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”