Two Poems by Elena Karina Byrne

DSC 2174, Jona Fine

Firing Squad, Convergence, Jackson Pollock

See: Father’s art school

smells like the afterlife of charcoal.
The art room floor, war-littered with every color,

what babies make spit-shouting from highchairs, juice, food escaping
toothless loose mouths & fat hands that, over time’s absence, beat
the solid air to music only they hear.

What are days called we first learn to walk singing, the others

taken from us at deaf checkpoint by strangers? I’m always
caught barefoot,

something of Mother’s paintbrushes in my hair, Dad’s large hands
holding open the white door as if it were an easel. Ex-

                                                            husband wants to tell me to put on shoes,

that I might get hurt by what I cannot see.
Yet, I stand in this one spot, eyes closed, still,
to listen & guess at flight, face all the birds spilling

out, overlapping the garden’s excess entropy. They are my
only evidence

I cannot plan what might happen now
holding my tongue.

Metronome Maple & Betye Saar

From her cleaved timeframe,
our state’s sheer-bagged oranges
spill out like planets at the endless groves’
desert’s edge. Now and then the body measured time
in relation to others, not so giddy ago, giving back
what the mind got from being seen. Culture’s quick robbery
of language & skin color took
The Long Memory’s road, the rust cage out under
a downpour sky’s output epiphany. You can still
hear the breathing in the trees.
Violence bleeds from a syrup bottle spilling
over the old globe. Sticky wicket.
The stuffed bird’s gunshot pellet falls like a quarter
in an unsightly slot machine, shows up
in the lung’s X-Ray. Explain. Someone ill
will be hospitalized under the chipped stars, opened
alive––her expression, like a trout’s blue
gill-plate after it’s been caught & laid out there
on fresh dirt.


Pushcart Prize recipient Elena Karina Byrne is a poet, lecturer, editor, and program director. Her fourth book If This Makes You Nervous will release with Omnidawn in October 2021. She has also just completed a book of published, “interrupted” essays: Voyeur Hour: Meditations on Poetry, Art & Desire. As part of her interdisciplinary, collaboration-adventure, she is enrolled in Antioch University Santa Barbara’s MFA program in Writing & Contemporary Media. Her publications include her publications include the Best American Poetry, Poetry, the Paris Review, the Kenyon Review, the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Verse Daily, BOMB, diode, the Kyoto Journal, Persea Books anthology, the Eloquent Poem, Poetry International, and forthcoming issues of Blackbird, Narrative, Entropy, Adroit Journal, and New American Writing. 

Jona Fine is a non binary photographer, poet and performance artist. Jona’s artistic endeavors as of late involve photographing lots of eggs, and sometimes potatoes. They have also been nurturing Open Circle, a they body who is so full of trauma they rarely leave the under of their coffee table.  Jona currently works the graveyard shifts as a crisis worker for a LGBTQ youth suicide hotline.