Elena Karina Byrne

October 20, 2017 Byrne Elena Karina


“…has created the type of autonomous picture, which leads, without motifs from nature to
 a completely abstract life form…as a Bach fugue is from a carpet.”––Paul Klee


Stepping off the door lintel, down onto the grass as the day closed around us, grass, rising up inside its own squared green,––she walked backwards, walked backwards, slow full length of the long lawn to the blue Volkswagen Bug, waved and folded herself inside where her husband and two children waited. No smell or sound in memory’s stranded interior. I don’t think she smiled. Mouth closed, hair loose, hands open, facing mother and me. Nothing else is moving and the sky is so far, so far an abstract irrelevance. I stared and stared back for as many years as I could stand, her escaping face in its stages of flowering and deflowering from the frame, since it was the last time time afforded us her face, its pale proof and myth, its core of rain held off from the picture now black and white beneath us and that full body of trees remaining years into spine and thigh, into skull, into the lungs, hair flickering out like reversed candlelight in the river stir, rain kicking itself back in radio static and dragged chair, her father’s, my father’s lynched cough down the hall. She told mother at the beach that she saw herself buried in a dream in the water years before, her children like pendulums hung from the singing mast of her own voice. She would go out alone to a class and wedding, the sky bearing its impatient weight over her and everything that could be named there. In its random order the rain would then come that night, hard, flooding on a year in a place where rain never reigns or raises cars or shapes a silence in its loud punishment mettle scrawl across its own carnal ambition but would and did and made moan and cage and bad of it.

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.