alina stefanescu


where to meet

does it matter if we meet
awned in starlight or streetlight

the brawl of love
blooms crimson
as if to spite
the passing light
we hold against it


Doina de Jale

A “doina” is a traditional style of solo musical performance
practiced in parts
of Romania. “Jale” is a state of grief or chagrin.

We know
each other
by our

what the
left behind
in Dacia
long past

All flies
past us
we wonder
why not
into one

the margins
include monks
even nomads
and settle
on a suitable
a single
eaten alive
as soil


Letter To The Widower Selling Tomatoes in A Carpathian Village

In Transylvania, happiness is measured
by the backyard breadth of chickens,
the fallen apple harvest.
Our kids filled plastic bags
with crab apples
and then we made fresh apple juice.
The littlest one chased the hens through the yard.

Everyone was happy.
Except for me.
I was restless as usual, wondering
what I was supposed to find and whether
I was in the right place
standing in the right spot
impatient for epiphant.

I am always standing before a door
even when no door is there. Even now.

This is the knocker on the back door of Dracula’s castle in Transylvania.

When I went in, I didn’t bother to knock.
That’s his job.
He’s the haunter,
the hunter of things and folks to haunt.

I’m the hunted,
sometimes haunted.
The difference is merely material.


Letter To Sunday’s Favorite Lover

A wingspan of empty beer cans,
baby bottles leftover from earlier.
Listen for the soft thud as I drop
them in the trash, wonder maybe
targeted dropping amounts to a loss.

Bunicu told me the most important
thing you can say to someone is
the one thing you could never tell
them. I peer at the silver bullet
trash can before trying to explain
you are things I can do without.
Trash can keeps mum, mirrors
silent lips, primness is lid-like.

Conversation is dangerous,
sticks to the skin like dusk
I don’t want you here for
sunsets or hangovers segue
into hangers-on. The window
needs scrubbing. I don’t scrub
but stand, trash napkin in hand,
reading a phone number torn
into a zip code. Face the first
stars of a summer Sunday
evening whose eloquence
stills the fan. Night is a short
circuit, an electrical expectation.

Knees press against trash can
bosom buddy I wonder if the
beast within me wants comfort
from the beast that plays me all
the while thinking Wallace Stevens
was right — the trash can is a stage
prop I turn into a friend.

Nothing exists apart from the
shit we understand at first sight.
You know me as we agree, in left
margins mostly of how-to books
staging conventional scenery.
The limitation is not in your head
besides you can’t imagine me
as I am so I am what you imagine.
I am nothing, I say, save this.

After you leave, I am the silver
bullet’s best friend, diving my
personal dumpster for things
tossed too hastily. I am the calm
deliberation’s inveterate repeat
saboteur, the agitprop’s final
gaudy breath. I am not your
lover, only a woman pillaging
napkins for the burned marks
soldered by careless lips.



Coming back
the descent
through turbulence
swells into habit.

The customs return
as successive reentries,
one breath snagged
spoils the hosiery.

Think how a suitcase,
once unpacked, gapes
open, lips wide as
memory. The mind
records its contents
as a string of data, but
how fast we lose sight
of the way things are
situated: shirts folded,
stacked under summer
dresses, rolled tight
between sandals, tucked
beneath jeans, socks
edged into corners,
this tangle of dendrites,
a well-ordered marvel.

Look again. Hold fast
this final look, a picture
before or after
now everything
is packed.

How things are situated
now things were situated.
The recollection is doomed
to devour its shadow
returning as


Just So
     For Cameron Tidwell

On the warm concrete,
your letter loose in hand
parking spaces speak
                  of asymmetries
as the wind tugs a 
net of dark hair
over my face

I could not tell you
		   what to choose.

My dear friend,
faith grows callous
beneath the persistent 
pressure of my 
sandal strap.
You knew me when
ghosts co-existed with
fairies, and stage
fright with love.
Now, only the
		    graveyards matter.

I cannot reconcile
what’s been torn
with the tender 
hands that 
		    muted my eyes.


Good Terror

By folding the letters IZL and LHI
longways then back one gets a swan:
the metaphysical origami equivalent
of an IDF, transliter’s iteration.
Revolutions describe how one group
folds itself into another draft a new
template we adapt the mandates and
hallow freshly-minted methods.

Before folding, the IZL fireworked
its way across ancient maps
Palmah squads exploding civilian
hotels one night ten simultaneous
bridges bombed every storied bond.
Because only terror will cleanse the
land of Arabs before being folded
into origami desk pet paper tigers.

Before being folded into British file
folder archives reveal draconian IZL
methods making evacuation not an
option only determined resolve to
slaughter being the simplest fold.

While folding hides forbidden facts
and garish goiter lipstick stains we
crease over “morally reprehensible”
make a wing of “efficient tactics”
a long, graceful neck of “territory”
a splendid beast, finally,
the grace of good terror.


A Memory Belonging to Young Torless

Lips pinched for lack of mother’s touch,
Young Torless sits down to share the
day’s doings in a letter – to spill all
colors of books, assemble the assorted
sounds of classroom clocks, arrange
the characters in starched uniforms.

Always a few words bleeding together
by a tear. He tells his parents about his
homesickness, confesses it only to them,
seeking penance for old attachments,
the loyalty of prior meanings. As he
writes, the day expands from ache
into exuberance. On paper, life
resonates. To stamp an envelope
is to smooth the feathers of time.


A Memory Belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Algernon Stipple

The profusion of pine trees
reduces our former panorama
to an ordinary passport photo,

Our porch chairs become
the rubberized bench
inside a booth.

We are going places-
even as we sit
watching another
sun shed its day.


A Set of Schemas

Immanuel Kant: “I have no knowledge of myself as I am, 
but merely as I appear to myself.”

     There are two leather suitcases on the floor of the train station. 
     A young female in a long alabaster dress sits atop the suitcases, 
     legs crossed. 
	Her long brown hair hangs loose, slightly rumpled, 
	lifted every so often by the lips of a light wind. 
	She rests her chin inside a cupped palm,
	gazes from the train tracks back to her sandals. 
	It’s hard to imagine what she is thinking.
	It is a sunny day. 
	Other people pass by.

Schema 1: Arthur
I am always late. 
Always missing the lapsed train of life’s next leg.
At least I’m not alone; there are others even later than myself, 
like that girl over there waiting- just sitting and waiting for
the train she missed. 
What can we say to one another, those of missing pieces, 
between places, bored by the perpetual mutiny of time.

Schema 2: Renata
This country is crazy, I told my mother, 
it cuts its young and leaves them panting. 
She didn’t understand; things are different in Portugal;
girls don’t pretend to dream billboard-sized stuff.
There is so much misery, I told my mother.
Next time she calls, I’ll tell her about this sad girl at the station
today, running away from from her familiar life and family
with only two suitcases....
A girl looking for a distant dream, paralyzed 
by the prospect of dreaming it herself.

Schema 3: Gregor
I cannot breathe for all the dust and the way light
defies me in this tiny train station. Sometimes
beauty is too much to bear- too heavy to carry
along strung to the shadows of everyday shoes.
The girl stares ahead like a seasoned French garden
statue, prepared to wait centuries for a name. 
Afternoon heat presses upon me, leads me to
dream her cool, marble skin against my forehead,
then fantasize her as ice rather than stone, cold
for a moment only to run like rivulets melting
down my chest. She is beautiful, worthy of a 

Schema 4: Catherine
Waiting is such an awkward way of relating to others.
Like it or not, even our inaction is a form of interaction,
seeing as how we’re all so conscious of not acting.
Defensive posturing my ex-fiancee called it.
The louse failed to mention he was referring to his own
defenses against me, the only woman who would ever 
love such a difficult, moody, and limpid man. 
There’s nothing to say right now. 
The only person I’d even be tempted to engage 
is that poor girl over there. I can tell by her lovelorn
expression that she’s been jilted. Of course,
we would talk circles around it without either one
of us ever bringing it up, pulling it above water.
Why bother?

Schema 5: Dave
I love waiting for trains- it’s like everything here is mine to see
or imagine. I’m checking out this girl who’s got a real good act going
sitting on her luggage playing nonchalant hoping I’ll make a move.
A dime a dozen, these girls.
Not one of them knows
how to just say no.

Schema 6: Amos
I’m glad I brought my guitar because that girl sitting on the suitcases
sure looks lonely and maybe no one’s ever told her about the blues.


Theory of Love in Exile

no caprice
to discover Ovid
sprawled inside your truck
a sobriquet slurred by drunken lips

no grand slalom
to avoid the arms rising like
moguls on a slope beneath skis

no ancient mystery, 
only an oblong inclination
still, you poach love
from the liniment 
of horizontal lines

still, we stretch over leather seats
extend our limbs towards Tomis
like resurgent Greek statues
	whose flesh marbles 
given ample moonlight

you tell me the art of love
lacks any known oeuvre
still we fumble upon 
its hot sarcophagus.

no secret
I keep us in the dark
bedside table drawer
sweet as midnight chocolate
reckless as samizdat



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