Natalya Kochak

Poetry & Essays


American Joy


I feel sick.
I looked up hate and that led me to genocide and that led me to black men  hanging from trees and black women being raped
and that led me to six million, maybe more,
dead in the Ukrainian Holodomor,
dead children in the streets, parents going crazy and cannibalizing their own children.

Hate, death.
And that led me to the Armenian Genocide and ethnic cleansing, children injected with typhoid.
The poor children. Always the children. The most innocent. Syrian children.
Native Americans dead. Pygmies dead.
Aboriginals. The Holocaust.
Christians murdered. Kurds murdered.
Bosnian Muslims murdered.

I went to Uganda, on the border of Rwanda.
I saw Idi Amin’s bullets torn through the buildings still there, always remembered.
I heard the stories of the LRA stealing children and turning them into murderers.
The talk of Rwanda is that another genocide could happen at any moment. People living in fear.

I live in Miami. Sun-­filled, beautiful Miami. Everyone’s happy.
My day is beautiful, and I meet Serbs and Haitians and Cubans and Venezuelans. They have seen so much death.
And there are Russians and Jewish and white and black. America hate-­filled, and elitist.

My Ukrainian family would have been killed if they didn’t make it to America.
The land of the free.
The home of the brave.
But I am so confused.
The other half of my family owned slaves.
My nieces and nephews are half African-­American, a quarter Ukrainian and a quarter Irish.
I don’t understand. Who will they hate?


Sparkling seafoam, pretty and dewy, sexy, sexy, sexy
A sea of plastic
Sparkling plastic
A warped reunion of beautiful twenties and botox-filled lips
and butts.
An ocean of plastic and waste
Thrown out bottles
Smoothed-out glass.
Glowing lights
Opulence galore.
I love you Miiiaaammmi
I hate you Miiiaaammmi
The perfect acknowledgement of THE AMERICAN WAY
Human Forgetfulness
Full of Coconuts and Complacency
Full of Palm Trees and Thieves
Full of Hope to be a part of this AMERICAN WAY


This man is dying.
I was carried through a lake infested with parasites by a man riddled with AIDS Months left to live, I hear
Typical life in Uganda
Typical life in Africa
Americans scoff at the thought of this sadness
So far away
But we are the minority
Do they even think of that
Our luck is so large
I was carried by life and death so close to me.
He complimented me
Called me fat
Beautiful and Healthy
Full of life
He carried me to the safety of a boat
To be so close to death with a smile on your face
Still working
You are human
You are dead and in the ground by now
And I will never forget you.


When did I decide to live
Oh I decided to live
An accumulation of some 30-odd years
I was sitting with a friend drinking
Getting drunk
How can a woman with self-­respect stay with a man who touched her? She said.
A simple bruise, so slight turns purple and black, so little and grows and grows to form and take over. The pain so quiet, seething but hidden.
It begins as a child
Culture takes a hold
My daddy said LISTEN
Always listen and do as your told
Everyone is insecure deep down
And then that man so gorgeous comes there
You are everything
All that
And a bag of chips
Ya, and then that hand grabs you by the neck
And then the next thing you hear is no woman’s ever made him that mad
Ya, ya, ya
Those words
Oh but by then you are trapped
Ya, ya, ya
It’s a story told over and over again
Living is learning
And I won’t give up
No one ever will make me
Ya that’s it
Only I can make myself.

Then I saw myself. 34.
Oh, but why do we do this over and over again??
Ya ok
I got it
Women are told it’s their fault

So keep quiet and shut up
Bitch/ you are PMSing/ crybaby/ dramatic/ drama queen
I look at my friend
It could happen to anyone
Ya I decided to live that’s for sure.


Or wait
Was it when I painted this or when I painted this
or perhaps when I painted this
I can go on and on and on and on
The pseudo intellectual explanation of my art
The pseudo intellectual explanation of myself
Devoid of the questions I ask myself everyday
The personal part that becomes the political
The mutability of identity
The manipulation and the irony of the female form becoming
An amorphous blob
Men stare
They steal our image
They steal me.
They can take.
I was taught to give it to them.
I’ll take it back now.
Thank you.


How often do we think of this word
Not very often I think
What does it really mean
To be honest to yourself and others
I believed I was honest
I believe I am honest
One day after being cheated I cheated a person who was trying to cheat me What a funny little game of charade
Cat and Mouse
And I felt exhilarated
I felt a sense of freedom to stop being that little girl everyone looks at as the little mark in a game of egotism
That little girl
That little one I keep so deep inside that somehow they can all see
Oh but that little girl is just a woman
A woman!!
Oh women are meant to be
What are they meant to be?
Oh how can I ever be a part of this male industry
Not a part of this male world
Compassion is weakness
Then I look at myself in the mirror
And I remember who I am
The last laugh is mine


The little girl in Uganda
I still think of you
You must have been 3 then
You must be 9
10 or 11 now.
Little girl
I remember you
You were left orphaned
AIDS stole from you
No choice of your own
You will be a nun
The only way to survive
My sweet little girl
I thought of you
I think of my own fertility
I am scared of it
I am not scared of you
I am not scared of being a mother
I am scared of losing myself
My freedom will not be lost to you
I don’t know what to do
I don’t know what to feel
Oh little girl I think of you
I hope you are still alive
I hope you are still taken care of



Oh jesus lord
Here I sit in the laughable and livable world of the epitome of the American want and the American way and the American joy and hurt and hate
Yes oh yes
You drive me crazy
I want you too
Must I become you
Must I become you
Must I delve deep to my hatred and join you
I can cheat
I can want
I know the satisfaction of getting my way
Of becoming you
Of being a fantasy
Living my fantasy
I am pretty
I am wanted
I am angry
I am white
I can be the worst of myself
I can find my rich husband
Oh yes a man tried to sue me yesterday, tried to exploit me
Because he thought I was dumb
Oh yes
Because I am a WOMAN
Too bad for him I am a WOMAN
Free and beautiful
Love and life take me
Through and through I feel my power
I love you
I love me
I don’t need to be you
I don’t need to be like you
I love you
I can be me
I can be the bluebird
Happiness flows through my veins I am free
I am strong
You can take not even a moment of my blessing from me Because I am AMERICAN
No one will ever take my freedom from me
No one will ever take me to the days where my place was to be your wife and nothing else I will never be influenced again
I will always know what my strength is Virginia Woolfe, Maya Angelou, Lucretia Mott
Everyday I will remember you
Everyday I will love you
Everyday I will aspire to be what you wanted for me
You are my mothers
You gave me my freedom
I will always remember that I am Free
I do not need to ever lower myself to be you
Power hungry and angry
I am me
I am me and I am proud to be me


I’ve been thinking about Uganda again.
There was this boy.
Younger than me.
He wanted wisdom. Wisdom is a funny word to me, I still feel like a child inside. He told my American friend he thought he was gay in Uganda.
Gay in a country where they will light a gay man’s head on fire in a tire, all for being gay.
What should he do?
He had to hide it from everyone.
Everyone he knows, but I suppose a person finds comfort in knowing they can talk to a person from another country and confide their secrets to another.
But what do you say to a person who needs advice when that advice could lead to arrest or worse, death.
I sat at a table with good, hardworking Christians and talked about this issue. They are Catholic in a medieval Catholic way.
All good men.
Gay is ungodly.
That’s it.
Don’t kill them.
That’s it.
Don’t accept them.
That’s it.
What do you say to this boy?
Run away from your country.
Oh, but you can’t.
That requires something I don’t understand as an American who can go anywhere. You can’t go anywhere unless you are lucky, truly lucky.
Your best hope is to hide, become a priest.
If not you may end up in jail or worse yet, dead.
What do you say to this boy?
I don’t know.
I don’t know.
It’s not America.
There is no freedom.
He acted with no fear, or anger. It was just a matter of fact that he had to live with.
A matter of life
A matter that required no tears from him
A matter that he would live with
A matter that he could never speak of
A shame that I will never know
A fear that I will never know
A hope for something that I will never know
I only have my memories to serve me.


A wonderous amalgamation of the good and bad of our world
Russian oligarchs
Venezuelan money
Cuban poor who swam across the ocean
Dying for our land
Haitians in trailers
And run down homes
But it is an American dream
A scam here
A scam there
Be careful
It’s invigorating to see life in all its forms
There are poor and rich
And a little in between
People from everywhere in the world
French, so many Serbians
The Americans come for the beach
There are young boys and girls living on the street who have come to try to model from all over the world and then end up working for $15 a day
They end up doing drugs
Can’t leave because they don’t have enough money
And then you can forget everything and walk to the most serene beautiful ocean you ever did see
Lay there and forget everything
The free beautiful ocean
Not American or anyone elses
Crystal clear


The clear water passing over my feet
Laying in the surf
Shimmering over the skin
The softness and warmth
The coldness of the plastic
The thoughtlessness
And the sadness
And the beauty
And the insecurity
An emulsion is formed.


West Palm Beach Declares Itself ‘Welcoming City’ For Immigrants

The idiosyncratic
Justice Department announced it is following through with an executive order to withhold as much as $4.1 billion in federal grants from so-­called “sanctuary cities.”

A battleground of politics
All in an hour radius
A hotbed of immigration
And anger
All here
All there
All mixed into one
Being stirred in a pot
Using each other for gain and wealth
Idiosyncratic world


My mother held me while I cried when I was four, seven, sixteen, and thirty-­two
The child’s mother gave her life for her son because she had a tumor larger than the baby
She died
He took in a hungry Russian child and gave him food
She gave a dollar to a person who needed to take the bus home instead of being stranded in the street
The person in front of me bought me a cup of coffee without saying a word to me, left without even a thank you bringing a smile of thankfulness to me
Years later I bought breakfast and sat alone with my dog and it happened again. A man bought me breakfast and never said a thing to me. Kindness.
People inherently are alone
Questions glide through the mind with their soft outlines determining our mindsets and jading our perceptions of the human beings who sit in front of us
We are hunting for answers and feelings
Corrupted by loneliness and inadequacy
Ready to steal and take
But then
The mother will still die for her child, will believe that her love is enough to free her child
The light of the sun can still blind you
Or brighten what you are looking at
My sisters
My brothers
Strength is binding us in the future we can build for ourselves


Current event
Mosul, Iraq
Rubble flying
It hits a man in the head
Dead bodies
Who’s at fault
It’s America
Poor children
Schools out
Death has taken over
Unintentional accidents of war
Starving families trapped in homes
It’s the luck of the draw at birth


My day consists of
Going to the gym
Checking my weight
I want to lose ten pounds
Going out with friends
Going to the ballet
Having dinner at a fancy restaurant
Maybe going to the beach
Maybe I’ll go on a date
Maybe I’ll have a drink
And then it’s the same
The next day
The next day
The next day
It’s the luck of the draw in this world



Convulsing anger
Convulsing bodies of women united
Hysterical grief of history
The life force is stolen
Is fire
It requires exorcism
An animal of function
Of femaleness
This body made for life
And for love
Playing for righteousness
Fraught with anguish
Who’s the life for
The purpose of this life
And this love
The highlight is strength
Is fullness
Is fulfillment
Take it
Turn it off
Convulsing life
It’s okay
It’s quiet
It’s the calm
Got to be the free
Got to be the dreams
Got to be the truth
I am the sparrow.



Tidal wave
Washes over the earth
Schools of fish
Crushing blows
The flow and the strength
That flies through the body
That connects earth and being
The power we have
The language we have lost
And the language we make
How can I be free
How can I live and see
How can I be for nothing
For freedom
To leave want behind
And live
To be free.



Off course
I said I would be on course when I was twenty
Off course
I thought I should be a good woman
Be a woman
Take care of my place
Not be
It became my life
It became me
I fought
I hoped
I lost
I tried
I misplaced I found
I lost it again
I wondered if I was wrong
I wondered if I was right
I wondered who I was
I wondered why
I wondered what
I wondered who
Am I supposed to be different


I woke up
I awoke
There’s this world
Unspeakable anger and horrors
In hopelessness an awakening happens
Truth becomes something that
Seizes the being
In the eyes of those who we see as weak
In their eyes is the strength
That holds the womb of this holy world
A holiness that is in the natural
A ladybug bouncing off a green leaf being fed by the water
That feeds us all
That unites this being that makes one
The connection that breathes
Breathes through every human being
Every living being
The limbs of the palms and
The leaves of the rose
The temptations that take over
Becoming nothing more than that day’s loss
The next day’s hope
A hope for my children and yours
A hope for the next
Death is nothing more than the beginning
A new soul and new hope
A new being
A freedom from the past
And a freedom for the future
A bumble bees buzz
And a
Blue Jay’s song
Freedom to grow into a wise oak tree
The soul of the ocean
The soul of the sky
And the atmosphere
The connection that surpasses hatred
Life grows in the womb of this earth
Friction is functio
Dreams and prayers
For this time and the time of the future
I rest in the grace of the world and am free
There is nothing to fight for anymore
Just be
My spirit is free