I was down to zero
shivering and trembling
inside and out.
Took out from the drawer
the wedding band

symbol of my first marriage.
Sold it to a Puerto Rican jeweler
for 50 bucks.

With that money,
I went to a grocer

and bought

bread and butter,

meat and cheese,
and four packs of cigs.
Stopped by a liquor store
bought 1.75 liters           

of some Southern bourbon.

Went home
down to zero again.
Emptied what was

left of my marriage
on the table.
Not much

I said to myself
but good

enough for me.

I poured a drink

and went out
onto the fire escape
to watch the children play
in the middle

of West 106 Street
Duke Ellington Boulevard.





they call it “to be polite”

“be polite and smile”

do the small talk

all that you can find in hardbound

tell aged anecdotes and

don’t go outside with a black eye

show concern about your health

show concern suspect everyone


just the other day

I lit a cigarette as I

exited the liquor store

carrying a plastic bag

with a pint of Jack


girl in her mid-twenties

came up to me and said

—because you smoke

you gonna have cancer and

soon you will die


I looked down at her

5’1’’ white ugly bitch

hair dyed blonde

bitten fingernails and

unshaved legs


I replied

—your problem is that

you haven’t been fucked for

a long time

do yourself and

everyone a favor: fuck someone


she stood there

scratching her

elbow as I




here’s the problem

with America—

very few fuck

and no one makes love




 for Boris Lurie

  “. . .  a mother sings a lullaby”
                     —Jack Micheline

a mother sings a lullaby
the song about nights
in the Warsaw Ghetto
and about WW II
non-stop in concentration camps,
about sinking ships
that sailed to New York
and kissed the ugly toe
of a green-painted French lady,
about a small space in Brooklyn (Williamsburg)
and hours and years in the Laundromat
and pennies for the pension fund,
about a junky daughter
and the death of a husband
in a bordello on Times Square
. . .  and other little things

a mother sings a lullaby
to her only son
killed by some black guy
in an anti-Semitic riot  . . .





it happened in brooklyn on my way to

new york from a friend’s house late at night

a tired man in his late 50’s in a dusty robe said to me

why the hell did they change the subway lines services again

they didn’t change a thing I said

looks like they are learning an alphabet

by slapping different letters on those trains

assholes he said

I liked his point of view

but it didn’t change a thing

so like my tormented joke

nothing can be changed in a city

that never sleeps and where

people don’t change

just grow old and leave for

florida to die




I also had to slave
8:30 to 5
with ½ hour for lunch and
only two smoke breaks

times I had to go outside
to have a smoke
an old homeless
would approach me
and ask for a cigarette
and I gave
always gave

one day he said:
"I did time,
8 and a ½"
"So what?" I replied
"I killed a man,
got paid for it,"
he said

"You are free now," I said
and gave another cigarette
ending our small talk
then went upstairs
to get fired
for an extra
5 minutes
that I took




On the crossing of Exchange

Place and Broad Street,
I looked up and

a pyramid
at the top
of a skyscraper,

a pyramid
like the one
on a Mexican postcard.

I was in a hurry
but stopped,
lit a cigarette
and stared at
the clash of cultures


a foreign symbol
of the past
on top of today's
icon of progress

a pyramid from

the ancient Yucatan
at the tip
of the center
of the world's

financial center

Wall Street,

a pyramid

painted yellow
by sunbeams

the reason

I was late.





She calls me and drops her famous last name

like I give a damn

then she says that she needs a place to stay

and my apartment would be perfect for her

as she is for me

poor girl has no idea that I’m tired of bitches

taking my space

and though sure that she’s a sincere young thing

just looking for love and an elderly writer

I still have to say NO!


These days NO! has become my theme

my usual answer to almost any proposition

since people have nothing to offer

except their pain—which is old news—

I’ve experienced more, greater.


I’m exposing pain only in writing,

in publications—not in person—

not over the landline

not over the cell

(unless it’s a toothache).


Pain is private

shouldn’t be passed

to strangers

even at funerals.


I feel for that girl

and can help

but won’t

she did not give me

a good reason to help or trust

nor even like her.





in a bar

late at night

a girl with a duffle bag

looks promising

—Jane from Ohio State—

she said and then:

you have an accent

and you look like a Jew

where you from?

—From Moscow . . .

Russian Jew—

was my answer

And she went: Wow!

I offered my place

for the night

—No funny stuff—

she said

—I don’t laugh during sex—

I said

—You are Dirty Russian Jew—

she replied

—You’ll call me Dr. J in the morning—

I blabbed

as we left





dear city

I’m writing to you

on your outskirts

damn you                  

why did you kill me

without asking first

why did you get me drunk

and stab me           

right into the liver

and then twist the knife


thousand times








the famous American poetess said

a decade since her menopause


do you write FAMILY POETRY

she asked


hell no

family is

  the highest point

  of suffering

on the tip of

       the mountain

                              of sorrow and despair

ice covered

could be a good

            subject for a novel

                                                              or short story

and that’s it


poor old poetess


   into  dozens of


former fiancée

of one

           great dead


who used to

       hit her

      in the face


        still sexy

                        despite age



every poetess has

at least one book


about her family

thousands of books like that

all identical





I have only two more days

      to serve

And I have a hundred blank sheets

I’ll arrive home before my mail

                                      gets there

So what am I gonna do with these

                                      paper sheets?

I can turn each one into

                                      a little plane

But my cell is too small for flights

I could write a poem on each

                                      paper piece

But I don’t know how to rhyme


If I knew how to draw

I’d draw my wife’s portrait on every

                                      paper sheet

But I don’t know how to draw

And my wife left me long ago


I can get home faster then

                                      any postman

To find a pile of letters and postcards

                                      in a puddle

                                   on my porch

And grow that pile with a hundred

                                   blank sheets

Then see if my key works  





time refuses to move

in jail

it stays with you in a cell

moves only to and from


and draws back

when your name is not called

while cellmates leaving the cage

—hey, correction officer!

those guys came long after me

and already have been transferred upstairs

when is my turn,

am I forgotten?

young Latino kid says



c.o. yells


—hey, c.o.

I’m saying looking

officer straight in the eyes

give me a few sheets

he gives and I go

to hang jailed ass of mine

over the crapper



your name sounds

as good as a winning

lottery ticket

as it’s called

when you’re jailed



AT 3 A.M.


Parked cars

are like sardines in a can,

people like zombies

at 3 A.M.

I’m back in the city.

I’m back. For what?

Another lonely night.

Should I buy myself a hooker

or write a poem?

One or the other  . . .





Gimme a buck, he said

And I looked into his eyes

and recognized

a poet with whom I performed

a decade ago in an East Village café


His clothes decayed

and his face and his jacket

looked at me with their holes

And I gave him two

and introduced him to my friends

And he said: Maxim


And I felt ashamed

for not remembering his name





to spend a night


of common sense

in a strange town’s motel


deep into the bath

and try to wash out your past

then fish out that starving body of yours

and ship it to a king-size bed


and while being in bed

you’ll focus your eyes

on a falling ceiling

that will crush what’s left of you





evening at its best—

my   beer   notebook   pipe

and what's left at the bottom of a brandy bottle

and no one phones—

my blessings to them


Jewish holidays are over

I don't celebrate them anyway

means that a bagel shop around the corner

will not be closed in the middle of the week

for the next eleven months

so as my publisher

this evening I'm watching re-runs

of the sitcoms filmed in the 50's and 80's

lame but still gives me cheer

and I'm pumping one can after another


it's autumn

and redheads look lovely in Central Park

finally in touch with nature

and bookkeepers are trying their old raincoats on

worn as those books they're working on





there are days that it makes sense to wake up

for a few reasons—

to have two cups of coffee with a splash of brandy

and half a pack of strong cigarettes

and news on TV and web-sites

just to know that you’re not the only one

who woke up to smell death

that already built up the nest under your bed

and put a mirror on your ceiling

and built a straw in the shape of the structural beam

that dives into your cup of coffee





I look at ‘em—

smart and funny

successful and established

they’re gonna drive home in expensive

sport cars

long-legged girls

on a passenger seats

will bend over to give them a lousy blow jobs

(nothing compare to a hooker on 146th Street)

they wear Armani  Hermes  Versace

and spend nights in a gym

but now

they smoke cigarettes

and make small talk

next to a pile of

black smelly garbage bags

that created an Everest

ten feet from the Russian Samovar

on West 52nd Street




Just before the storm
         under the clouds
                    under the atmosphere
18 steps down to the 42nd Street subway
I take the F-train far to the outskirts of Queens

I want to see you in Rego Park
the desert where you lived with your parents
when we met
hoping to get back the poems you took

But you tossed them away
and didn't tell me where to find
the garbage can

On my way back to New York
I cared no more you changed your name
from Jewish to Jewish



Translated from the Russian by the author with Stanley H. Barkan





she was hot

that’s probably why

she wasn’t cold

standing outside a bar in a t-shirt

while the weather tower

was showing 42 by Fahrenheit


coward me!

stepped on a cigarette butt

and walked back

into a bar

thinking I had a chance

chance floating up in the air





Christmas Eve

I’m drinking tequila

and reading books

about the Holocaust

and life tastes more bitter than a lime.

I’m back home

from unsuccessful shopping—

holidays come before work.

and I won’t have a beer

the next morning.

The hangover will stab

my head from temple to temple.

My pulse will jump

like an athlete at the Olympics,

and I won’t be able

to pick a number to call.





blanks easily

passing through

I shout: GUILTY!

and a local hooker

on a corner

blowing for a NJT bus ride

and I pass

I pass windows of NYC’s glory

constructed by shame

I piss in a back alley

on a tabloid magazine


I pass and piss

and come home

and strolling

around the block

and shouting:


life chamber is a-waiting

all dirty asses!


Parisians securing their bikes

Parisians ordering cheap red wine

Russians making sure

they won’t get suborned

and surveying their block-posts


and same damn shame


the same

and the same grandma

covers her gray hair

and looking at the PUSH sign

and the rest of the story

will be covered by the

cable network






The day just before he died,

I visited him in a hospital on Kings Highway.

I looked at a bone making its way through his foot.

I sang a song to him that he sang to me many years ago

in another country that vanished from the map.

I remember him pouring a drink, saying:

“You are too young for the straight alcohol,”

and giving an old dress shirt, saying:

“It’s gonna be back in style.”

Also saying: “You are too skinny—

I can put you down with one little touch.”

Then showing pictures of himself—a skinny young man

in long black trunks jumping into a lake.


Your birthday is coming soon,

but I won’t visit the cemetery—useless.

Hey, let’s have another one  . . .  a drink

like the one I bought you at 10 a.m. in Coney Island.

It was hot, but you wanted it.


I promised to take you to a strip club

but never did, being too cheap, and, anyway,

It’s a long way from Brighton Beach to Manhattan.


I’ll see you soon  . . .





A woodpecker and a deaf cat

At 5:30 AM are waking me up

I’m looking at her

Who’s face is colored by aurora

Making first trip to the a slop-pail

Craving coffee-vodka-tonic morning breakfast

Opening laptop and reading the news

Being afraid to delete the last night’s poem





September 12, 2001:


My friend Pasha and I are taking

a catnap in Washington Square Park.


A violin is playing Fiddler on the Roof,

and drugs are sold in "nickel" bags—no cops.


We're exhausted—a long night behind us,

too many ladies’ shoes in debris—hard to walk.


Getting up after hours of sleep,

walking to my place,


Seeing shining sun and smog,

cleaning hair and shirt from the grass and debris,


Saying to myself: "I’ve seen all that.”

Trying to make a call—no reception.





Another warm winter

60º   fog

New York at 9 a.m. feels like

summer nights in Leningrad.

Windows   metal curtains   fire escapes—

everything in b/w.

I’ve seen all these too many times

in different cities on two continents.

The colors are gone

accompanied by upbeat.

The mood is cool-jazz,

broken umbrellas filling

garbage cans like dead ravens.

And almost no traffic

this Saturday morning.

Only tired, shaky drunkards

and dog walkers

and lonely lovers

are hitting the streets,

some looking for an adventure

some making a buck

some going home

to get their final rest.





snow snow

again snow

heaters on

pulse faster

women call

articles written



TV silent

I read lips

translate stills

as moving pictures


I dress in black

but the weather

paints my clothes white

with snow


I like the color

of black & white

like photos of my childhood—


in piles snow





It resembles Baryshnikov’s character

from Sex and the City,

the same city

for her . . .

on the same streets . . .

I’m in a reality program.

All serials come to an end.

Chapters progress

despite age.

The moon grows larger,

but March

does not exit February.

It's still cold and wet and windy

and dark enough for poems

to inscribe the season.





My friend,

We are too old to die

Look at our children—

They might need a buck towards a subway ride.


Hakuna Matata,

I’m looking at my deaf cat—

Counting traffic

From the living room window.


And that says it all…




I’m more afraid of

ugly women,

amateur poets,

and lousy artists,

then of




terrorist acts,


corporate meetings





I guess any woman

can work as a stripper

in Irvington, NJ.


The Go-Go place

I stopped by for a drink

had only beer-bellied, middle-aged

Latinos in bikini.


And when I finished my

vodka tonic and stepped outside,

a crackhead white trash

in her fifties, I guess, offered

a blow-job for twenty bucks.


And a unisex salon

on the next block

was still open

at midnight.


I had a whole night ahead of me

supervising broken lives

of employees in the transit garage,

with my ex-wife among them.





I can’t stand family

gatherings around the


where the main topic of

each conversation is



Sauce and toppings

best bagel & cream cheese in town

testiest dead meat in

farmer’s market

near the Villas of Red Rove

and fresh Upstate veggies



They eat food

talk about food

with a mouth full

talk about

and fart to the side

talk food

and burp loudly

table talk with nothing

to talk about

table full of slaves of

their own stomachs.





tickets for this concert were

a gift for my 37th birthday

I just got back from

an exhausting Western

European book tour

and all I wanted is to

drink my V&T with

a chaser

spit at the ceiling

and bitch about my own

writing as well as the others

and not going even near

thousands of people

screaming at the stage

and feeling petty for a

73-year-old performer


an old fart on a stage

gave a two and a half hour terrific concert

slim and fit and tall and

smiling with a voice full of

wisdom and a sharp eye—a real poet


I felt like a bug watching

this Canadian Jew boy

saying to myself:

stop bitching

you have a lot

to live for

chin up


it was the best

and the scariest gift

in my poor entire life

by far.





Too many people believe

that they are friends of mine

like this one who calls

on a weekly basis asking


how I feel

if I still on a wagon

what doctors say

how’s J&C

what’s going on


what’s new


I strongly believe

that a real friend

don’t ask these



a true friend knows—

if something is up

(besides my penis)—

he’s the first one

to know

from my direct

phone call.





Back in a days when I was

a loud young poet with a

full set of hair and visible

muscles under the shirt

I would give two or three

readings a month—

for a free booze and

female’s attention


Most of those ladies

were in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s

they would tell me

whom from their youth

I remind them of


And some of them

would jump

into a cab with me

than—into a bed

and some would introduce

to their daughters

(depends on age)


Nowadays I give readings

once a year—tops—

no longer being

a stage whore


I remember my internist’s

phone number by heart

and think twice before

submitting solicited writings of mine

into anthologies, periodicals, or before

appearing on the radio,

or even going to public events

where some stranger

might recognize my scar face


And it’s time to take a dog to a local park

And catch a glimpse of an evening sun

And to remind myself that

we all die alone.





she was crying:

"I lost him, I lost him

he’s dead, but I'm

still in love with him.

Why did 9/11 happen?"


I took another sip

from my vodka and tonic

in a plastic glass, and said:

"It’s easy to be in love

with a stiff,

than trying  to love

a live one."





every terrorist act is followed

by a dozen phone terrorists attacks

by people who know my phone #


“did you hear”

“they say black widows of Chechnya

committed the terror”

“who did that”

“TV says—Chechens,

newspapers agree,

radio voices the same”

“suicide bombers were from Georgia”

“CIA tail was found

and the Brits were involved as well”

“I blame it on so called Patriots”

they are just trying to scary us”

“Muslims, I KNOW,—Muslims”

“we should kill them all”



media zombies


…I worked in mass media…


Have a moment of silence.

And a drink would be appropriate too.




For A. K.


There are no snakes in


Lots of Polacks and some

Asians in Dublin

as well as

the souls of great writers

                as well as

the souls of Vikings galloping

horses through the Arch

forcing cobblestones to

a drumbeat

heading East to slaughter


then board knarrs and karves

and sail further inland

where no snakes can be found

and Liffey river is too narrow

                to continue any further

too narrow—no wider than

                a snake.


That’s why there are no snakes in Ireland.





1=10—that’s how time

in the subway counts

latinos & blacks with

their pants half-way

down to the knees

play loud shit on their

phones and other digital

crap—no headphones

Gibberish over the intercom—

its pinch squeaky sound

impossible to comprehend—



child in the stroller screams—

provider where’s the boob?

I wouldn’t might to see and

touch perky breast

on that teenage mom from

Columbia or Ecuador, I guess


and the terror noises

are not even about to stop

and the train stuck underground

between the Bronx & Manhattan stops


immigrants are just too loud

the emergency cord is torn

white trash kids won’t shut up

the emergency doors are locked


there’s no way out—

that’s the only way to travel

according to the chief of MTA


enjoy your NYC way of death

not to be or to be continued





Remove a sock

that is stocked

in your pants

and stick it

into your

stinky mouth—

where it belongs

then suck on it.





All day

I’ve been answering

e-mails & phone calls

opening door to UPS & USPS

commenting on art-shows

proofing front and back covers

smoking one cig after next


later when the cat meowed

I realized that it’s dark outside

and both of us are hungry

and that she is about

to come back from work





I’ve been asked

when was the last time

I wrote a poem.

—Couple of months, probably.

I don’t set the stanza time alarm.

—Poor thing,—that person concluded,—

you must feel awful. It must be hard on you.

—Not a bit,—was my answer.

—You don’t lie to me, man! —He screamed,—

I’m a poet myself; I know that writing is hard,

but not to be able to write is even harder!


What an idiot, I said to myself.

When I don’t push keys I find

million different ways to amuse

my existence. But when I do

the poems are just happening—

don’t even have to write them. 

I just type.





he would be announced by

an IVY-league professor emeritus

in black Dockers slacks with a brown

belt of fake leather

wearing white with blue straps

running shoes

(it must be fun

to see him run

to an expiring meter)


but enough with that genius


the audience would applaud

the audience—twenty-seven

SSI female recipients

eighteen SSI male recipients

and three students of the

professor emeritus—three

students from a dorm

across the street

who weren’t shower in three days



God loves Trinity


he would get on a stage

bring mic a bit hire

fix the scarf on a shoulder

place print-outs and chapbooks

next to mic

and take off his slim reading glasses


and bow and greet the audience


he would give a five-minute speech

about his driving experience

from D.C. to New Haven

that preheated him for

this poetry event

and how America is beautiful

and peaceful and safe

with a newly elected

democratic president


right at that moment

I’d come in my pants—

many thanks to his wife

who massaged me under the table


by the way

she’s a better poet

than he is





There are some pros in moving to the outskirts

such as—no one would knock on your door

assuming that you are home—

who wants to toss good 3 hours of their lousy lives away

in NYC transit?

Neighbors don’t know you—being afraid or not,

they just smile or grin at you

and not working on a small talk unless it’s raining,

in which case the word “shit” would be appropriate

coming from any direction, although every each of us

was born wet.

The liquor store owner is the winner in this situation—

these guys never loose—

new customer is more than welcome and the next time

you’ll enter the store,

“the same size?” question will be thrown at you,

and you’ll stick with the magnum.

And here’s a tip: don’t be so happy seeing your phone bill

shrinking—the very next day cable guy

will reach deep into your pocket …

The outskirts are not open-hearted to the newcomers,

especially if you are a city dude—neighbors will gossip

and spike behind your back, you would not give a damn

and soon you’ll be ignored—just another strangely dressed


Socializing will go down the hill and soon

you won’t miss your bar stool

behind what use to be your everyday counter in a bar

where everybody already forgot your drink, face, and name,

so as you—theirs.

Money will be saved, you’ll concentrate more

on the important staff

and will re-discover that

drinking alone is a bliss from the gray sky.


Welcome back to the outskirts, old fart!





A friend of mine

is crossing Himalayas

this very moment.

I’m trying to make it across

the two-way boulevard.


Don’t know which task is easier

or more rewarding.





it’s a past century,

said a gray-haired friend of mine

looking at women at the gallery opening


I agreed:

their dresses and coiffures

got stuck with their youth

in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s

drunk away in the 90’s

while men here—

men standing next to them—

men of the same age

look in their prime


can these women see it?

asked my buddy mincing a quirly


no, I assumed

dripping mascara blocks their sight


and then we cracked jokes about

new faces on the political Olympus

and bitched about jacked-up prices on

Leica, Tamron, and Sigma

and the new FLM GmbH ballheads

having vodka over ice as a chaser

of our the day to day thoughts





. . . even a flower can be political—

sword lily

on Stalin’s grave

got the same look and feel

as gladiolus

(from the same bunch)

given to a loved one

but don’t have

the same






                Long Island Rail Road


Station # 9012     PennStation


Sold Tickets                          Amount




Total Amount                       $12.00


Payment: Credit  4018      $12.00


Long Island Rail Road . . .

                               going your way

TSM #                                    1208

Transaction #                       306992


Date / Time           08/29/04 10:54


Destination: Casa Non Compos Mentis





I don’t get you are full of shit

that often, though—I should


but every time I do—

an old episode comes to mind:


a man on his deathbed at home

losing battle to cirrhosis—


no feeding tubes, just

pain killers

morphine shots—

whatever and whenever

a dying man’s widow-to-be could get

by blowing neighbors’ cocks in a hallway


a man could not eat

                was barely able to speak

being a ceiling gazer

                he just shit


wasn’t fed for more than a week

                being horizontal—

                               no strength to get up

and feed the john—

                he shit the couch


his wife—mouth full of sperm—

                would do her part—

change the sheets

once a day

so he would shit and piss a cleaner sack—

in one direction only—due to the law of gravity


his body was about to get ready to follow physics—



no more tough choices:

bottle of port with a snack


a bottle of 80 proof


sitting on a bed corner next to him

                watching shadows

playing on a ceiling’s football field

and disappearing with flies into the window’s net—gooool!

I was trying to cheer him up


you’ll be gone shit-free,

                                life is a Cabernet,

                                                               old fart


a man smiled with his tiny white lips

tried—with his colorless eyes—to get my attention—

at something on the ceiling . . .