THE POETRY OF ELENA BYRNE


4 Poems

  1. NECROPOLIS WAR MASK: A BEARER OF TWO FACES
  2. IRREGULAR MASKS
  3. ELLIPTICAL SPEECH: MASK: A LETTER TO PEN NAME 
  4. RANT MASK 

NECROPOLIS WAR MASK: A BEARER OF TWO FACES

 “I want a touch of bitterness in everything—always
a jeer in the midst of our triumphs, desolation even in
the midst of enthusiasm.” – Gustave Flaubert
 

 

Let me multiply by you.
I have your hieroglyph number here
deep in my mouth.

Penetrate my psyche until you can’t see
straight. This is, after all,
the blood-century again. I can strike anywhere.
My own head is ready to fall
into a basket of horse straw.
The sky is still outside. Cracking
under my own pressure, I am all fervor and painstaking,
toughing-out winter, fit for
consumption, red berry skin
and thorn, rejecting battle scars because no war
made us who we are not. Melee
to my future, you
are penning an impersonator with no mercy
but I know all your bad habits
and I’ve read my rights, so please
try to convince me I am not you.
I will surrender nothing, but
I will scrub this face painting-pale so you can see
me better. Save face for us both.
Then lie for me. I’ll make your distance
my proximity beyond the pale, the better
boundary. The world will scare
a fascist elegy out
of you when some questions are better

not asked. There are whole days

I brain and brawl and borrow back

an abundance of words troubling for water.
There are whole days I am thirsty at night.
You see: the time lapses here in our own arms.
Now break your silence;

tell me a story I can’t stand.


IRREGULAR MASKS

“In relation to each other men are like irregular verbs
in different languages; nearly all verbs are slightly irregular.”
– Kierkegaard
 

They had beaten their heads against the walls of waves
until a thousand green fish glittered to the surface, 

had drawn your inside thigh-blood, silent
for a slow pint at the neighborhood pub 

with their hair trailing behind them, had fled all bad
words hung from the attic rafters overnight,— 

still those who, singing, had begun masturbating their way
back to original sin, or thousands, born 

to alcoholics, with sorrow as large as houseboats, have
drunk the hand-wash of airport pickpockets 

and others blindfolded by luck, caught the hurricane’s eye
to move in with the summer storm’s shearing, for 

another who has burst the helium balloon you bore in mind
like a glow-in-the-dark apple the doctor gave away: 

oh, how many more have broadcast, breakneck, their own
breathing, told the moon it was the sleeper’s open mouth 

in the outskirts of the city, who have fallen to their knees
to see the shape of the world on the back of a baby’s head 

with those, serious, knowing real consequence was a matter
of verb tense’s wear and tear on the past, that no two 

faces are the same, just like any stunned Vermont snowflake father said,
disappearing easy as its memory, once it reached your skin.

 


ELLIPTICAL SPEECH: MASK: A LETTER TO PEN NAME 

“ grew up with a lot of punctuation myself, so I can understand your nostalgia
for parentheses, the dashing Sister Ka exclaimed...” – Harryette Mullen
 

Dear Pen-Name, 

I am wild with poker and the odds are in someone else’s favor.
The flavor of cowry shells, of ice chip just out of its box. Cistern-smell.
It makes me all the livelong dog-tired and ready to give up myself. Yes, I am aware
the sky is mirror, the predecessor to dream. Just one more go and I might win. Win back
the predictable weathercast, foreplay and longshot’s yin-yang. Win back every lost friend
and the feeling for right words. But that’s hoax, the hogwash trough we fill. We are all on
the warpath to nowhere there and given another minute up. This is not just fan mail genre, but
the cut and dry, the rival faith. A small price to pay, don’t you think?

Counting out loud, you can devote your dynamic to me. I have been told before, the root result
is a good one, a sure bet. The next move you make may be mine. Because payday preserves freedom.
Because money and short kisses recycle, idle the same water round the planet which figures as one.
Own your anger. Sardine the kitchen with hype and salt. I say that in earnest. Honest. And every day.
My assonance is passionate as your silence. I am in love with spoons. Oh, overture famish! You must be
able to see me as I say this. Probable as no number. Errored in distant cosmology, numerology. From my face,
quickly losing the luck of the present tense. 

I will prevail your wise reply.
 


RANT MASK 

“I think I never
slept that night. I only dozed. And ranted.”
– Gerald Stern
 

And then suddenly you are forty
and you want to take out the little pocket knife
the one with a red rabbit’s foot attached, and you want
to peel your own skin and call out in the darkness
to no one in particular since the body temperature rises
with each thought and the sounds outside enter your gut
like red pepper, sounds that by now have moved on up the street
with a tail of leaves and candy wrappers made for children screaming
in the car, made for the time you forgot what you wanted
to say and happened to look below on the pavement running
its white and gray knuckles down your imaginary spine,
and you said to yourself — that is what time does, that
is where it goes — only to catch your breath
for you when you least expect it and when someone
you love expects nothing more of you
as if the self has lost its mother memory in the movie theater
and like Swiss clockwork your hands had to touch
your face just one more time to be sure how far
you have come, out of the suspended hive of desire,
out of the kingdom of strangers with the blood
pressure of dreaming, the soaking sheets
and graveyard hair, the whiskey breath shoes and shine
of water glasses, all the while telling yourself it will be OK,
a Vivaldi’s season, all the while not wanting
anything else but to be conscious, awake
when field lightning counts down the days
leaving glowworms and aftersex behind,
the full jacket of terror that you might have missed
something, perhaps the ghosthair of dust moving
under the bed or decaled words pasted on your tongue
while you squandered the petty cash of holding back,
your hands held down in the icy water
at the mouth of a winter carp
mistaking your finger for a piece of the last food
God had intended for some other fish.