Lager NYC

You, volunteer:
You choose to be here

You, volunteer:
You know the difference
Between cause and effect:
The people on the street
Are too stupid to have homes
Too filthy to wash
See them root through the garbage
Nicht essen aber fressen
Ni yest' a zhryat'

They deserve to be there
They deserve to be there

See the dark people
Sitting in the cells
They deserve to be there
They deserve to be there
And the women of the Frauenblock
The Fraulein triple X
Control her, detain her
Pick her up 

Cause and effect:
You know which is which.

You, volunteer:
We see you
On the job where you whisper
Half of what you think
And none of what you feel.

See the clock:
The digital tattoo says run now
Rush to the train the transport
Who cares who gets in
Who cares who gets out
Push into the car the transport
Who cares who gets home
Who cares who gets shot
Arbeit macht frei.
You choose this
You choose:

Hey, you, volunteer
We find ourselves together in the subway
The Grand Ka-Ze Zentral:
Here in Ka-Ze
Your face is not a face
Ni litso, a morda:
Your face is not a face
But a snout
We don't eat here, we devour
Nicht essen aber fressen
Ni yest' a zhriat

We don't give an inch
And we don't give a damn
Only weaklings fall to the tracks
God knows the difference
Between cause and effect.

The selection is over:
Look how it happened that you fell.
You choose this
You choose this



The text of "Lager NYC" first appeared in In Paran (BlazeVOX [books] 2009). The audio first appeared in the author's spoken-word CD, The No-Net World.



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 Sunday, December 11, 2016 - 19:28