Elena Karina Byrne – Underground

Profile Elena Karina Byrne LE P&W Dec V Two 2018

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Underground, poems by Elena Karina Byrne

Elena Karina Byrne, former Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America and recent final judge for the Kate & Kingsley Tufts Award in poetry is the author of three books including Squander (Omnidawn 2016) She is a freelance professor, editor, the Poetry Consultant / Moderator for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and Literary Programs Director for The Ruskin Art Club. Her publications include the Pushcart Prize XXXIII, Best American Poetry, POETRY, The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Slate, Poetry International, The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Black Renaissance Noire, and BOMB. Elena just completed Voyeur Hour: Meditations on Poetry, Art, & Desire.

The following four poems are from Elena’s new manuscript A GAME OF VIOLENCE.


“Please buy what you do not need,” another man pleads
into my back as I climb the cobbled street with you
in Turkey. Medusa’s wet
stone head the size of five vandal men, tilted on her side in
aqueduct water, smiles,
makes for lit green silence aside in this cistern’s

dark left handed corner. Two of her, two heads
each at the base of Corinthian columns’ staves. Inexact as
these onlookers, gorgon sister, sea nymph

beheaded, made practiced hungry love to him. I listened
to the ocean in
the made-up dark––
My feet find the handmade here
descending Athena’s armed hard temple,––  This way tamed,
the other upside down, a green mold mind and water for hair snakes
and set, set on the shield of my chest.
“Madame may I
A man’s hands
have never hurt me. This will
always be the opposite of indifference

Outburst Pavillion: Ars Poetica Via Dead Lovers

“animate my painting”-Apollinaire, Les Soirees de Paris

and there’s an oath of lead paint in the alcove, autumn
delirium burial made with wet hands but
the all-night fire set at my feet is not bruised
twilight pent-up. So, go, go drink
a thimble of burnt dung beetles, drink of closet dark
down in the root cellar. Let wildfowl flock
the water mirror again once you’ve covered the beehives.
Stop inside this widowed insect hint of
disquiet till Sunday’s clock sun’s scabbard arm cuts
through the lit paper of your skull.

Self-Portrait As Counterpart Always, Wait

and see. Wait and see.    What you will become, what they
make of you.    Mother said, only once, and it was    easy to be lily outlay
of language, a tongue-field    before I was the sex matchhead
me, emotion’s elevator    matter of skyfall, or imagination’s torn greenery left
out on cutting board,   and all animal kingdom come-to-me    after-smell. Now,
I cannot save myself from myself.   I know the story’s running    departure far
from home, honing in on    the obstacle we call beauty,    the crave trade.
Hear it? Body    with twin fire escapes, hotel music    under the sea-flooded
stairs of the last house.    Time turns it back over   to you: one child’s first hand
coffin box full of fresh crayons,    melting together,   under the bedroom
window sill, child, unafraid to call    any color sky or skin.

Miranda July Asked Me To Dance

to music in her film once, in my bedroom on my bed,
facing the large window’s empty marine tank facing
our widening ocean garden. It was an odd accident we
found each other online, job for a woman artist whose
high heels punctured the grass, preaffair, sky scale fire
and faith rain when the garden would be payment enough
in an exchange in a novel. Everyone is a pseudonym for
you kissing both hands in the hall bathroom wallpapered
with fish at a bad party. In the quick end, she didn’t show
up, didn’t choose me, somebody she didn’t know from this
future machine charity shop of surprises and moving body-
poses, arms and hair flying like goddess curl-crotch-seaweed.

© Elena Karina Byrne