Elena Karina Byrne












Made a left-handed oath,


          hoaxed the house-keeper, the house,

          unlocking the attic latch, apiary coaxing the bees

to enter. Reverso: Lumina, Lux.

Light from light from

          light’s inverse, filling the whole belly, waves wrung-out…


The very famine-gleam (you knew was coming):

miles of road once sugared in crystal-crush until all you could see was & is.

          Light : wild applause broke out in the wet azaleas &

stars so densely packed, their center could not be resolved… And now?

Like yang-misfortune in

the body, your name arrives—divine whitewash—in italics, or becomes

          that universe-wheel tipping, biological clock to be unwound at

          its bright volition. You, inside & inside (Newton’s orbits?)


a chalk circle, five others drawn around it, no suffering or joy undeserved.

Of consciousness alike… seeing is: something as something.

          But you feel it from the body, in the body, a light,

          all that you wanted to know, coming down around you, opening the eye

          of each room home. Now.


Picture forgiveness, deluge, ambient noise, voiced-for water

          with anchovy schools, all-in-one leap from the torn skirts

          of  sea channels, then, down, down

          with giant bleached sea-snails, your lit skull


rolling over at the bottom, workhouse-empty & in purposeful angst,


an ordinary effigy dreaming of its own ablaze.









How displeasing I am   or must be, to myself or to you…

Likewise-rhetoric:   I am whatever I am,   doubtful you’ll follow, your mouth,

your full-face set at the head of the table.  What name, what consciousness

gave me this faculty   to verse merit, to verse

          trifles,   the most paltry inanities   until

my purpose welled up from sea-bottom to sky-ceiling, raised itself up

in sleep’s blue, broken-down house in order to speak––

not for vainglory,    but for the Earth who I,

in my words, in my consonant-search, God insists, made me. This is

language’s letting go, its tempted teal translation trapped

by the door of the senses   where we begin every day, one cruel consonant at a time,

one spring-burst seed pod, one branch at a time (look how they split the tongue)—

and   This is the school where men are made masters of words   down vocabulary’s

burnt course, so, listen, can’t you understand and

          can’t you   bewilder me in my memories,   confound me

until the last syllable followed all the rest

so all the innocent dead don’t seem

          so lost,

so I too am formless as a verb without its noun?

          That   seeking in sorrow what with sorrow


there is to have

          when we try to speak, we speak.

          Where even   weaker spirits may be inspired   to believe,

those    wicked human characters,

prepositional like myself,  just want a window in the bell tower,

a fresh piece of knowledge   from which to launch from

the wicked cavern-force, dog-forgotten past


          which gave me this faculty… to language.

Oh, power-tear, Oh origin, Oh

permission   is punishment itself!


          I am committed by nature’s religion-invest, the very Latin look in the eye,

the mind’s morning scaffolding, but really, what final loss for words we are with

this Roman Empire still falling, falling, and falling,


its bad, bad, Oh,   banished universe!








          “I love his eyes. They are a little larger

                    than visible things” ––Valery


…but single key conclave is not this. Nor nail to the lightbulb shell.


The full force of passion comes to you,


row of glittering water glasses, tall, along the floor,

after counting, oh after air…  in and out of itself, this room swims.


Your hair like a torch, body of water, you,

the mind’s fishhook threaded, a haunted language toward

Aristotle’s definition of God, “thought of thought,”

so far inside where


attention is coercion.    Knock, Knock.


And you, wronged in pairs, couplet for couplet,

….yet: with conjuring


          cap, Book of Hours open, hungry salt fire, with

          Mr. Alchemy’s mercury vapor, color-key,

          moon & dragon at your knee,


you have large eyes. Now, go away and come back: waking & waking.


Whereupon speech’s « follow » and « fall » becomes your direction,

the very psychology a verb can make,

          so you move, the room moves.



consider the cement chair and know

          instead, periphery.









                    …Freud, in his old age, insisting that rhythmic

                    repetition was the expression of our longing…

                    -Robert Kaplan, The Nothing That is: A Natural History of Zero


A blindfolded lover looking for the shape

          of things to come. Musical interlude we want


to be true… and by an opened hand, eloquence


nearby and well in, hand over hand in one’s own, on


my right where he is gloved, one of countrymen

with hand-forged from fire’s

handiron, handkerchief, off-hand, pale for the century.


          To find, furl, have free. Clap at the concert with strangers.

Birds beginning farewell

          in apprehend-practice make wing and wing.


Fingertip whorls of insatiable appetite, real pleasure comes from forgetting.


So what ground for suspicion rocks the cradle?


Of fortitude in Egypt,

fidelity in Rome, two, concord, laying them on, hurting

and hurting by striking; or return to language, hands’ birds’ gestures’

asking… hand, from its paper made, grey watermark

(too, the watermark breath held there in hands)

and sign language, already agile in counting, here succumbs as a kind of

          brevity everlasting,


calculating our odds after we’ve reached zero.













Former 12 yr. Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America & Executive Director of AVK Arts, Elena Karina Byrne is a visual artist, freelance teacher, private editor, Poetry Consultant / Moderator for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Booksa Contributing Editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books, & Literary Programs Director for The Ruskin Art Club. Publications include,  Pushcart Prize XXXIII, Best American Poetry 2005, Yale Review, Paris Review, APR, TriQuarterly, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, The Kenyon Review, Drunken Boat, Offending Adam and Volt . Books include: The Flammable Bird, (Zoo Press /Tupelo Press), MASQUE (Tupelo Press), and the forthcoming Squander (poetry), Voyeur Hour: Meditations on Poetry, Art and Desire.

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