Two Poems by Alina Stefanescu

Photo: © Stephane Cocke. All rights reserved.


for Lydia Alina Stefanescu

There is a poem in the unfinished
cereal, another in the rust-lipped rims
of an open truck bed, the first beg
of a stanza in the jazz-brush drizzle
on your death’s anniversary.

The poem needs a hand to hold it
close and I am all head

with no hands to fete
the wine-kissed tablecloth, a foot’s sudden
soot-print, loosestrife drying near
this simple ink pen.

If there is a lyric
in fallen nest, it is the bird
one keeps being
without us.

And how to grasp the gap
between sirens as it surges into formal
constraint, dividing rescue from
the worst we can imagine.

When horror is done,
how can I poem to know
what I’ll never believe?

You are gone.
Peonies astound the lawn.

In Case Sanda Ungureanu Comes Over

for secret Romanians

On the patio, a fresh pinafore of crepe myrtle
dust. I tell the puddle to return to the cloud;

I sweep the gray cement steps we can’t enchant into elm arms.
In this battle where gaze is blasphemous,
there is a Bucharest plaza
where my father

courts Sanda Ungureanu, who is not yet
the love of Ion P. Coulianu’s life, not yet the wake of his flight
to Chicago. His unsolved murder
lies in wait.

See, we Romanians have a thing for fate–

the dictatorship of secrets spills like ashes from an urn;
and we of the dangerous silence smudge
soot on our foreheads, know each other
by ash prints, find ourselves in dark
we can’t forget.

Inside our minds hides the brain
of secret police.

And I would do anything to unknow the exile
of an Alabama night, the teascape of lost linden, a slurp of ciorba, raw silk
of Patsy Cline karaoaked in Romanian accent, an old man declaiming the

broken heart of Paul Celan, a knife to mirror self on the edge
of this terror. Give me a nude shoulder, the least perfect breast

to cut these milk teeth. Give me plums, sheepskin drums,
a fist of garlic flower blooming from the grave
that keeps its bones home.

Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and lives in Birmingham, Alabama. She serves as Co-Director of PEN Birmingham. Her debut fiction collection, Every Mask I Tried On, won the Brighthorse Prize and was published in May 2018. Her writing can be found in diverse journals, including Prairie Schooner, North American Review, FLOCK, Southern Humanities Review, Crab Creek Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Virga, Whale Road Review, and others. She serves as Poetry Editor for Pidgeonholes, President of Alabama State Poetry Society, Co-Founder of 100,000 Poets for Change Birmingham, and proud board member of Magic City Poetry Festival. Her poetry collection, Defect/or, was a finalist for 2015 Robert Dana Poetry Award. A finalist for the 2019 Kurt Brown AWP Prize, the 2019 Greg Grummer Poetry Prize, the 2019 Frank McCourt Prize, and the 2019 Streetlight Magazine Poetry Contest, Alina won the 2019 River Heron Poetry Prize. More online at or @aliner.

Appears In

Issue 9

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