Former 12 year Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America, Elena Karina Byrne, is a teacher, Poetry Consultant / Moderator for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Literary Programs Director for The Ruskin Art Club and the new series editor for Clockwise Chapbooks (Tebot Bach). A 2008 Pushcart Prize winner, her publications include, The Yale Review, Paris Review, APR, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Colorado Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetry Daily Anthology, and Best American Poetry 2005. Books include: The Flammable Bird, (Zoo Press /Tupelo Press); MASQUE (Tupelo Press, 2008) and the forthcoming Mouth to Mouth (2011), Voyeur Hour, and a collection of essays entitled, Beautiful Insignificance.

A RECIPE FOR ANXIETY
Literature is achieved anxiety.
                          -Harold Bloom

          
Hitching a ride on your heart-ache, exile the calendarís numbers
to the dirt-end of the roadís turn. Set aside days for whispering in
your own ear, years for going astray. Sending all open vowels out
the window of your mouth, keep the consonants for your teeth.
Occasion hell when an advance of ideas runs amuck up
your spine. Take four quarts longing and a pinch of Epsom
salt to the family table. Spread out a wreckage of syntax
and let cool overnight. Wielding a hot quill, write, write,
every morning, a letter to yourself under the bed. Pray
to the chain-gang of childhood that never let you go.
While reciting the Cosmologistís alphabet, say something
back to yourself, in your sleep. Without telling anyone, rescue
all the half-crayons you can, and take them home as an alchemy
for painting. Launch a page of gray carrier pigeons
toward the past. Now, blindfolded, walk backwards. Undiluted,
walk forwards into the blue requiem of ocean. Then know
how far to walk the sign language of sadness.  
                                                

THE HISTORY OF RESTORATION: GRIEF MASK                           
...and my brush, continuously dripping onto my 
face turns it to a rich mosaic.                                                        -Michelangelo, from a sonnet on himself at work on the Sistine Chapel.                                                                                              

The French flannel
in your hand, soaked in solution, drips
down your raised arm,
round your neck, slipping its tiny wet tongue
between your breasts.
The lacquered color that changed
with soot and grease from tallow of altar candles
now comes shocking as the future in front of you.
Your body is contorted, your arms, white, numb.
Everything is slowing down.Youíd rather peel potatoes
with your teeth than see yourself smiling
among the people being pulled with you
out of the shadow of the painting.
But you want to get back to fail
the silence, humiliated idiom, to remember
the original face spilling out into the room.
The windows are open
but you are still running out of air.
Visitors tell you to stay up all night with it, to take
the portrait back to its intended patina,
that all those hours will be forgotten in an instant.
The pain in your legs will be worth it.
Youíll have no time to eat because
this is an ongoing elegy to the body
dividing its image.
How many times
will you clean, salvage, stato dí animo ,
inhabit the rush of darkness?
Donít you know: destiny has always been
boring, giving you a glimpse of reconciliation?
And youíll admit, the face was a catwalk
out of the past, your own receding pose.
There now, donít despair.
We have always made strangers out of ourselves
by loving others. 


FISH MASK FROM THE WATER
...a rain of fish did actually occur in 1817, at Appin, in Scotland. It consisted of a
downpour of small herrings, a feat that nature repeated in 1830, at Islay, in Argyllshire.   
                                                           -William C. Vergara, Science In Everyday Things

 
As if common sense had a vendetta
            to persuade you nothing is as usual
as it seems, that climbing
            the bone ladder from the heart up to the head, or
better yet, from the head down to the heart, you see
            the slave of your logic
using a childís red beach bucket to empty the sinking boat
            that carries you both out
to the center of the Atlantic, where you see a blue Palazzo with women
            wearing white dance to Rossiniís La Cenereatola
and you see the Loch Ness monster, green hair of Neptune, and you hear bagpipes
            leading the wind; now, a storm is brewing
in your mind, and your bad behavior comes back to haunt you


Elena Karina Byrne poet at Moonday Poetry

© 2009 Elena Karina Byrne


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