Maxim D. Shrayer Is A Post-Soviet Fraud & Murder-Apologist

Photos of Maxim D. Shrayer (Максим Д. Шраер), one with "dunce" written on his forehead, one with a Soviet hammer and sickle across his face, and another with the flag of the Khmer Rouge blocking out his ill-shaped head.

…The moon’s an arrant thief,
And her pale fire she snatches from the sun.

– Shakespeare, Timon of Athens

It’s been years since I’ve written a takedown of a poseur or freak, largely because they are such time-sinks, yet offer so little themselves. They seek unearned attention, and, if attention is given, seek to take one away from deeper aims. To wit: Ben Shapiro (does it not damage my essay that I expect you to know who this was?) might ultimately get exhumed by trivia hunters, but this would only be slightly better than Shapiro’s own goings to and fro on the earth. Coleman Hughes certainly represents a ‘type’, but hasn’t this type been discussed to the point of acquiring its own slur? Such cons are obvious, yet the Russian émigré poet Maxim D. Shrayer lords over a grift many won’t pick up on, not only due to their ignorance of immigrant politics, but also the ease with which nonimmigrants get brow-beaten by American liberals. Shrayer’s recent essay on murdered Palestinian academic Refaat Alareer has exposed this grift, though it requires another ex-Soviet to identify its parts. And so, as I enter a more mindful middle age, I can only justify writing of losers if I also expound upon their fiefdoms—particularly if these are lesser-known fiefdoms with poorly understood dynamics.

Maxim Shrayer, a professor at Boston College, was born in 1967, in Moscow, at the start of the Arab-Israeli Six Day War. This conflict entailed geopolitical re-alignment as the Soviets backed Egypt, America backed Israel, and Russia began to suspect its own Jewish citizens as insufficiently loyal. His father, David Shrayer-Petrov, was (is) a writer, war veteran, and medical researcher stripped of his title upon application for an exit visa in 1978. This was a typical outcome for (upper class) refuseniks, whose contributions to the Soviet Union were deemed too important remit. After years of harassment, Shrayer’s family was allowed to leave for America in 1987, sparing them not only the final years of empire, but the violence and destitution which soon befell Russia. By most metrics, then, Maxim Shrayer is one of the truly fortunate. Moving from the Pale of Settlement, to postwar Leningrad, to Moscow—Russia’s wealthiest city—his family, unlike most Soviet Jews, even had the foresight to skip Israel in favor of joining the academic elite of Rhode Island, where they were quickly accepted. This is unlike the treatment most refugees get, since they are not educated, not (passing) white, and not easily used to score political points. One of his first bits of self-description (‘refusenik’) recycles his father’s identity, while his flaunting of an Israeli flag must be especially galling to an ethnostate which has ‘lost’ Shrayer to America. His career focuses on the Jewish experience, Russian translation, the writing of (bad) poetry, a devotion to the overrated Vladimir Nabokov, and, most recently, the justification of Israeli war crimes. Indeed: take away the accidents of birth and Shrayer could have been quite comfortable as a Soviet functionary. He has no personal center, no obvious gifts, and would already be forgotten if it weren’t for his willingness to patsy for a dying regime. As an apparatchik, however, Maxim D. Shrayer hasn’t quite learned that merely separating oneself from the hoi polloi is not really individualism, but an absurd mix of might-makes-right, on the one hand, and Nietzschean slave-morality on the other. Put another way, he is encouraged to speak as a victim, then leverages real-world assets to punch down.

Perhaps I am sensitive to virtue-signals because the same possibilities were once open to me? I recall how, while attending high school in New York, I rather guiltily crafted my college application around being born to a “Soviet satellite”. Of course, a good sob story creates sympathy, but even then I knew that I was no victim. Yes, my family’s wealth was expropriated in the Bolshevik Revolution, the Second World War entailed starvation, and several generations lived and died in a humble city on the outskirts of the USSR. The Chernobyl disaster left me with strange health issues, yet I was soon surrounded by American kids with life outcomes often as bad as those in post-Soviet republics. I had no father and my mother died not much older than I am now. Undocumented, I was anxious every time the door rang—weren’t the authorities harsh everywhere? It didn’t help that Brooklyn’s postindustrial sprawl looked a lot like Soviet nostalgia, yet this is precisely why it is so shameful to complain. Many Soviets—even those in small towns—enjoyed a middle-class existence, while those intent on leaving not only had the means to do so, but rare personality traits for their children to model. No doubt it is better to have a father than no father, but what of two mediocre parents versus one mother feeding her extended family in a new country by her tweens? All this after hatching and executing our Great Escape—really, only a fool (or those without the benefit of survivorship bias) prefers two bricks to a unitary diamond.

Yet this is best left for another time. Grimmer detail is locked behind fiction, and any would-be connections to my own life can be dismissed as mere imaginings. The point, then, is not one’s biography, but work. Maxim Shrayer calls himself a poet, so I will consider his work, first, before moving on to Shrayer’s opinions. A couple of months ago, he published this papal bull ab homine targeting a not insubstantial part of world Jewry:

Jewish Detractors of Israel

Israel’s Jewish detractors,
do you experience remorse?
How does it feel to be traitors?
Low’s the price of your voice.

Jewish self-hatred runs rampant
when Israel’s under attack,
Israel emerges triumphant,
breaking her enemies’ back.

Jewish detractors, can Israel
manage without your brain cells?
Yes. Undeniably. Easily…

You, who so openly, eagerly
side with the enemies of Israel,
how can you live with yourselves?

Now, I must admit that, when I first read this poem, I almost abandoned my essay. On some level, if you need an explanation of Shrayer’s deficiencies as a writer, there is little chance you will ever ‘get’ poetry. At the same time, the fun of writing only happens line by line, and so my critique might not be your critique. For my part, I’d simply start at the beginning: just look at how sloppy and wasteful the poem is before it goes anywhere. Why title it “Jewish Detractors of Israel” if the phrase gets regurgitated in the very first line? No, it’s not impossible to pull off, but does require special contexts and effects, none of which Shrayer is capable of delivering. Really, ‘don’t waste space’ is such a foundational concept in poetry (especially if you only get 14 lines—an inbred sonnet?) that ignoring it is a beginner’s mistake. His second line is equally flat, tapping a predictable word (“remorse”) little more than the speaker’s own projections. Now there’s an idea: what if Shrayer had simply taken his propaganda, then turned it back upon the speaker, as Countee Cullen does in his classic examination of self-loathing and belonging, Heritage? It’s not that propaganda is in and of itself unworkable, but that prosaic, ham-fisted, un-musicked lines (“How does it feel to be traitors?”) have nothing to play off of, nothing to refract, nothing to indicate they’ve been worked over by a sentient being.

A colorized photo of the Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen in front of a violet flower print.
Unlike Maxim D. Shrayer, the Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen understood how to straddle the line between art, theology, and propaganda. Image via National Black Justice Coalition.

The rest of the poem chokes on canned phrases (“Jewish self-hatred…runs rampant”; “emerges triumphant”; “breaking her enemies’ back”) and ends not with a whimper, but a whine: “How can you live with yourselves?” Notice, too, that I didn’t even comment on Shrayer’s idiot politics. Why should I? It is a poem, after all, and even bad politics can be wrapped in good writing. But now that the ‘poetry’ is out of the way, one must ask: why are right-wing Zionists so touchy about ‘dual loyalty’ accusations when this is exactly their demand? Shrayer is (mostly) speaking to non-Israeli Jews, who have about as much to do with Israel as an American animist with CODECO. Am I, as a Russian (well, Belarusian) naturalized in America, not permitted to criticize former Soviet states? Is this a standard which exists for any diaspora except that of Jews, and if so, aren’t such double-standards inherently anti-Semitic? Further, what would a Russian nationalist think of Maxim Shrayer? Getting back to poetry: what happens if one switches the word “Jewish” with “Russian” and “Israel” with “Russia”? Russia’s Russian detractors, do you experience remorse? It makes for equally bad writing, but at least it’s a bit more logical. Damning, too, that such an ostensibly critical change alters NOTHING of the poem except its reference—a fact Vladimir Nabokov would have used to pillory the work of his biggest living supporter due to its laziness and over-fixation on (bad) ideas.

Thankfully, we don’t have to imagine a ‘traitorous’ Shrayer—we already have a poem which Putinists can use to hunt the man down for free expression:

The Bombing of Odessa

O Russia, my birthland, I pity your destiny…
Russian troops are bombing Odessa.

Putin’s generals, death and deputy,
craving Odessa, a fallen Odessa.

As desperate missiles descend on Odessa
poets and sages come to its rescue.

They summon the shadows of fellow singers
who once lived and loved in this city of cities.

They wrote in Yiddish, Ukrainian, Russian,
Hebrew and Polish, Tatar and Italian.

From verses of the past they are rising like zealots
not to allow the murder of Odessa.

Pushkin is cleaning his dueling pistols,
he won’t be a party to this Russian pestilence.

Bialik is counting the wounded and the dead, now
the city of slaughter is here, in Odessa.

Akhmatova, lithe like a Black Sea deity,
unsheathes her father’s damascus naval dagger.

Simon Frug, the Jewish Aeolian harpist
thrusts a stick hand grenade under his belt.

Sasha Chorny, the scion of Odessan pharmacists
is preparing bottles of anti-tank cocktails.

Jabo, fiercely smiling, like a conjuror at play,
commands a unit of harbor patrol.

Lesia Ukrainka, Khadjibey’s salty air,
takes an old shotgun from the dacha’s attic.

Bunin trades in his ornate walking stick
for a Mauser rifle with a sword bayonet.

Volodymyr Sosiura mounts a Maxim gun
on the dome of the Opera House at dawn.

Febrile Bagritsky, from Deribasovka’s roofs
sends postal doves to Ukrainian troops.

Their voices and weapons form a sound defense
to deter Russia’s weapons of death.

Undefeatable and ambidextrous,
we shall always fight for you, my Odessa.

I won’t dwell on this piece except to point out another wasted title regurgitated in the second line, and the positive connotation of “zealot”—important later, when we assess Maxim Shrayer’s justifications for murder. Let us simply contrast this slop with an actual work of art on a similar subject, Jessica Schneider’s poem ‘about’ (but not really) Russia’s destruction of Mariupol, from her 2022 poetry collection, Ekphrasm:

Mariupol

Never watercolor, the sky is
Oil on canvas. Into the green, look
And reach—the lower branch leans—
Is it she? Hide

From the soldier. Stars stay
Small. Abandoned, clay-cold
Hours overtake as branches
Bend and snap this sudden stone

Upon stone—mourning
Chill. Nothing but mineral
Remains. This grey earth
Tree where flesh rings bone.

Both are ostensibly critiquing the same war, yet Jessica Schneider’s poem is part of a longer sequence which uses French painters for its framing. This is not dissimilar to Shrayer’s attempt at making his own poem ‘timeless’ by invoking dead writers, but this is where comparison ends. Schneider’s invocation is limited to a few subtle lines in service of the poem’s overarching needs, whereas Shrayer is pure bombast with little to show for it. “[T]he scion of Odessan pharmacists”? “…shadows of fellow singers/ who have lived and loved”—did they “laugh”, as well? It doesn’t matter who is being summoned in Shrayer’s universe if they are bon mots on a walled hotel. There are no such lapses in Jessica Schneider’s “Mariupol”, for she takes no position on ‘the’ war—only War. It can just as easily be ‘about’ the Nazi occupation of Mariupol, or, if the title is changed, any other conflict. Yet it wouldn’t be ‘about’ these subjects either, for ALL poetry is ALWAYS about the sum and individuality of its lines—NO exceptions! Just consider Schneider’s opening: “Never watercolor, the sky is/ Oil on canvas”. An allusion to the wider poetic sequence, it also captures harsh permanence in the narrator’s sky. Yes, contemporary readers will equate the title with Russia’s invasion, but give it time and the first stanza will be forced to unmask the second. “Stars stay” veers close to cliché, as in, ‘war passes, yet the cosmos are ineluctable’—but enjambment renders these stars “small”, as if they too are in hiding. (One cannot recall if Maxim Shrayer has ever enjambed anywhere.) “Abandoned, clay-cold” implies corpses, but is changed once again by the unexpected “hours”: especially deft, for it can still be a reference to bodies, and how time passes over them, without the need for trite imagery. The same goes for “Nothing but mineral/ Remains.” Corpses petrify, yet ‘Remains’ is both noun and verb. “This grey earth/ Tree” likewise subverts a war cliché, while “where flesh rings bone” has several distinct meanings. That this is all accomplished in 1/3rd of the space Shrayer demands for himself suggests only one of these poets respects your time and intelligence.

Destroyed apartment buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine, after Russia's siege in 2022.
Mariupol, Ukraine, after Russia’s siege in 2022.

Can you tell that Maxim D. Shrayer was credentialed less for his artistic chops, and more as an anticommunist token willing to humiliate himself? “Low’s the price of your voice”—is this an anti-Semitic remark if I am quoting Maxim Shrayer, but not when Maxim Shrayer is writing it? “Can [we]/ manage without your brain cells?”—yet if I answer, I am ‘peddling tropes’? There is, at any rate, not much money in Palestinian activism, though it is becoming increasingly important to the world’s two billion Muslims. The latter point is perhaps missed by Shrayer, whose business-as-usual op-ed on Refaat Alareer suggests he is still fighting Israel’s propaganda war circa 1997. Back then, one could say anything at all and get away with it. These days, one can still say anything, but there are many more eyes and a permanent record. Refaat Alareer was a Gazan academic likely targeted for death after American primigenius Bari Weiss spread disinformation about ‘Israeli babies baked in ovens’, honing in on a sarcastic quip from Alareer. This has been a common tactic in Israel’s epistemicide against Gaza, with journalists’ entire families wiped out before they themselves are murdered, the liquidation of intellectuals and universities, and so on. Indeed, the poet/prophet confluence has been well-known for millennia, with a lot written (for example) on Stalin’s murder of his superiors. A lot less has been said, however, of the Soviet pettiness from wholly inconsequential figures such as Maxim Shrayer. To be sure, although Refaat Alareer was more academic than artist, he still managed (read: was forced) to become a prophet—the true reason for Shrayer’s critique, as Shrayer has failed in both.

Shrayer’s essay starts anodyne enough, providing some (incomplete) details of Alareer’s death while claiming fascination with its circumstances. Yet Shrayer can’t help but preen with a clunky allusion to John Donne (“a valediction not forbidding Israel-hatred”), thus eliminating all pretense of ‘Art first’. (This is, unfortunately, another Soviet trait.) His characterization of Gazan poetry (“plain Homeric language”) is trite and omits qualitative judgment. Shrayer then attacks another Palestinian writer, Mosab Abu Toha, for not “condemn[ing Hamas’s] genocidal atrocities” despite having “safely left Gaza for Egypt”. Could that be because, on his way to Egypt, Toha was abducted and tortured by the IDF? (Maxim D. Shrayer can be spotted wearing IDF shirts, which suggests he himself has not condemned at least one terrorist group.) After a hypocritical critique of Alareer’s writing, he turns to Alareer’s poem “Drenched” with typical carelessness: “…Alareer leans on the mythopoetics of the Bible, specifically on Psalm 137…to conjure up a climate of internal displacement.” Maybe, or maybe not—recall how even Jessica Schneider’s “Mariupol” cannot definitively be placed within the Russia-Ukraine war. So where does that leave Alareer’s rather plain imagery (“On the shores of the Mediterranean”), which is found before the Bible, after the Bible, and in places where no knowledge of the Bible had ever penetrated? Yet this does not prevent Shrayer’s flight of fancy, which he then uses to bludgeon Alareer’s remains: “In this inapt analogy, the Gazans become the Jews of Babylonian captivity, and today’s Israelis the new Edomites.” Amazingly, however, Psalm 137 depicts a rather specific torture (“For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”) now exacted upon Palestinians who are likewise forced to sing between beatings. The Psalm ends as the Israelites dream of a revenge-genocide they now stand accused of: “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” Strange, then, to call Refaat Alareer’s (supposed) analogy “inapt”. If anything, it is too on-the-nose, for in capturing the Palestinian experience exactly, there is less room for making it Alareer’s own.

Shrayer continues through the poem’s end:

“All the perfumes of Arabia will not”
grace the rot
Israel breeds.

There are a few things a critic might say of Alareer’s ending, but Shrayer prefers to bitch like a babushka cuts in line at the market. He complains (?) that the quotation from Macbeth suggests the poem “is positioned to speak to a broad audience of Anglo-American readers”—which is as true of Maxim Shrayer’s own writing in English as it is irrelevant to both. He explains his distaste thus: “In this forced parallel, is Lady Macbeth supposed to be Israel, and the residents of Gaza, the murdered King Duncan? Or is the quote from Shakespeare supposed to validate the poet’s roots in an ancient high culture of Arabia?” Something is rotten in the state of Denmark—not one line is appraised in several paragraphs of exegesis. (Have I ‘mixed metaphors’? Or my allusions—or some other thing for Shrayer to mindlessly nitpick.) Even in the narrow universe of Shrayer’s commentary, why invoke King Duncan at all? Macbeth is partly ‘about’ unchecked ambition, and this scene references not only human conscience, but the permanence of some moral stains. Lady Macbeth is, rightly or wrongly, Shakespeare’s most famous symbol of guilt, and is now referenced even by those ignorant of her specific crimes. She sleepwalks NOT after the murder of King Duncan, but after many more murders, including that of children. As before, Shrayer complicates the simple and universal for the sake of zealotry, thus sacrificing his own critical faculties. A more neutral observer might argue the allusion is quite obvious—yet that would mean accepting Israel’s guilt, which not even a supermajority of judges at the International Court of Justice can persuade Shrayer to do.

Two examples of IDF torture of Palestinians, one depicting a man with a Star of David carved into his cheek in the West Bank, and the other of a man whose back was carved with a Star of David by a soldier's knife.
Separate incidents of IDF torture against Palestinians: a man with a Star of David carved into his cheek in the West Bank; a Gaza man with a Star of David carved into his back.

He soon tackles another poem of Alareer’s, introducing it as “[something which]…was recited at vigils by the same young Americans who refer to Israel as an ‘apartheid’ and ‘settler-colonialist’ state and chant for ‘revolution, intifada’”. Putting aside what one feels about such chants, how is this relevant to the art (or lack thereof) of ANY poem? He quotes its text and offers this critique: “Very much in the tradition of Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda…Alareer portrays Israel as a new Nazi state, and Gazans as that state’s victims.” No comment on how the poem succeeds or fails? What of its rhythms, diction, clichés, or their inversion? Really: does Maxim Shrayer even like poetry? Or is he still dressed in Soviet habit, and only sees poems as an extension of his beliefs? And even if this were strictly about politics—what is the objection, exactly? Are the lines “[a] scar expanding/ Like a swastika/ Snaking across my face” so unfair? Months before October 7, Israeli police tortured an East Jerusalem man by branding his cheek with the Star of David. Months later, as the IDF leveled Gaza, they took the opportunity to brand its very soil with a Star of David hundreds of feet wide. These days, Gaza is graffitied with Stars of David in destroyed homes, universities, hospitals, mosques, churches, and buildings that once housed NGOs, while menorahs are erected like statues to the Angkar. To the extent Israel gets conflated with Judaism, it is Judaism which must then explain Israel—an impossible task which Maxim Shrayer does not mind, for he is safe in America, where public opinion is shaped by lobbies and terrorist reprisals are exceptionally rare.

IDF graffiti in Gaza and the West Bank. Examples include: "Don't erase graffiti, erase Gaza"; "Israel is our country and Palestine our dogs"; "The battle is in Gaza, but the war is about the Temple Mount."
IDF graffiti in Gaza and the West Bank. Examples include: “Don’t erase graffiti, erase Gaza”; “Israel is our country and Palestine our dogs”; “The battle is in Gaza, but the war is about the Temple Mount.”

By the time Shrayer opines on Alareer’s most famous poem, “If I Must Die”, he is reduced to crude subjectivism: “The poet’s instruction to his heir(s) to ‘sell my things’ strangely guided me to recall the requests my parents and I made to refusenik friends who remained behind the Iron Curtain as we packed our bags to leave Russia forever in 1987.” Can Shrayer be any more narcissistic? Well, yes: “As for the overall thrust of the Gazan poet’s testament, I read it as straddling the line between self-mythologization (a common feature of this Horatian tradition) and self-martyrdom (a common aspect of Hamas culture).” Horace? Hamas? How does a poet and teacher assess three separate poems and fail to say ANYTHING of value? Shrayer has no idea of individual lines, no sense for music, no comprehension of how poetry works—just dumb fanaticism which he attempts to launder via art. Vladimir Nabokov once remarked that “Nothing bores me more than political novels and the literature of social intent.” Yet if Brave New World is a poorly worded political tract glommed onto a novel, what is a literary critique that agitates but does not engage its literature? Shrayer approvingly quotes two Holocaust clichés by Ilya Selvinsky (No, for this unbearable torment/ No language has been devised) and calls the Gaza/Warsaw Ghetto comparison “pernicious” and “deeply ahistorical”. But why? Both the Warsaw and Gaza Ghetto faced caloric restrictions via arbitrary formulae. (This has since been reduced to less than one meal a day for Gazans.) Both the Warsaw and Gaza Ghetto had a robust tunnel network to circumvent blockade. Both ghettoes used underground bunkers for their operations. Both ghettoes exploited menial labor on behalf of their overseers. Both ghettoes were separated by an apartheid wall controlled by an occupier. Both ghettoes were dehumanized in word and deed. Both ghettoes were among the world’s densest ethnic enclaves. Both ghettoes had strict policing of movement, to the point that hundreds of Gazan protesters were massacred in 2018 as they tried to break free. Both ghettoes had what Shrayer calls the “self-martyrdom…of Hamas culture”, just like in the Siege of Masada two thousand years prior, or any other conflict of (seemingly) impossible odds. Perhaps this is why Jerusalem professor Baruch Kimmerling and Israel’s erst National Security Director, Giora Eiland, called Gaza “a [huge] concentration camp” twenty years ago—before the blockade had intensified, before Ariel Sharon’s ‘disengagement’, before Netanyahu’s ‘Resettlement to the East’. If Maxim Shrayer’s plaint is that today’s ghettoes are necessarily less brutal than those of Nazism, then he would be correct. The post-WW2 order Israel explicitly signed on to was meant to prevent not only another Holocaust, but anything remotely like it. This is why Israel’s actions were ruled plausibly genocidal by the ICJ, why companies are nervously divesting, and why Nicaragua is threatening to sue the complicit. These are facts, and yet, look how far they have taken us from poetry, suggesting that the world’s highest art is also its deepest luxury.

Having failed at dissecting text, Shrayer begins to dissect himself:

It is quite impossible to separate what Alareer said in public statements, in his state of rage and distress and in anticipation of death, from what Alareer the poet put in verse. Impossible, not only because he speaks as a Hamas fighter who has not (yet) put on a uniform, but also because his two sides, discursive and poetic, are so synchronized.

If Refaat Alareer had not “yet” put on a Hamas uniform, and Hamas—to quote Shrayer—is a “genocidal” group, why not just kill him before complications arise? Shrayer, ever the victim, assumes a defensive posture over murder, and, in Stalinist fashion, builds a literary theory around his own neuroses. But if art is expendable, mere preening, it becomes even more so with a glut of misery and leisure. The poet says ‘look at me!’ before annihilation, or ‘look at me!’ from sheer boredom—predictable in both cases, yet so much harder to forgive in one. Maxim D. Shrayer is long past the point of learning craft, so all that is left is grievance. And what is Shrayer’s grievance? That he was never forced to learn craft—a nasty, circular bit of reasoning which afflicts poets who bask in every privilege except that of talent. As for the rest of us, surely we have our grievances, as well? The trick, however, is to express them in a way only YOU can. This means (at least for me) another rule: do NOT waste time on losers unless you make a poem of it. Leisure, Catullus, is dangerous to you—leisure in times gone by has destroyed kings and blessed cities. And what is better than leisure? Well, WORK! Any other value is simply out of one’s control. So, thank you, Lenin, for taking everything away from us—you have given more than you could know. Thank you, Stalin, for making poetry dangerous again. Thank you, Brezhnev, for cutting corners in Pripyat—would I have made it to America without your foresight? Thank you, Israel, for proving Jews are a people like any other—exactly like the others. Thank you Palestine—you have allowed multitudes to go up to the mountain. Thank you, Mother, for showing me that there’s a man in every woman, and a woman in every man. Thank you, Father, for drinking the vodka meant for my baptism—I now only rarely touch a drop. But so what? Aren’t you tired of poetry without poems? Or poems without poetry. Don’t you get tired of yourself? For, in the end, everyone has a biography. The point is to make do with as little (or as much) as one gets:

FATHERS AND SUNS

Having only had a father in the flesh
Of Mom’s backhand, one had to always grow
The man desired. Hello—Dad

Thought of you as the moon woke up
A realization I would be robbed as a kulak
Grips past. Should he look me up

I can never tell what is on the ground
To lose an eye upon discerning
Beams. So why don’t you go fuck

And multiply? One’s dark side lays undiscovered.

[This essay’s first photo is an edited version of the photo by Lee Pellegrini.]

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