from "Sly Bang"

Nora heard Larissa as from a distance. “We are never alone,” she mumbled. “But Larissa, we are. It’s the nature of life, this loneliness. Kurt Cobain, David Foster Wallace, Primo Levi, suicides. All the suicides.”

“We are all alone here, dear Nora,” Hawk replied. “You are all alone. All alone except for me. Think, Nora: Do you have any friends? Real friends? Would real friends let everything that has happened to you happen? And your colleagues—didn’t they abandon you when you most needed them? How do you know they are not working for Ouspensky? You don’t. No. Monstrous, really. No, darling, you really are all alone. Except for me. I love you. I am the only person in the world who cares for you now.”

Nora’s head nodded. Primo Levi. Auschwitz. If this is a man? The Chalet. God? No. Nod. Nap. Nothing else.

NORA, Victor Frankl! There is meaning in life. Nora, they can’t take your soul, no matter how they try. Remember that. This next is going to be very ugly.



Larissa Shmailo is an American poet, novelist, translator, and critic.  Her poetry collections are Medusa’s Country#specialcharactersIn Paran, the chapbook A Cure for Suicide, and the e-book Fib Sequence. Her latest novel is Sly Bang; her first is Patient Women. Shmailo’s work has appeared in Plume, the Brooklyn Rail, Fulcrum, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, the Journal of Poetics Research, Drunken Boat, Barrow Street, and the anthologies Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters, Words for the Wedding, Contemporary Russian Poetry, Resist Much/Obey Little: Poems for the Inaugural, Verde que te quiero verde: Poems after Garcia Lorca, and many others. Shmailo is the original English-language translator of the world's first performance piece, Victory over the Sun by Alexei Kruchenych. Shmailo also edited the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry and has been a translator on the Russian Bible for the American Bible Society. Please see more about Shmailo at her website at and on Wikipedia at


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 21:12