"A young woman named Vasilyssa—buffeted by the brutal vestiges of tradition, by the animal frustrations of the body—sits at a table belonging to Baba Yaga, a fearsome witch-crone. For many of us, the encounter that follows may seem familiar. There is a conversation about the soul and its motives; differences dissolve; the younger flees, the elder pursues. The folklore proposes: how do we persist, undiminished, while seated across from someone who holds the power to be both donor and destroyer? Like Gala Mukomolova, I am also a queer reader of this tale; like her (and Vasilyssa), I have studied every exit before sitting down to speak. And in Without Protection, the poems unfurling from Vasilyssa’s original challenge, in all their elegant ferocity, have shown me the back door I have always wished for. They have given me permission to leave the kitchens where I feel trapped, to wear the lace, to unbottle the secret, to call someone I both love and fear just so they can listen to me hang up the phone."
From Russian fairytales to Craigslist ads, stories of identity, family, and sexuality are unraveled and woven anew in the poems of a woman caught between two worlds.
In poems rich with sensuality and discord, Mukomolova explores her complex identity―Russian, Jewish, refugee, New Yorker, lesbian― through the Russian tale of Vasilyssa, a young girl left to fend for herself against the witch Baba Yaga. Heavy with family and fable, these poems are a beautiful articulation of difference under duress.