suddenly stumbled into an open space of lucidity within the madness

as the rain kept coming and coming and

she had seriously thought of putting on the tiger mask
that her husband had worn in the bloody carnival,

to crawl on the floor so that the earth was closer
to her and she to it, —accomplice—

                          by the irresistible anxiety to discover
what the orange whistles and the invisible globes on the other side
of death were like,   that

whether metronome or winter bell, the sameness in strangers

all belonged to her … that    bones 
began to fill with sounds,    bees bridegroomed the room

which shuddered with the evidence that time was not passing

                 except in her everyday language

to have let that outpouring of misery follow its course,  
and at times it made her so angry that she would prick her fingers 
with the needles, but what pained her most and enraged her most
and made her most bitter was the fragrant and wormy guava grove
of love that was dragging her toward her death.                      There
she did not even know her own body,    her heart of compressed ash,

hands like just opened abalone, 
sufficient strength

to say what she couldn’t.



Forthwith memory, 
from Leonardo Da Vinci’s right to left,
                                      the manuscript of reversed writing, —

Each consonant cage is unlocking. Double face, you know
seeing is Ekphrastic, an ordinary treason: mirror is 
oblivion’s antidote for language, for human salvation.

The mirror sees inside its own mouth, cauldron of vowels.

Who, if not you, is there?
Where limbo edges its border,  is portioned to lost love and
to those departed spirits, their death-expressions. You are 
at no fault but fallen in

the image (lime-light giving off its own surface heat) …sayeth,
unfinished portrait.

Past Prussia’s Hall of Mirrors, past wars to Rorschach, 
doubling the verb, the ghost-kingdom.

What other emblazoned fable unfinishes its act?

Hear it in the silver, tongue to tongue. Therein.

Shown in features.
But so much smaller, the face, in daily pained refuge finds:
a bird’s bone-weight of light converses with heavy dark,
the heirloom spoon reflection collects cold,

water drowns on itself and wintering its image, 
Lao’s mirror reflects the mind and its thoughts
but you cannot speak back to it without an act of snow,

                           without the mouth falling this far out of frame.


or point blank peril,  
walked out onto the deck of the boat, under
the Pacific sky’s grief-wide door lintel, under   anchor-light,
expecting to see his past
                                         like a woman, rise up

from the sea’s bottom, with the bloated body of the long-drowned,
thirsty, still   helplessly swallowing sea water, the past
                                                                                         with her kimono sleeve
releasing tiny fish, her voice trapped like   a great glass ball sliding up 
into her throat,

or rather, into his now,
 the blotting paper surface of the fog   ahead of them.

Clamped in a pillory of ice,
                                                       he told himself  

the balsa heart-box was empty, and the body was a house with too 
many rooms,
where bees entered   freely, flew about in them lonesomely
and were often startled upon running headlong
into a mirror.

He would bind himself  in    a saffron-colored wrapping cloth,
cough and cough instead of speaking 

because memory is like    catching grasshoppers without stepping on the 

the grass glowing in its half-life quiet, 
where, years before the water, she always waited for him, sank

salted by the endless

                                                        thirst that ate at her.


Elena Karina Byrne is a visual artist, teacher, editor, Poetry Consultant and Moderator for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and former 12 year Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America. She has organized readings for the University of Southern California's Doheny Memorial Library, the J. Paul Getty Center GRI, and the Chateau Marmont. Currently she is Literary Programs Director for The Ruskin Art Club and the Museum Of Contemporary Art's Night Vision poetry programs. She is also working with the West Hollywood Book Fair's Planning Committee and with Red Car studios on several short film projects including, Muse of Fire and Why Shakespeare?