Elena Karina Byrne

A Brief Portfolio of Six Poems
September 25, 2020 Byrne Elena Karina



told us Hollywood
was a verb on the painted stretcher     fretting, we
knew it was true. There, I am LIGHTLY DISTURBED     standing
under his window, he’s so damned handsome in this            version
extreme & in-betweens where unlikely color thinks itself     from
the page. Sex drive-in movie theater screen seen. No sound    box to
clip on. Say-over a succession in language-place, body        place.
Language eventually makes us leave the physical picture    framing
factory. Things we saw before we said so. Color is     subjective,
a baby verb in the adult. All You Can Eat pictured things     when
you’re finished being hungry. That’s America for you &     for you.
That’s Japan in Tomorrow’s Thinking entertainment,           minted
for exchange. I know because I’m always in the wrong time    zone,
in a honey sunset of life looking for a stranger’s swimming      pool
to die in temporarily. Mother was beautiful & knew him. She.   too
painted. When She Was Bad, I was bystander, GAUZE,    VASELINE,
gallery visitor. Honk if this makes you nervous or troubles     that
positive side of      aggression.





I am      certain came from the sore-same desert they body-dragged


my cousin Mark into    so as to long torture him for testifying against
the released drug dealer he fell from     Desert flowers & ready rain’s
flung spring curtain on the ground mixed with blood    No police   no
police protection   & no pretty-cut picture to a dry sky that also won’t
care about his childhood or abandoned cars    another fallen body
foiled rotting as food for animal    His flowers’ hallucinatory color
sprouting is full wheel away from Duchamp Detox Clinics    now
courtesy of the artist    This room   my room    re-imagines his hour
taken from all hours I know I heard him scream white    woke loud
into full silence & wondered what was real    or where the tree fell
& how many times it did fall before he was heard. Humans
a force of nature no matter what anyone stops to tell you


Force from nature   Greening is grief too    you    times two





thrown snow hives, splitting the sea’s white lips, were heard
that same year my pre-teen body’s biremes sank & rose with
the gales. The terminal roar seemed a whole planet’s belly width,
one pressed heel of the heaven’s open palm. We saw the painted
floor-to-ceiling stained-glass window’s paneled scene sealed to
the staircase’s top landing…whoever got there first: a new game.
So, from one iron banister’s black bottom curve friends ran &
hurtled in fierce competition, stopping at its edge. This would be
my first year’s storm water hitting in the face, the Turner year
Father teaches me how to draw like his students facing a kneeling
knight in pose: know, you have to put the armor on. It’s the only
vantage point danger: mortality equals, at once, hunger for & all
defiance. But like the Romans who filled their Colosseum with 
a mock sea, ships & battles to please the Emperor, my friend had
one thought only: to win & doublehand the church-colored glass.
I saw its buckling back into the window’s one collapsing lung:
the fallen storm shards of winged color, its afterlight nature’s
wrath at our feet.



-Angus Lockyer


& no Rothko’s sand blue over brown, incalculable equation to grind
paint between
your teeth. I hear night’s shore pouring its black gravel over
my head,
embedded mica flecks shining under the one eye that refuses to close.
Laughter is
exile’s closet partner, anger’s better half, gutted. No gray backwashed
sister, ribbed
& undressed in the moraine ravine filled with flood, a fallen cow’s
bloated belly-
suffering another morning’s wet heat. Paper boats set sail when
you commerce:
Sea spray’s unlike blown snow in her drift. No accidental
revolution. No Rat
and salmon goodnight story, piece of rope for hanging on. Without
his Great Wave,
Masculine Wave, Feminine Wave. There’d be no confusion & no
confusion as
what had to come next. The sea is never late coming home as it is.
Without him,
no photo soup kitchen, no lover’s mother impression left in her
only tossed
coffin box the size of one shoe floating between kelp blades, pod
bladders, soda
ash wash & November’s green pin cushion of rain. There would be
no woodblock sound,
no murdered Kohada Koheiji bone & flack skin ghost pulling back his
mosquito net
or us to see Hokusai’s wife & new lover–– putting to bed the night’s
vanishing boat’s
heavy cargo overboard. I know what the shore bottom’s shadow
is like not
to breathe or breathe twice there because the greater sea only wants
to live.





found      after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, its right

shoulder    pain felt on the shoulder of an unyielding highways’

shouldering    death’s one wave in the 2011 ocean shoal groan-

heaving    headlong to Honshu shore. For I cannot be seen without

it. For it hurts without brain’s conversation. It glows green in this

dark    while sleeping like a new sea animal found in inebriated

unreachable    depths where mother-descent means any direction,

where      volcanic vents breathe only exhale. Its hand hurts especially

when reaching for my face now. It was how I knew I would not

forget myself all those times I couldn’t see, couldn’t recognize

a feature aged overnight in that sleep theater of surprise where

glacier ice air is always empathy-clean, forcing the past to feel like

a survivor’s story. We snowballed, became limb puppets & survived

family drowning wave after wave. But all fallout is a haunted house

in phantom fields that live inside you. Your furniture collapses back

to groundwater & replaced with doll parts too small to belong to me.





or insensibly, in the middle of the surface of the earth in one muscle
direction he came vicinity. He, like Master-God thinking, studied-out
autumn light’s late groundwater course down to my feet, already his.
Light was all the skin’s hit, circle & double of me there, proof
apparent. My face, flanking Italian centuries past a kiss, that lawless
form these days. He drew my length on every church wall, came
candlelight-side & locked a stare back, made memory’s pupils dilate
their crypt. I knew I was what I felt, more obtuse in the new as this
waking flesh persisted to shine outside-strange, wet instrument
organ’s slow breathing with sea horses, drunken-teetering in their
shade behind curled hippocampus-cage’s own shadow. He, covet & 
anguish, he, pirate of my wreck, covered one eye to see me better. He, 
of the cause of lust and other appetites of the body couldn’t be of sound
mind. Hear me? I was already his olio-anatomy measure. Hear? Sight’s
many undertakings made red sketch perfection. My carapace held strange
color-noise of empty church pews filled with stained glass fallen. Fucking
hell. Look: No one came to pray or otherwise-worship, to sing!

Elena Karina Byrne, the author of three books of poetry, most recently Squander (Omnidawn 2016). Her fourth book, Phantom Limbs, is forthcoming from Omnidawn in 2021. Elena is a freelance editor, former 12-year Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America, 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, APR, TriQuarterly, The Kenyon Review, The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Yale Review, San Francisco Chronicle, Verse, BOMB, and is forthcoming in VOLT, Denver Quarterly, Poetry International, and PerseaBook’s: The Eloquent Poem, among othersShe is completing: Voyeur Hour: Meditations on Poetry, Art & Desire.