Death of a Ladies Man

Hello, dear ones. Yesterday was a big day for me. My debut collection of poems came out in the most important queer-feminist russophone journal, F-Writing, founded by Galina Rymbu in St. Petersburg, and now stretching across the post-Soviet world with a horizontal multi-editorial structure that publishes an ever-rushing stream of incredible texts. I wrote a gushing dedication in Russian on FB, explaining why the publication is so important to me. Have a look, if you get a chance.

The other big thing that happened is a lot more ambivalent. I’ll explain why on FB later, not here.


I have decided to make this blog the central (or off-central) node of my translation practice. And I am going to expand this practice, redefining “translation” to include my own texts, which are all, to one degree or another, intertextual imitations and patchwork quilts gathered from my many years as a student of russophone and anglophone worlds.

The first poem in the F-Writing collection — a kind of epigraph — is called “Death of a Ladies Man.” I hope it finally purges me of that toxic Leonard Cohen masculinity. He was queer AF, but he never admitted it, even to himself.

Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, the poem’s a fucking sonnet! ))


«Аня, аня» гипнотизирующая
I got off by accident
not buying the fascist mozz

Armed awakenings на Болотной 13
Ксюша целует мертвого жениха
и шлет танцы

Bring people together by fucking them
Like Brener and Guryanov in Almaty
«не мучай Олю» издалека

in the translator’s bureau
with a jar of herb
a sign in battered letters:

«Кьеркегорский ремесленник
дает юродивым и ветеранам».

oктябрь 2017, Марата, 33

Here’s a picture of me with my dear friend, Igor Ryvkin, from the time I wrote the poem. As you can see from the title, this sunny moment produced the sonnet’s fourth line.

Joan Brooks, Armed Awakening на Болотной 13 (2017)

I assume the sonnet is completely inscrutable to most readers, and the editors originally suggested I leave it out. “It’s from a different opera, Dzhoan.” I changed the title and hopefully clarified the connection. I couldn’t leave it out. This was the first poem I ever wrote that felt real, a poem I wanted people to read and I wanted to read to people. And I did read it at a party on Marata 33 in SPb not too long after I wrote it. That night was my real debut as a creative and not just a scholarly writer. Ах! What sweet nervous bliss it is to be a debutante!

I hope people don’t suffer the inscrutability too much. The meaning is there, I promise. As they say, Joan Brooks doesn’t write anything “просто так”. Every word has some intertextual connection to some utterance, some text, which I gather into my own text through psychotic association. Look at my face in that picture. I was fucking out of my mind with mania and euphoria. October 2017, centennial of the Great Revolution. It was a special time.


In May 2018, back in Pittsburgh and still flying like a pteranodon, I decided I would “decipher” each stanza of the sonnet with a longer, more scrutable “commentary poem.” I even did one for the first stanza, and that’s what I want to share with you here. One day I hope to do commentary poems for the other stanzas. Посмотрим. Дожить надо.

ОК. First, have a gander at the great Mozzle for a second or two. He is the central hero of the commentary to stanza one.

* * *
Tench (from our box): Take off your shirt!
Morrissey (from the stage): Why, where we going?
Apollo Theater, NYC  
May 4, 2004

Morrissey’s birthday, 2018
anniversary of quitting booze
and shaving off Morrison’s shamanic beard

today be gone ye fire of nicotine
and today and today and today

psychotic indulgence
ritual impulses
hashem is speaking

let it go

October 2017 amid the Russian cheese crisis
I scribbled in my book in the metro
moving bodies with purpose
some students saw me from behind

“Anya, anya, look!”

spotted me in my memento mori jacket that says

Все так же, только полегче
Anya. Dear Anna.
Reminded me of Alexander Brener’s anus in Loves Me - Love Me Not
his hypnotic anus

but Mayakovskaya wasn’t my stop

Morrissey’s new record, Low in High School, was out
the plan was to get off at Mayakovskaya and buy it
really get the disc, honorably, at the mall
the Galleria, just like in Houston
and a second bird with the stone
get mozzarella balls for my evening pizza

but I’d changed my mind
i’ll just go home
(next stop, Vladimirskaya
o the feminized male names of Russian metro stations)

I changed my mind about the mozz

he is a fascist, plain as day, plain as gay
(yes, it is never plain)

mozz is a fascist
and the plastic cheese they try to pass off as food here is, too
and will be until the hipsters get things sorted

so for now I’ll use the old imperial bounties
fresh adegeysky sheep cheese from the caucasus
wet and crumbly, roasts like a dream
mozz would like that actually, being a big empire-man himself

/ “Аня, аня,” гипнотизирующая 
  I got off by accident
  not buying the fascist mozz /

Anya, anya, hypnotic anus
guard me against fascism in all its forms

but then, seven months later
on the mozzer’s birthday
/one year no beer!/

i downloaded the fucking record anyway in hope
after i read his strange autointerview with john riggers
that he put out to clear his name one more time

i put my headphones on
went running

the   worst   dross
i have ever heard

music so terrible it was only when it got truly terrible
that i could even make myself listen to the words

/ honor-mad
cannon fodder /

before that i just kept drifting off and thinking of something else

love affairs, business affairs
taking on voices
thank you letters to friends
angry letters to enemies
trial speeches
confessions in bed

/ honor-mad
cannon fodder /

yes, Morrissey?

now i hear his bizarre
                                                 senescent but self-reliant 
                                             still working-class aspirational 
                                         former voluntary celibate
                                now happily engorged
                            with manliness yet still
                         sincerely animal-loving 
fascist tirade...

but i have forgiven morrissey
once again
and you know why
because he saved my life so many times
just like he said he would
already reminding me not to forget him
in “Rubber Ring”

after the deadpan fuckery of glam-punk
driving back the hippies’ sincere embarrassment
a new sincerity
a new wave
heroes with hairdos and hearing aids
gladiolas in their back pocket
gay as a gay man with a gay dog on a gay day (but don’t say he’s gay)
prancing strong, arms out wide, into the maelstrom of Thatchero-Reaganite hell
making music that saves lives

Все так же, только полегче

The hypnotic Anya Tereshkina’s mother said to her
in a call from Omsk

How are you?
Everything’s like before, just a little easier.

but give this speech 
an imperative mood

Do everything like before, just a little less.

and senescence doesn’t seem so scary
Швемы, Все также только полегче (2016)

In 2016, Anna Tereshkina of the Shvemy sewing cooperative miraculously repaired my ripped Levi’s jacket (bought in London in 1995) as part of a “recycling” program the cooperative was running. As the poem explains, she captioned her glorious memento mori with the words of her mother, Liudmila.

One of my most prized art objects. Kisskiss кискис

Published by velimirx

Joan Brooks (she/they, она/оно) is a writer, teacher, and translator as well as a transgender and neurodiversity rights activist based in Pittsburgh, PA and St. Petersburg, Russia. Brooks' bilingual, bicultural, perhaps even binative practice includes translations of leftist and queer-feminist poetry, autoethnographic essays, political actions, trans-pornography, and rock-operas. Brooks also maintains a non-institutional teaching practice, "Border Trouble," which offers performance-based seminars on literature, philosophy, and culture to students in the former Soviet Union and across the world.

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