Runner-up, 2020 Joe Bolton Poetry Award
The Smallest House Is a Situation
Humans event. Then light happens.
Light lays its hand on one’s shoulder like a lost kiss
or the rumble of hedge-clippers
determined to change the way green
I want to wonder without ruining what awes me.
Like the settled breath of smallness
which becomes a settlement,
to watch light recreate itself
Once I read every mammal
has two billion heartbeats to lose in a life,
I felt closer to the mole rat who sees nothing.
And the penguin who dropped an egg when passing it
to his partner.
And the blue whale whose heart is the largest room
I’ll never enter, the secret chamber that winds up closed.
The smallest house that becomes
a situation. A habit without harbor, ever—life.
Chamber Tone Poem
I will never get over magnolias, I think
as my son wrangles Bach, the school
of velocity curling his fingers.
I stay lost in the thought until his legs
pull away from the bench, a break
for water. He needs
to let the notes build into bone.
We pause at the dining room table together
no bird song between us, no color heavier than
clarity, the gaze sunlight reserves for glass.
It is simple, he says, of memory, of music.
He remembers licking chocolate mint
from a spoon in the quiet
ice cream parlor as his Bunicu
sketched Pythagoras’ theorem on a napkin.
The ink was bold, certain, black.
The theory, folded then buried
in a pocket, that eternal equation, the awe growing
serious as love’s sudden lyric, restless as
a poem’s goose-pimpling breath.
I was transfixed, my son says, and only ten
then, the marvel re-sculpting his face.
I think how daunting
these sharp angles
And how Egon Schiele cross-
hatched his nude’s legs to build
them from motion, to
scaffold their escape.
So You Must Find A Way To Believe Me
See the squirrel, with her nuts, doubts nothing.
Even as the womb between our lips
buries terror into landscapes we have
lost, I won’t. Stop.
There is so much to keep,
I climb your nightmares to spite the mountain,
the mole-hill, the shitty logistics of girls
you loved, boys I tasted in library stairwells—
all is luminous omen
The distance which slopes between
two bodies will keep its steepness
in the image
of a steeple.
Our daughters braid the tattered fringes of carpet,
name themselves after castles they keep
in a land we once
ALINA STEFANESCU was born in Romania and lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her partner and several intense mammals. Her writing can be found in diverse journals, including Prairie Schooner, North American Review, FLOCK, Southern Humanities Review, Crab Creek Review, Virga, Whale Road Review, and others. Her most recent book, RIBALD, is available from Bull City Press (November 2020). More online at http://www.alinastefanescuwriter.com.