"The Trick Wants to Go to Plato's" and "Bhakti (From Lord Siva to Mahadevi-Akka)"

The Trick Wants to Go to Plato's

My trick wants to go to Plato's.
We go to the old Ansonia Baths
where a thousand gay men fucked
a thousand times a night for years.
Now it is Plato's Retreat; no single men are allowed without a date.
I sign a document attesting that I am not a prostitute;
my whore name is Nora, after Ibsen;
I add Nader, going green for Ralph, and strip.
I scarf down a bagel, hard and cold, at the buffet,
look in the angled light at the rich naked people
some still shyly wearing their towels and dive:
I go into the mattress room.


A daisy chain has formed, a length of copulating people,
each one on the left servicing the right, up and down.
The trick is suddenly timid and urges me to start: He will watch.
There is cunnilingus to the middle-aged blonde
then a line of men; they find me and move in, one by one,
young, old, some good looking, most average at best.
We fuck. And fuck. And fuck again.
Suddenly comes a man hirsute, pressing, he disgusts me.
I push him away and he pushes back hard
but on the chain beside me, a languid man,
turns to him and says, Sir, the lady said no, and miraculously,
the ape disappears. I feel a moment of gratitude,
extinguished by the semen of the next man.


I work every day. After three tricks,
I wait for my pimp at midnight at the door of Studio 54;
he falls out of a cab in sneakers and tie, carrying his poetry notebooks
and a book by Roland Barthes. Steve Rubell himself lets us in.
I follow the pimp to the floor and we dance; he dances well.
He is like the bottles of cheap amyl nitrate he carries for sex, dizzying, sickening,
my freebase, my cocaine.


The pimp at my house, Friends with Style, is a small misshapened man
with an ugly face; He tells me he went to Yale.
I work the phones and the tricks come in.
First the Hassid, and this shiksa was his practice.
Harry Abram's son brings me a book of Magritte.
Sarah and I do a three way with a red-haired man
who says he knows Reggie Jackson; of course we are impressed.


Later in the day, when it is quiet and I am alone, a cop comes in;
I freeze; I know he is insane. He says are you going to be nice to me, girl?
He puts my hand on his crotch and I feel the metal of his gun and
he grins and says, Baby, if you are going to flirt with death
you are going to get a date.


A man rescues me from the life. In Cuernavaca
I climb the volcanoes every day and heal.
Unable to understand human kindness
I leave him and go back to New York.


Two years pass, I am in trouble again.
I need 200 bucks, the house where I worked is a sex club now.
Drunk off my ass, I do a man and his wife in the bathtub
then a pair of rutting men. Standing by the fireplace,
I see a a girl there, blond pale underage;
I see she has cut herself up and down her slender arms
and I, the fucking role model, beg her to go home
and she only laughs bitterly.
A thug from the Ray's Pizza next door
sees us talking and tells me,
mix it up, get back to work
and I become angry, enraged, I go beserk:
I turn on him:
I am going to tear this punk's balls off with my hands if he touches this little girl.
And I get into his flat punk face and say:
and then I black out.


When I come to a big Irishman is throwing me down two flights of stairs.
I land on the concrete on 76th and Third, stone cold sober now; I feel no pain.
I call the police and they come; the old one is coarse;
the young one tells me that he has gone to college and read books.
They will not bust the house. I curse them for ball-less wimps.
They say Go home, miss, go home,
and I end up in Bellevue, old Bellevue, locked ward
where four orderlies, four, have to hold me down to shoot Thorazine up my butt,
and I am put in four-point restraint.


My new shrink, hired by my sister, comes in on a Sunday from Connecticut.
He brings me a carton of Benson and Hedges cigarettes and says,
“These are like gold in here." They are.


Bellevue, Bellevue, where the nurses' crazy laughter rings high through the night,
where boriquenas pequenas cry mamí, mamí da me un peso. I think they say beso.
Soon, the DTs start and I shake uncontrollably.
A homeless man, thin, dirty, tall,
puts his veteran's jacket round my shoulders, and disappears,
a Quixote to my Aldonza in this wretched place.


Bhakti (from Lord Siva to Mahadevi-Akka)

It is in the experience of the ignorant that we learn:
When you have learned, I will destroy
all those who hurt you
and their thoughts within you;
both the lords of your rebirth, and the master whores
who took your night’s wages from you.
I will feed these wolf children woe, words, and wealth:
Endless, they will talk until they choke.


For them that hurt you
I will give claws to walk on,
dirt beneath the nails that bury
lies beneath their feet.


And you will be my body, never-returning,
remembered as temple and body alone.
And you will be my lotus, ever-returning,
remembered as body, my temple alone.


The beat of my rhythm be the pulse of your song,
my meter, your timbral and gong.
The poem to destroy your illusions is written
by Lord Siva’s true Bhakti’s tongue.


Come choose, my beloved, the good dharma or ill:
My lightning and thunder will strike where you will.
When the road rises weary and the wolves find you faint,
I will strew it with holy men, teachers, and saints
that ignorance may tickle your toes.


And you will be my body, never-returning,
remembered as temple and body alone.
And you will be my lotus, ever-returning,
remembered as body, my temple alone.


You will leave your wise men:
Your mind, with no object to rest on,
will ride on the horse of my breath;
I will make love to you between rebirths
with penis and womb, with land and sea,
with wind and sun and death.


And you will be my body, never-returning,
Remembered as temple and body alone.
And you will be my lotus, ever-returning,
Remembered as body and temple alone.


And if you miss salvation, never-returning,
I will offer it, Bhakti, ever-returning,
again and again and again.



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 www.larissashmailo.com and on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larissa_Shmailo


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Sunday, May 1, 2016 - 13:52