Walking back from the Lower East Side on a hot night

Walking back from the Lower East Side on a hot night

Walking back from the Lower East Side on a hot night, the stores have reverted to their true selves – which is to say that they are mirages now again, fragile beneath the great emptiness yawning over the streets, insides scooped out of illusion. Bars disgorge the happy and drunk and the unhappy and drunk and those who can’t make up their minds. I can’t see the stars, but the sky is dark with the knowledge of them.

You’re walking me home and I’m thinking that love doesn’t know when to quit. Love is not people. People quit every time. People roll their suitcases down the sidewalk and are swallowed up by “around the corner,” by “in the distance,” not to mention “time.” People close doors behind them. People fly in airplanes, telling the flight attendant that they want another little bottle of bad red wine, instead of telling her the truth, which is that the world is splitting wide open like a wound on either side of the airplane, the wings are scraping tissue and drawing blood, and does she know that you can quit but love doesn’t come with that option.

My feet hurt. The reality of the body has a way of intruding on historic occasions. My feet hurt but I’m telling them to suck it up. Don’t fail me now, feet. Don’t make me get into a cab.

The buildings here are superimposed on reality, on immigrants, the Lenape, settlers, glaciers, Pangea, broken before it was broken, like everything that lives in the world. I like to think that you and I will also haunt these streets, because I’m vain, and because of the way you look right now, like the light isn’t falling on you as much as it is dancing around you, like it knows things about you that I thought I knew alone. Continue reading “Walking back from the Lower East Side on a hot night”

Dress Like Water

Dress Like Water

Mr. Hodges says that not enough people come to see him and that those people who don’t should get their hides ready for a slow roast in hell. The nurse says he’s rude to put it like that, but Mr. Hodges argues that dying men don’t need manners. What can you even say to that?

I guess the fact that I come over reminds Mr. Hodges of how Billy isn’t coming over. When I say that Billy’s not around, people’s facial expressions turn complicated, and they say things like, “So he took off? He snapped?” They say it like they’ve been waiting for him to do it for a long time.

The truth is, Billy is in Louisville, he has a job and a house with a big yard, and his wife is already pregnant with their second child. Billy is solid – not snapping, breaking, cracking, or otherwise disintegrating. He just doesn’t want to see his dad. Or else he wants to see him, but feels like he can’t. He won’t say either way.

So it’s been pointed out to me that I’m not necessarily the one Mr. Hodges wants to see, but the old man’s grip on reality isn’t as tight as it used to be, so certain things he can let slide. There is also the fact that Mr. Hodges says that “a good-looking woman who knows Billy” has been to see him.

“She’s a sly one,” Mr. Hodges murmurs, eyes closed, facing the wall. “Slinks around everywhere. Her dresses look like water. I like her.”

The woman sounds awfully like the bitch Billy left me for. I’m not staking her out – but I’m staking her out.  Continue reading “Dress Like Water”

From your humble (and very cold) blog author: news, announcements, CIS-related links, and a request for tips

From your humble (and very cold) blog author: news, announcements, CIS-related links, and a request for tips

Dear friends, subscribers, and people who stop by to yell at me about my unladylike use of curse words,

Hi! Happy 1st of November! Please note, my use of glitter in the above picture is ironic.

November, of course, is not a month for irony. It’s a month for doomed love affairs that need to be conducted in flannel pajama pants, because weather.

Since I currently can’t afford flannel pajama pants (more on that in a minute), I’ve started this month off by reorganizing and updating my story archive. The latest addition to the archive is The Girl Who Went for a Ride, inspired by all of those years I spent working for The Moscow News, which has been obliterated from existence both online and in the print archives, apparently.

(When I started working at TMN in 2010, first as deputy editor, it was an editorially independent newspaper that was also state funded. I guess some people would prefer to pretend it never existed. Or maybe it’s gone due to a stupid bureaucratic error. Maybe those of who worked there in the bitter days between the announcement of our parent news agency’s liquidation and the closure of the paper will never know.)

I am also working on a new archive for my poetry, essays, and some experimental pieces I have in the pipeline. Stay tuned.

A lot of my writer and editor friends have pointed out that publishing poetry and fiction on a personal site is self-marginalizing. They are mostly correct.

I spent the last decade working as a journalist, writing poems and stories spontaneously, not having much energy or time to send them to magazines. In some ways, the blog has been a cop-out. In another way, it made my style evolve in a weird, unfashionable, but personally rewarding way. And it gained me your company in the process.

So I will continue publishing here even as I also work on creative projects elsewhere. I will be excited to share them with you when the time comes.

For those of you who recently tuned in: Since losing my old job in what became known as my Third Consecutive Professional Disaster a year ago, I was forced to reassess my priorities. I had to make more room in my life for things that I loved – whether they be riffs on Yeats or flash fiction about big  bugs and rotten teeth. I had no choice.

I hope you will read, enjoy, and donate (or tip, as some of you prefer to call it) when you can. Especially if you enjoyed the latest story. And especially this month. Here is the magic button:

*poof* *magic*

Because, did I say Novembers are for pajamas and love? For me they seem to be more about things going awry/bump in the night, and cold winds biting me in uncomfortable places. Even in Greece, where we’re living a kind of la vie de bohème right now. Don’t get me wrong, Greece is the country for that kind of life, it’s not a sleek sort of place, it has a rugged and ragged heart, people here care for each other in ways I’ve never observed elsewhere, but I do wish we resembled the bohème a little less at the moment.  Continue reading “From your humble (and very cold) blog author: news, announcements, CIS-related links, and a request for tips”

The Girl Who Went For a Ride: a tale of horror (maybe)

The Girl Who Went For a Ride: a tale of horror (maybe)

There once lived a girl who knew she was destined for great things, but great things were always taking too long to appear on her horizon. She bided her time with her husband, a street magician, and her best friend, whose main like of work was being an artist’s mistress. Greatness teased the girl, slyly peeking around the corner up ahead and disappearing again, laughing with other people at parties.

One autumn day, when the skies were clear but the air already smelled like snow, the girl was walking home from her job, when a long, black car pulled up next to her in the street. There was a man in the back seat of the car and he rolled his window down. The man’s eyes were shiny and rich and dead, like drops of oil. “I’ve been looking for you,” said the man, and opened the car door, inviting her in. The girl got in, congratulating herself on her bravery as she did so. Greatness required bravery. Continue reading “The Girl Who Went For a Ride: a tale of horror (maybe)”

His Sin, Her Soul: On Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (republished from The Second Pass)

His Sin, Her Soul: On Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (republished from The Second Pass)

Original publication date: MONDAY NOVEMBER 30TH, 2009. Republished with kind permission from John Williams.

His Sin, Her Soul
By Natalia Antonova

Reviewed:
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The luster of scandal wore off Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita a while ago. Anyone reading the testimony of Roman Polanski’s teenage victim on The Smoking Gun must have little capacity to be shocked by Humbert Humbert’s fictional crimes. I’m willing to bet that for the modern reader, the only shocking thing about Lolita is how the writing transforms the subject matter into a thing of startling beauty, and how effortlessly Nabokov avoids prurience in order to create something more chilling.

But while the scandal of it may have faded, the book’s vocabulary continues to live a life of its own. When a young girl is called a Lolita, we imagine a knowingly hyper-sexualized child, one who wears too much of her older sister’s make-up and lets her underwear peek out as she wanders into the peripheral vision of some man. If “Lolita” isn’t always code for “she was asking for it,” it’s at least a suggestion of some impropriety or mitigating factor, an indication that an older man’s younger victim wasn’t exactly a gentle-faced virgin — or she certainly didn’t look like it, Your Honor.

In light of this cultural appropriation, I wasn’t surprised when a fairly good friend asked me why on earth I — a stridently vocal survivor of sexual abuse, someone who screams her head off every time someone shrugs that “boys will be boys” — would profess so much admiration for Nabokov’s most famous book. Don’t I realize that Lolita the book and Lolita the term feed off one another in the public sphere? And that even if it were possible to separate it from the hiss of cultural static that has amplified around it over the years, Lolita is still a book that takes an extremely ugly story and makes it extremely gorgeous? Implicit in these inquiries was the real question, of course, which emerged after my replies failed to satisfy: “How can you stand reading it, with everything you say you have been through?” Continue reading “His Sin, Her Soul: On Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (republished from The Second Pass)”