Summer night Kiev blues

I was born in Kiev, Ukraine,
I was young and running wild -
“Be a darling,” said the raven,
“Keep my beak inside your heart.”
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine,
Beak in heart and heart in throat,
Acid bubbling in the tear ducts,
Muscle in a Gordian knot.
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine -
Soldiers shivered in the ground
As the god of tits and wine
Put my fire out with his tongue.
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine -
I am friends with rock and rye,
Candle flame and worm and lichen,
And the torture spikes of stars.
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine,
I have seen the mirror crack,
I have seen the flaming sword
Buried in a templar’s back.
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine,
I have knelt for the Red Sun,
Drank the moonlight from the river ,
Stroked a hussar’s shiny gun.
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine,
In its hollow bones are caves,
In the caves the saints are sleeping,
In the saints the wormholes wait.
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine -
Thank you, physics, thank you, fate,
Thank you, lindens, thank you, chestnuts,
Thank you, cemetery gate.

I was born in Kiev, Ukraine -
The fault lines in my face
Cry tears of happiness,
Cry tears of happiness.

With thanks to Solomia and the musicians who play at the Buena Vista Bar in downtown Kiev on Thursdays

Moonlight night on the Dnepr. Arkhip Kuindzhi.

Moonlit night on the Dnepr. Arkhip Kuindzhi.

I just read gay Strelkov porn so you wouldn’t have to

Note: After I wrote this post, I made the decision to insert a bunch of gifs with hot men in them. It’s not for you – it’s for me. To preserve my soul.

When Heather McRobie alerted me to the fact that erotic gay fan fiction featuring Igor Strelkov (Girkin), former (?) separatist leader in eastern Ukraine (and he’s actually from Russia, btw), was for sale on Amazon, I knew I had to take one for the team. Kind of like Batman – if Batman sat at home in a bathrobe and wrote about porn.

bale is amused

So here are some essential facts about “Sucking Strelkov”:

- Great title!

- It’s all downhill from the moment you read that great title!

- And it’s almost as if this story, which is 5,7k words long, was written specifically for a journalist to discover it and start shrieking about it on the internet. Immediately, from the way it is written, you start to suspect that it was written by a journalist as well. Or, at the very least, someone who has done a lot of traveling in Ukraine in recent months. HMMMMMM.

daario winks

- The narrator is a lady. It makes me think the author is a lady.

- I’m not the main target audience for hot dude-on-dude action, but I can still recognize something hot when I see it (or read it). “Sucking Strelkov” is NOT hot. It’s not because the writing is bad, mind you. The author knows her subject matter. She knows, for example, that gay sex is a touchy (sorry) subject in Russia right now. She knows the Russian obsession with bureaucracy. She knows a whole lot, in fact.

jon snow knows

- Strelkov is tired, emotionless, and has a small dick. That, combined with the fact that Strelkov rapes a dude in this story, makes me think that a bunch of Novorossiya fans – who are generally all about manliness and glory, among other things – would get VERY pissed off if they read this. And maybe that’s the point?

- The Russian cult of heterosexual masculinity has been getting a lot of pushback in Europe in recent months. Everyone’s tired of Russians being all MANLIER THAN THOU all the time. This story appears to tap into that – whether consciously or unconsciously.

- This story is really all about rape, but the word “rape” is never mentioned. That also makes it realistic. Rape is often a tool of war – and in war zones, it frequently takes on an almost casual quality.

- The author doesn’t like Strelkov, but her brief descriptions of him make me believe that she has watched a fair bit of footage of him, at the very least. She taps into the ambivalence of his public persona really well.

- Did I mention that this is really, honestly, completely not hot?

- Paying nearly two dollars for this is a rip-off – but it also makes me think as though the whole “east Ukraine separatists” thing could be its own genre. If PTERODACTYL PORN exists, why not?

- I feel icky now.

loki is all like um

Chyorny Dnepr: Mermaid Song

God, I must be getting older,
A sickly pigeon on my shoulder
Weeps diuretics from one round eye.
God, I must be getting weaker,
The teeth in my head are getting softer,
The teeth in my head crumble to chalk.
I pull them out of my mouth,
And draw your picture on the sidewalk:
With a bigger dick than I remember,
With kinder eyes than I remember,
If history’s to be forgotten,
No point in sticking to the facts.
God, my nails are like quartz,
Gnawing deep into my weeping skin.
God, my thoughts are like black water,
Licking at a thinning dam.
In a billion years this gut and bones,
The fragile pelvis you briefly made your home,
Will be fuel in a lantern
Lighting the way of a stranger’s progress
On a black shore under rearranged stars,
And that is the only immortality you and I may have.

This one’s from a new play of mine. Possibly the last play ever (but I always say that, don’t I? I am always having horrendous break-ups with the theater, only to come back again). A drunk mermaid stumbles out of the water and sings this on the beach of the Dnepr River in Ukraine. The play is set a few months before Euromaidan —> Yanukovych’s toppling —> Annexation of Crimea —-> Civil war in the East.

Jack of hearts

Men have always said, “Don’t you dare write about me.”

Max never said anything of the sort, because writing didn’t exist for him, not really. It was real the way Australia might be real to someone in Europe. You’d see people from Australia posting on Twitter when the night was too hot for sleep and that would be as far as you were willing to cross into that particular reality. Not that Max had a Twitter.

One time, a drunk cab driver hit Max with his car outside a highway gas station somewhere in darkest East Ukraine. Max, who was drunk himself, got up from the asphalt, dragged the cab driver out of the cab by his hair and started punching him. Max’s friends told me this story, so I know he didn’t make it up (I hadn’t known him to make shit up, but at that point, I had worked as a journalist for too long to believe people outright most of the time). They said his then-wife had been literally hanging off of his arm, trying to make him let the cab driver go. He had several broken ribs and fingers at the time. What was impressive, they said, was how his anger was bigger than his pain. I think about that anger often, as I watch the news from East Ukraine.

“Goddamn it, Natalia,” you just said. “This trick of telling us about Ukraine via the prism of Dudes You Used To Date is getting old. If that’s what you’re doing again…”

That is exactly what I’m doing again. And it’s also not what I’m doing at all. That is not what I meant at all. That is not it. Etc.

Max, whose name isn’t really Max, didn’t date me. Instead, he came to see me at odd times. One time, he came to pick me up from the airport, after I’d flown in from Dubai. I was expecting my parents, but there was Max instead, grim like the weather, a bomber jacket on him I have never forgotten, because of the way the collar felt against my fingers.

“What are you doing here?” I said.

“I’m taking you home.”

I wanted to say something dramatic about how I have no home, but I was too tired from the flight. The familiar road from Borispyl Airport to Kiev was curiously empty, and it made me briefly wonder if the world had ended.

Timing is everything. It’s what John Donne knew, and Keats, and Dire Straits, and the man who once served Max and I beer in a roadside cafe, then turned around and said that it’s technically too early for beer anyway, but that we look like adults willing to take responsibility for our bad decisions. How we laughed. How small my hand felt in his hand, then – and my hands aren’t exactly small. How absolutely feral, his presence. Hungover, I rested my head against the complicated topography of muscle underneath his shirt.

Every once in a while, you need a man to be your wolf, carrying you on his back through the night.

When you don’t have that – well, you stagger on through the night on your own accord, and you skin will cry tiny seams of blood from the brambles, and you will probably get old prematurely, and none of that will be a tragedy, in the end. Or, rather, it will be a tragedy that’s muted in a very English way, on in an Anna Akhamtova way, when she struggles to get the glove onto the wrong hand, because she is distracted.

You might expect me to write that I took Max for granted, that I took youth and freedom for granted, but honestly, I don’t think I did.

And when he carried me on his back through the dark after we left some bar, I shuddered with every step he took, and staring sideways at the moon, I felt as though I might go cross-eyed, and I asked the pale face of the moon to not punish me for my happiness, and when we walked together we would stop and light candles in every open church we came across, and when I felt my hair streaming down my back as he undid my topknot the sensation thickened my blood into amber, and my breaths were very, very slow and light, and I felt afraid of disturbing the way the atoms in the room had arranged themselves. And when I asked him, much later, if he had been happy, he raised an eyebrow at me and told me not to ask extremely dumb fucking questions. It was just that the time allotted to us was short.

In Moscow last month, there was a heat wave before the cold spell. The air kept getting hotter with the dawn, humming with invisible energy, stifling the breath and blooming wild roses on the children’s cheeks, growing more and more unbearable with the minute, until the entire damn pressure cooker erupted in thunderstorms around lunchtime, making me pause in the street, palms up in exhausted gratitude. It felt as though if I stood there long enough, the rain would wash my thoughts away.

I have been concerning myself with work, with a new play, with my son’s immediate needs, with chilling the champagne. I have never felt more stupid or more uncertain about anything.

I just wanted to write that “I have never been more afraid,” but that’s not exactly true.  Continue reading

In which I spend entirely too much time responding to the same damn argument creepy Ukraine crisis trolls ALWAYS make around here

Recent articles on paid troll organizations in Russia haven’t surprised me – ’cause they’re not that recent a phenomenon (though lately, it seems, they are going after Western publications with a vengeance). The thing about a paid troll is that you can rationalize their actions. When I get messages that are apparently sincere in their utter hatred – I don’t know what to do. Well, aside from responding with gifs, I guess. The guy below is one of the “regulars” here. My latest appearance on a HuffPost Live panel has upset him. 

For a Russian state media hack, you are remarkably good at crying crocodile tears about what’s happening in Ukraine, the homeland you have egregiously betrayed.

Russian trolls are also fond of blathering about “traitors” among us. At least they usually do it in a more entertaining way.

Lest your readers forget, you worked at RIA Novosti before moving on to Russia Beyond The Headlines. YOU’RE A HACK.

A grateful hack, too. Grateful to have worked at The Moscow News/RIA Novosti, grateful to have stayed there all the way until the bitter end, grateful to have excellent Russian colleagues at Russia Beyond and in general.

johnny depp says deal with it

And the fact that you appear to be taken seriously at decent media just makes this reader want to dig around and see who it is you’re doing favors for and the nature of these favors. The public at large knows that Russia is very good at using supple young women to promote its agenda abroad.

See this accusation keeps coming up AGAIN and AGAIN, and it’s really interesting, because what it basically comes down to is that, “All Russians are barbaric neanderthals. All of the editors at the Western media outlets you work with are also barbaric neanderthals. Sexism is not cool when the Russians engage in it, but it’s perfectly OK for me to be a sexist dick, ’cause my name is not Vladimir. I’d never accuse a man of what I’m accusing you of, but I’m still an enlightened member of a clearly superior society.”

Right.

you don't say david tennant

It is not a fucking compliment, Natty. Whores engage in more honest business.

ACCUSING A WOMAN OF SLEEPING WITH HER EDITORS IN ORDER TO GET PUBLISHED IS NOT A FUCKING COMPLIMENT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Your Twitter attacks on Timothy Snyder have been duly noted. Who’s paying you for that huh? And is the money really that good?

EGAD. Someone has discovered my secret gig! I get paid to disagree with historians on social media! Now this has totally RUINED things for me, of course, because now everyone is going to want to sign up.

Honestly what makes you think as if you are even worthy to speak on the subject of Snyder’s work? You are barely educated.

It’s true. As we all know, people who disagree with Timothy Snyder on the internet have all graduated from the Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too.

mugatu says youre right

In conclusion, go ahead and be a ‘comfort woman’ for the Russians if they pay you so well. Just don’t imagine it will save you from the Gulagg. Whores are especially expendable at time of war.

Because I was somewhat trained in literary criticism (my professors will probably disagree on how well I responded to the training), I am actually amazed that it takes this guy so long to just come out and call me a whore. You can kind of see him building up to it, then abandoning that track, then coming back to it, for reasons that would probably be fascinating if I was into serious criticism of batshit comments on the Internet.

Also, “the Gulagg.”

And quit your crying about how “bad” you feel about what is happening to Ukraine. Collaborationist pigs don’t get to have have a voice. In any just society they’d cute off the pretty hair of yours and march you through the streets. Bitch.

You know, I’m not going to pretend that crap like this doesn’t get to me. It’s really low, obviously deranged, and it comes from what appears to be a very tiny group of people on the Internet, but it still gets to me sometimes. Especially now, when things are so hard, on various fronts. When they are too hard to even talk about.

arya is tired

PS you looked like a whore at HUFFPOLIVE today. But this is what you people do isn’t it – show skin when you have nothing interesting to say except for the usual “rah rah Russia” dung.

Good to know that me wearing a damn sundress in the middle of a heatwave in Moscow can now also be used against me.

Just in case anyone is wondering, this is what I looked like on HuffPost Live today:

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 22.54.47

I know I shouldn’t be responding to any of this. I know I shouldn’t be justifying anything – or, for that matter, producing actual screenshots of what I looked like on a political panel in order to counter a stupid troll – but it’s the kind of week when merely ignoring it, deleting, and forgetting doesn’t help.

It especially doesn’t help that one of the people who writes me these things is very much a “real” person, someone whom I have a friend in common with back in the States, someone who has been to Russia – so not the kind of person you can stick into the “anonymous crazies” folder you will then demonstrably burn.

And it’s especially hard, because things in Ukraine are not getting better. The east of the country is descending into full-blown civil war. These aren’t just headlines from far away – this is personal, and it is terrifying, and dealing with trolls in the midst of it is profoundly ugly, and I can only cope with it by ridiculing it publicly, I guess.

And breaking out the ice cream after that. And the mint juleps, which go well with this heat, and make everything that much more tolerable.

am i the only one