in Bad Decline" (a finalist for the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award), "Pastoralia," "In Persuasion Nation" (a finalist for the Story Prize), "Tenth of December" (a finalist for the National Book Award and recipient of the Folio Prize), and, most recently, "Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness," a transcript of his 2013 convocation address at Syracuse University, where he teaches. Saunders has won prizes for his best-selling children's book, "The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip," and for a book of essays entitled "The Braindead Megaphone," and he has been featured in the "O. Henry Prize Stories," "Best American Short Stories," "Best American Nonrequired Reading," "Best American Travel Writing," and "Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy" anthologies. Saunders has received fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

All of this was accomplished so surreptitiously, it attracted little public notice.

During Phase V, just after lunch, while continuing to avoid the activities listed above, we were able to avoid bulldozing a single home. Furthermore, we set, on roads in every city, in every nation in the world, a total of zero (0) roadside bombs which, not being there, did not subsequently explode, killing/maiming a total of nobody. No bombs, cluster bombs, or rockets were launched into crowded civilian neighborhoods, from which, it was observed, no post-bomb sickening momentary silences could be heard. These silences were, in all cases, followed by no unimaginable, grief-stricken bellows of rage and loss. No sleeping babies were awakened from sleep by the sudden collapse and/or bursting into flame of his/her domicile, followed by the tortured screams of his/her family members, during Phase V.

In the early afternoon (Phase VI), our membership focused on using zero (0) trained dogs to bite/terrorize naked prisoners. In addition, no stun guns, rubber batons, rubber bullets, tear gas, or real bullets were used, by our membership, on any individual, anywhere in the world. No one was forced to don a hood. No teeth were pulled in darkened rooms. Drills were not used on human flesh, nor were whips or flames. No one was reduced to hysterical tears via a series of blows to the head or body, by us. Our membership, while casting no racial or ethnic aspersions, skillfully continued not to rape, gang-rape, or sexually assault a single person. On the contrary, during this afternoon phase, many of our membership engaged in tender loving sexual acts, flirted happily, and even consoled, in a non-sexual way, individuals to whom they were attracted, putting aside their sexual feelings out of a sudden welling of empathy.

As night fell, our membership harbored no secret feelings of rage or hatred or, if they did, prayed, meditated, or discussed these feelings with a friend, until such time as the feelings abated, or were understood to be symptomatic of some deeper sadness, at which time they made silent promises to continue to struggle with these feelings.

It should be noted that, in addition to the above-listed and planned activities completed by our members, a number of unplanned activities were completed, by part-time members, or even non-members.

In Chitral, Pakistan, for example, a new Al Qeda recruit remembered an elderly American woman who had once made him laugh with a snide remark about an ugly lampshade, and the way that, as she made the remark, she touched his arm, like a mother. In Gaza, an Israeli soldier and a young Palestinian exchanged a brief look of mutual shame. In London, a bitter homophobic grandfather whose grocery bag broke open gave a loaf of very nice bread to a balding gay man who stopped to help him. A stooped toothless woman in Tokyo pounded her head with her hands, tired beyond belief of her lifelong feelings of anger and negativity, and silently prayed that her heart would somehow miraculously be opened before it was too late. In Syracuse, New York, holding the broken body of his kitten, a man wept.

Who are we? A word about our membership.

Since the world began, we have gone about our work quietly, resisting the urge to generalize, insisting upon valuing the individual over the group, the actual over the conceptual, the inherent sweetness of a peaceful moment over the theoretically peaceful future supposedly to be obtained via murder or massacre. Many of us have trouble sleeping, and lie awake at night, worrying about something catastrophic befalling someone we love. We rise in the morning with no plans to convert anyone via beating, humiliation, murder, or invasion. To tell the truth, we are tired. We work. We would just like some peace and quiet. When wrong, we think about it awhile, then apologize. We stand under awnings during urban thunderstorms, moved to thoughtfulness by the beautiful, troubled, umbrella-tinged faces rushing by. In moments of crisis, we pat one another awkwardly on the back, mumbling shy truisms. Rushing to an appointment, remembering a friend who has passed away, our eyes well with tears and we think: Well, my God, I was lucky just to have known him.

This is us. This is who we are. This is PRKA. To those who would oppose us, I would simply say: We are many. We are worldwide. We, in fact, outnumber you. Though you are louder, though you create a momentary ripple on the water of life, we will endure, and prevail.

Join us.

Resistance is futile.


First published in St. Petersburg Review, Issue One, White Nights.

George Saunders has published over twenty short stories and numerous Shouts & Murmurs in The New Yorker. His work includes the short-story collections "CivilWarLand in Bad Decline" (a finalist for the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award), "Pastoralia," "In Persuasion Nation" (a finalist for the Story Prize), "Tenth of December" (a finalist for the National Book Award and recipient of the Folio Prize), and, most recently, "Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness," a transcript of his 2013 convocation address at Syracuse University, where he teaches. Saunders has won prizes for his best-selling children's book, "The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip," and for a book of essays entitled "The Braindead Megaphone," and he has been featured in the "O. Henry Prize Stories," "Best American Short Stories," "Best American Nonrequired Reading," "Best American Travel Writing," and "Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy" anthologies. Saunders has received fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.