Elena Karina Byrne

Behind the Wall and the Mirror and Foucault

is Magritte, is elided in a discursive space,
of common ground, ethereal realm, cast glass and molehill,          more
                                        about missing silence and ambiguous color
than anything else
facing the viewer trying to hide
a woman’s torso          through
                                        the transparence of a window.

But all this aspires to shape and to say.

Of freeing painting
like his voice would escape the flight of birds,          calligraphic
doubling, resolved by the two sums, with no plum resemblance
like the ghost of a thing-in-itself, the plant whose leaves
                                        take flight by becoming…

bodies bound together,
seen from behind, in the transitory form of flowers,          at the surface
                                        of the image, slightly interrupted,          who arrive
only toward the ubiquitous bell where the sea’s horizon
follows the horizon on canvas. 

What final element=x
                                        above and below or ploys the play
of the same cloth between two extremes, means          a matter of
weaving, avalanches of images or          inscription-bearing, is
robbing the ensemble its convention of language?

                                                  Of body, of the snare, of verbal signs and of riot blue sea
visible form is excavated, henceforth—it sets out to name,
remain faithful, a nude
woman like a fluoroscope, and whole play profile face conceals
in dream by the frame, by the margin,

                                        that of the left hand that holds the mirror
and the opaque that has changed color,—
this is not all lost chatter of men, two garrulous mutes,          this gulf,
but a subscript          in a landscape on all sides, the windowpane but the other sun,

                                                  in the keyhole first version
composing a disturbance, and sparkle, the latter.



Cannibal House
                    …it's really, really, laborious to reel the silk from spiders. They are territorial,
          and they are cannibalistic, so you can't really house them. – Dr. Anna Rising

Stronger than steel, spider silk weaves where I can’t see or sow, sew the thought back to its belief, house any religion safe from its painting, or chapel-ask for it, for your (me meaning you) past, that great hunger unknown warehouse, deathhouse or wheelhouse, knitting factory if you have it out for the mind’s slave labor over steeplechase grass. Memory tells you this homeless man tried to drive away the family car, you still in it. Dad threatened to punch him. But dad was a gentle art teacher who wore white shirts. Your older brother says not quite so. The man lives in the bushes. The medical team had newcomers in for repairs, door-jammed and starved for red paint. Artificial spider silk is now made from bacteria. I had a fever once of over 104, asked mother if I could eat the cookie of her coat button. They sent me to the white hospital. It’s the color no one remembers to mention. A man on drugs once broke into our huge house, hovered at the top of the stairs as I rushed up, two at a time, for my room. Dad chases him down the street, ready to hit him. The spider fabricated protein’s thread for you if you have nerve injury, fibers from a spinning device for use. Where there’s an unwanted passenger with us, crash culture’s last resort is in the printer, its hybrid house strong as steel, plastic in the gaps. The past can live there too. It’s just started, if you keep telling the story to someone new. My brother had an empty cricket cage, kept me out of his room. Our half-sister smells like fresh cut grass. Our half-sister slid down a canyon in her car in a rain slide late at night. Dad looked and looked for her with your half-brother. Hyphenated. Half enough to make him look like dad. You looked out the spider-feeling window. She now lives in the water, the sound of rain when it remembers its own rage hitting the side of the car. Someone’s dad I only met once, took all of us neighborhood children in his car to get ice cream far from our homes. Dad offered to punch him in the nose as the two stood in a square of sunlight. We children play backyard hide and seek all the days, hide in the dark bushes that were full of spiders. Memory tells you dad hit no one. All but one got out alive. Memory tells you it will eat another memory when left alone. I swear now our house looks smaller than my head.


Elena Karina Byrne, a former 12-year Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America, is a multi-media artist, a freelance editor and teacher, Poetry Consultant / Moderator for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Literary Programs Director for The Ruskin Art Club, and one of the final judges for the Kate/Kingsley Tufts Prizes in Poetry. A Pushcart Prize winner, her publications include, Best American Poetry, Poetry, Yale Review, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Volt, Kenyon Review, TriQuarterly, Diode, Colorado Review, Verse, Denver Quarterly, Slate, and forthcoming in Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, Black Renaissance Noire, and BOMB. She is author of and Squander (Omnidawn, 2016), MASQUE (Tupelo Press, 2008), and The Flammable Bird (Zoo Press, 2002); she's just completed a collection of essays entitled Voyeur Hour: Meditations on Poetry, Art & Desire.