A selection of published work


Winter Rituals

Christmas came twice in our home. In December, we dined on roast turkey and exchanged presents under a decorated, ceiling-high evergreen; on January sixth, like many Ukrainian Canadian families, we celebrated Sviatyi Vechir—Christmas Eve according to the Julian calendar—with the traditional Holy Supper, Sviata Vecherya.

My mother prepared twelve meatless dishes, including vushka, mushroom-filled dumplings afloat in blood-red borscht; an entire carp in aspic; and honeyed kutia made of wheat, walnuts, and poppy seed that always stuck between everyone’s teeth. Our feast’s rituals were adapted from ancient pagan beliefs once dedicated to fertility, winter solstice, and ancestral spirits. 


BENDING GENRES (also published in BERFROIS and included inThe Bending Genres Anthology 2018 – 2019):

Ten Questions I Asked After Seeing Marathon Man at the Movies

1.) Did you see me in the foyer, buying candy at the refreshment stand?

It won’t take long and shouldn’t hurt too much. A sheet of rubber dam the color of mud stretched across my mouth, and the stainless steel frame’s tiny studs pricked into my cheeks, and when the drill started whirring, I shut my eyes and clenched my fists and pretended I felt nothing.

2.) Did you watch me flirting with the boy behind the counter when he tallied up my coins?


UNDER THE SUN (also published in BERFROIS and mentioned as a “Notable Essay” in The Best American Essays 2019):

Slaves of Dance 

The architect, undeterred by the Poltva River running inconveniently through the site, devised a solid concrete base to stabilize his construction and banished the stream to a subterranean tunnel. Henceforth, the Poltva coursed beneath the Grand Opera House, oblivious to the inaugural gala performance, ignorant of the dramas and comedies that played above, unconcerned by the ravages and holocausts of the unfolding century, and unaware of the moment when, during a relatively peaceful period between two World Wars, my ballerina mother first slipped between the darkened wings and stepped out onto an illuminated stage.




My mother’s little treasure lay hidden in a blue, faux leather jewelry box, just large enough to have once held a ring or, perhaps, a pair of earrings. I found it nestled in a corner of her dresser drawer, peeled away its tissue paper swaddling, and exposed the desiccated vestige of my own umbilical cord.

After my mother’s funeral, my father slumped in our living room, removed his hearing aids, and stared at family and friends. While an aunt brewed coffee in the kitchen, I brought in canapés on platters, and then excused myself. A murmur of condoling voices rode whiffs of smoky java, and followed me upstairs, into the sultry stillness of my mother’s bedroom. I shut the door, drew back the curtains and unlatched the windows, and let light and air stream in.




The Russian ballet director, People’s Artist of Ukraine, embraced me at the stage door like a prodigal daughter. He led me into a labyrinth of corridors, up flights of stairs, through heavy doors, into the cool darkness of the empty stage.

The footlights went on, and the auditorium’s chandelier began to glow, revealing gilded tiers of vacant, red plush seats.

Mute harmonies swelled from the orchestra pit.

An invisible audience clapped.

German officers in ornamented uniform saluted.



Wounds and Secretions

Words curved and swayed as they circled and embraced memories, then swiveled and slid past a pothole or jumped over an unnamed chasm; voices surging and waning like the melody of a Viennese waltz from a popular operetta of their youth, my parents’ personal history was a 3/4 time Freudian talking cure without couch or therapist, distinguished by a complete absence of scrutiny or analysis. Their stories rotated through hardships that had befallen them and sidestepped the violence and horror they must have witnessed. Year after year the chronicles looped and twisted from their separate birthplaces in Western Ukraine, along parallel paths through the ruins of Eastern Europe, the romantic encounter at the refugee camp in Austria, their civil marriage ceremony in Innsbruck, the common boat journey across the Atlantic, arrival in Canada and then, with a dip and a swoop, rushed back to the Old Country, where the whirl began anew.




My father’s new wife defrosted the freezer. Relics melted, recollection dissolved. Pictures, china, souvenirs disappeared. A large painting of my ballerina mother, posed with arms curved gracefully above her, was exiled to the cobwebbed storage space under the basement stairs.

When nothing else could be eradicated, the new wife escaped their miserable marriage, driving off on a sub-zero winter night in a sporty red car my father had just bought her, leaving only her Tupperware behind.



Sex Studies

At night, the sperm slithers across my parents’ bed sheets like silverfish, up my mummy’s thighs, into her pee-pee, sniffing out eggs.

It’s incredible that I could have squeezed out through such a tiny opening.

But I’ve seen movies where someone—an elderly aunt or a nervous servant—yells out, hot water, plenty of hot water, and everyone else rushes around all excited, or they sit and fret in front of a closed door and, right before the newborn cries you hear a woman’s voice …



(A dispatch from Iceland and an interview with Wayne Koestenbaum)

My NonfictioNOW Part I: Celebrity and Humility

In the Seventies, pursuing a European dance career, I left North America on Loftleiðir Icelandic Airlines (“We are the slowest, but the lowest”), and took advantage of a bargain-price stopover in Reykjavík that included tours of thermal springs, mud formations, lava fields, waterfalls, and geysers.



(A dispatch from Iceland and an interview with Wayne Koestenbaum)

My NonfictioNOW Part II: Celebration and Humiliation

I took a seat in the front row just as a small delegation entered and, in a moment of reciprocal recognition, both President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and I uttered, “Oh, hello!” He beamed winningly, as he’d done at Kjartansson’s opening. His spouse, Eliza Reid, wearing an all-over-print of white tulips or, perhaps, magnolias, filled the chair next to me. 


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