Alina Stefanescu ~ Four Poems

Housemaid’s Knee

I am get­ting a house­maid­’s knee, kneel­ing here gulp­ing beau­ty.”
                –Amelia Earhart

This is the knee’s response
to the poem. It is the cal­lous
that can’t afford a white dress,

the price of inno­cence ris­ing
like oceans over retir­ing hous­es.
And day, itself, a scor­pi­on

which waits for bed. You must
write dread, the uncle of con­fu­sion,
the sec­ond cousin of curs­es.

Only water mat­ters for the
morn­ings wok­en drunk. You must
explain how obe­di­ence

poemed you, and left holes
in the wall with its studmarks.
What you want is not the

vir­gin’s pos­ture or the pedestal’s
con­nivance with pow­er. It is the secret
of the machine at mid­night.


Confession Reserved for Zagajewski’s “Illustrious Caesura” 1

The tree does not shud­der
before light­ing strikes it.
The tallest pine does not
know what is com­ing.
But I knew some
thing. Do not for­give
me for watch­ing the boys
split each oth­ers’ faces
on the church pave­ment.
Even their fathers looked
away. The com­mit­ment
of my gaze was inex­cus­able.
The tree left her limbs
in the yard. And it is
only because I could
not rejoin the world
that I saved it
for the page.

With My Head Leaning Over the Side Of This

I was­n’t forty yet
when mom died
but I laid in my child­hood room
where boys & stars felt the same
dis­tance apart
from a head
or the hole in my bed.
In my bed, it is bet­ter
to be used than
indict­ed by the uses
knot­ted into one’s body.
It is best to be a fold­ed paja­ma
that emerges for the snake-
song of a lul­la­by.
I need some­thing elu­sive
as a lyre about moon­beams,
an imag­i­nary mus­cle that leaps
the creek into a lan­guage
that leaves you behind.
In my head life begins with
a tad­pole, a sapling, a monk’s
mag­ic beard, a home­land
of oak roots
who rav­age the lip
of a side­walk, destroy­ing
all prop­er­ty val­ues.
Maybe jus­tice will
damn us. Please god
fuck every­thing I want
trees to win.

Grim Pilgriming

Today’s impas­sioned mas­sacre
in the name of the fathers
is just the turkey we are
swish­ing through
our teeth to estab­lish
a dif­fer­ence between
ancient truths and good
olé lies, the penul­ti­mate
mossy tus­sock. But
today is the great­est
self­ie, the rare instance
when pil­grim para­pher­na­lia
trends. I learn what needs
bak­ing from true Insta-friends.
If this rings bit­ter, take it
as a back­road rather than
a high­way, a route of say­ing
noth­ing in par­tic­u­lar
except Look. At that cym­bal
on the side of the road.
Hold my thim­ble.
Maybe hunger is the
lan­guage you might
need to say it.


Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and lives in Birmingham, Alabama. Her debut fic­tion col­lec­tion, Every Mask I Tried On, won the Brighthorse Prize and was pub­lished in May 2018. More online at ali­naste­fanes­cuwriter or @aliner.

  1. Namely, “death”