Antonia Alexandra Klimenko







No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark

Warsan Shire


 When the morning paper hands you Syria

with her throat slashed

headlines dripping

with the blood of children from South Africa–

schools of flailing   thrashing fish

in baskets   in cardboard cradles pulled from the sea

when you read your own obituary  in the Unwanted Classifieds

when your passport has expired   and you’re now officially dead

when the death toll has reached you posthumously–

just ignore the front page entirely

head straight for the comics

pull up an easy chair  before it  too   floats away

and heads for the jaws of the Unknozn


The mouths of the Innocent

are begging for mercy are longing for freedom are gasping for breath

from their own stench   behind a barbed wire fence

and you give me a banal dirty look   and ask me where I am from

I who have torn off my limbs    who have grown gills and fins

to slip through this narrow canal    through the eye of your needle

I who cross my own self every day   and pray

I will make it to the other side !


Doesn’t everyone come from another place?

Doesn’t everyone want to get somewhere?

Even standing still      Nothing stands still

Stars need a space to turn    a space to burn for

a little grace

Even Heaven needs a place to yearn for


There are mansions in the sky

black holes     in the homeless terrain

there are people who will never

know their own worth   the origin of their birth

who dissolve like refuse in the ocean

who are recycled in the center of the earth

who dissolve in the rain or unfathomable emotion

becoming something else again and again


We are all in the process of becoming

something else someone new some other place

Dark shadows that once wore a human face

at the bottom of the sea and those deeper waters still

that no one can replace–

who tried to make the crossing

or whose blood spilled and left no trace

Some who waded through their own fears

who waded through their own tears

Others who learned to drink them

while still others tried to sink them


No one    wants to leave  a place they call home

No one    wants to give up everything


At night

I dream of cities   with

thousands of windows like mirrors

and children being thrown     out of them–

thousands of doors opening and closing

But   there are no floors on which to stand

or take refuge in a bottomless sea

with thousands of empty shoes

thousands of empty shoes

and no souls left to fill them


Every night   I toss in uncertain seas   uncertainties

Every night   I cling to my modesty   cling to my dreams like a raft

while the draft of your political wind  chills to the bone

triggers terror in my eyes       Where are you from? Nigger!

What would you expect me to say?–

I’m shedding old skin and the new feels like home?

I who have torn off my limbs    who have grown gills and fins

to cross the sea of no return    to transcend my own disguise

I who cross my own self every day       and pray

I will make it to the other side !


I am my own country    my own floating I-land

this side of the rainbow   somewhere I do not know

I carry the sacred past in my faith for a future–

the known to the unknown    the dead to the living

I’m in the business of forgiving  forgiving forgiving FORGIVING!

while you retire in your easy chair

and sigh    This is living

What are you afraid of? you who turn away in silence–

that I occupy a thought   on the outskirts of your mind?

seek asylum in your smile?   take refuge in your kindness?

Who knows…one day   I may migrate to your heart


I sing songs to the Invisible as a whale or a dolphin

I sing songs of remembrance   sing songs in the dark–

write poems for lost prayers in blind halls of oppression–

tortured cries of the abused   haunting pleas of the unheard

How long can we live with this malignant repression–

the absurd unfairness of the privileged few


No one wants to leave a place they call home

No one wants to give up everything

One day   I shall return   to the sanctity of there–ness

I pray   one day    I won’t have to pray for you




Song of the Homeless


How long can I go on

pushing my life before me? My feet are bare and swollen– they do not know me anymore! And I haven’t yet enough hands to keep me warm

nor make a pillow for my head

Maybe I’ll grow new fingers    tomorrow so they, too, can stick out like a sore thumb! I suppose you think

I should find a better place to hide

than in the poverty of my skin

Do you think I like

carrying my heart around with me in a basket?! You do not care that I have forgotten the words

to the songs I am singing– and I am running out of songs!

How could you know first-hand? that it is not my death I fear–- only that I should learn of it second hand






Let’s put down roots, you said–

buy a house   have a kid   get a car

Let’s not lose anoher year

wandering like gypsies all over creation


(Mind you

this would be the same year

you  planted yourself

in another woman’s   garden–

the same winter

we buried you in the ground)


Let’s not, I said,

combing centuries from my hair

Let’s honor what we’ve already lost



slipped through my fingers

that year


took root in me

only you

six feet under


I pulled my hair out

by its roots

over you–

for every secret

for every lie

for every betrayal–

one by one

I let my hair down

like a ladder

then descended into Hell


I have always gone to great lengths  in my life

I never once cut my hair growing up –

It was a part of me

I wore it coiled  as I  would the sun

on the crown of my head

I wore it loosely entwined

with the strands of the moon

Deeply braided

in my Russian heritage

it was a magical antennae –

a conduit to energy both radiant and luminous

I could see when you were lying–

see things before they happened


And so

I parted and untangled

your deceptions–

the alibis   the lullabies

the gardens you had all but ferilized–

the familiar light filtering through

the subterranean tunnels of my mind

Each tip    channeling the sun

scratching at the surface of the moon

Each tip    a  conscious vibration

of the generations before me


I let my hair down like a ladder

and I deseended

Everything sacred

is hidden, you said

Not true   not true–

though you   a mathematician

would reduce me further

In your mind

I am still eclipsed

conquered   powerless

buried under you

You  who like Genghis Khan

ordered his slaves to wear bangs

across their seeing third-eye Below the suface of my skin–

your original sin

your root of all evil

poking fun at me even now


Once  unanchored

it floated up to seek my blessing–

the aorta of consciousness

sending out its arteries–

your veins like rivers

spilling into

my fertile imagination–

just waiting for you

to take hold in me

I   who let my hair down

and ascended into Heaven


Every Spring

I tear  darkness

from my lips

Every Spring

one by one    like weeds

my fingers    descendants of earth

wither and sigh and sig into flowers


And where are you, now? I ask–

you a mathematician

wandering still in that other country

looking for the square root of one


Roots do not seek out other lands–

but grow where they are  planted

multiplying like numbers

ike tears   like light

unto themselves a solution

Unlike your blind equation

where centuries are lost  roots find their  way back

in the dark




chord in d# minor


three days of rain

of pain and painted flesh

the moan of empty rooms

and what is left    but the sheeted furniture

the whistle and shuffle of bones

a broken telephone    my own footsteps


how quickly they appear and disappear

those passing tones   these luminous encounters

the changing unseen floating dreams

neither living or dead    but waking


distant strains of miles and coltrane

the reflection of the moon on passing trains

inarticulate fingers suspended over keys

the creaking eaves that echo  all is gone

what’s left of me?  i’m going home


i drift from myself   to major and minor

the percussion of    the brushing of  leaves

a wind in transition    a slur of expression

i am divine imperfection

the rapture of autumn   the sorrow of fall

i lie in my shadow    not me at all


but the one who lives outside myself

who finishes what i’ve left undone

who sings for you     and eats thin air

who reaches for nothing    and finds nothing there





A houseboat docked on the Saint Martin Canal


I cannot see you but I know that you are there like the sweet nostalgia of butterfly wings– the dust of memory between my fingers


Since you have gone, my friend, all the ashtrays in Paris are full all the bottles are empty a thousand crows have flown from your head into mine, clocks at the Musée d’Orsay have decided to stand still and Billie Holiday is beginning to sound a lot like Leonard Cohen


I cannot see you but I know that you are there– Biedma’s boat passing between two dreams– drawing the sky’s curtain between night and day I walk with you, surreal, along the canal– the winter moon drinking the river’s dark


Since you have gone since you and I have, now, both decided that everyone in Paris lives on the sixth floor, I wait for you at the top of my landing I wait for you in small rooms with big hearts I wait for you in all the stations of the soul that have no last metro


I wait for you at sorties Saint Germain and Saint Michel… where, split in two, old friend… you look at me…I look at you.. . Your last night in Paris still waves back to mine Walk me to the corner our steps will always rhyme
Then; you turn the corner as I turn this page






you are always with me

even when you are not


Life’s full empty room

Breath’s bittersweet sigh


color of Nothingness

transparent as angels

color of darkness

perforated with light

color of tears

fallen from the dotted

blue blanket of Sky


you are always with me

even when you are not

suspended like the crescent moon

the alphabet of stars

the space untraveled

between us


as if


presence and absence

relinquish their names

surrender themselves to the Invisible


as if


without holding

may we trembling  feel 

the infinite nearness

of our immense




i marvel

at the innocence

of your tiny unopened fists


butterflies  still 

fly from your lips

how mine drown

in the drool of gurgled silence



even as  the umbilical cord

untangles around my neck


my voice     so far away

is trying to reach you–

buried so inexorably

in your muffled lullaby


i am always with you

even when i am not














Antonia Alexandra Klimenko was first introduced on the BBC and to the literary world by the legendary Tambimutttu of Poetry London–publisher of T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas Henry Miller and Bob Dylan, to name a few. Although her manuscript was orphaned upon ‘Tambi’s passing, her poems and correspondence are included in his Special Collections at Northwestern University. Klimenko, a former San Francisco Poetry Slam Champion, is widely published; her work has appeared in (among others) XXI Century World Literature (in which she represents France), The Poet’s Quest for God Anthology, Counterpunch, The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology, Occupy Poetry Anthology(in which she is distinguished as an American Poet) and Maintenant: Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art archived at the in Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.


She lives in The City of Light where she is Writer/Poet in Residence at SpokenWord Paris.


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