Former 12-year Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America, Elena Karina Byrne is a freelance editor and lecturer, Programming Consultant & Stage Manager for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the poetry programs curator for the Craft Contemporary Museum, and literary programs director for the historic Ruskin Art Club. Her lecture and teaching positions include Poetry School UK, Cambridge University, Sidney Sussex College, University of Southern California, Poetry Barn, Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Claremont Graduate University, The Los Angeles Film School, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize recipient, Elena's other publications include If No Don’t (What Books Press, 2020), If This Makes You Nervous (Omnidawn 2021), Squander (Omnidawn, 2016), MASQUE (Tupelo Press, 2008), and The Flammable Bird, (Zoo Press, 2002); Poetry, Best American Poetry, The Paris Review, Kyoto Journal, Verse Daily, Poetry International, Plume, Narrative, TriQuarterly, Plume, BOMB, and elsewhere. Elena's completing her MFA temporary Media in Writing & Contemporary Media with Antioch University, Santa Barbara while she writes screenplays, short stories, and completes her collection of hybrid essays entitled Voyeur Hour: Poetry, Art, Film, & Desire.


Brain, love-shelled
beginning in this fine desire engine-metronome breath
between breath, stay intact. Tell me my color today & those
I left light-behind in childhood on shore–– they were made of

mother’s collected glass, now tiny inedible grains of sand, now live
shells carrying other bodies out to sea to a Pacific shelf downed by no
sun. Out of silence, you make language my own, transparency I can
hold up until this air becomes too heavy or rain fills my voice with its
own gray need to sing. Reclaim me. Fold me home. Carry me out of your

kiln, cooling, this blown shape, dawn shimmering in my sides. Because talk
begins in heat in the form of one passenger who never leaves the moving
train, as the senbazuru cranes’ wings fold back to you in silence, circling
the hour, I can only hear them and the exhale-wind between the long
bird-ribs in these trees.

Published in Kyoto Journal and If This Makes You Nervous (Omidawn, 2021)


thrown snow hives, splitting the sea’s white lips, were heard
that same year my pre-teen body’s biremes sank & rose with the gales.
The terminal roar seemed a whole planet’s belly width, one pressed
heel of the heaven’s open palm. We saw the painted floor-to-ceiling
stained-glass window’s paneled scene sealed to the staircase’s top
landing... whoever got there first: a new child game. So, from one iron
banister’s black bottom curve, friends ran & hurtled in fierce competition,
stopping at its edge. This would be my first year’s storm water hitting
in the face–– the Turner year Father teaches me how to draw like his
students facing a kneeling knight in pose: know, you have to put
the armor on. It’s the only vantage point danger: mortality equals at once,
hunger for & defiance. But like the Romans who filled their Colosseum
with a mock sea, ships & battles to please the Emperor, my friend had
one thought only: to win & doublehand the church-colored glass. Then,
the outside buckled back into the window’s one collapsing lung: fallen
storm shards of winged color, nature’s wrath-afterlife
                                                                                   at our feet.

Published in Plume and If This Makes You Nervous (Omnidawn 2021)

…until the first feather touches the last one

and two black waves

meet in Vienna, outstretched, spread bride-like with Prussian
blue & a violated ecstasy of confusion. I look for Florence on
her map, applaud my daily daydream of him who has yet to come
to me. There will be a calendar of spells, incessant touching & cut
cry of a peacock imprisoned above the sea. No mechanical cure, no
collapsing piano act of liberation for me possible: into the freedom
of her story
she comes, sees herself rise & rise from the bed’s world-
tumult, tenderly. Two gold shoes have been left on a flight of stairs
in that garden. I knew they might begin to house wilderness dead
& live things, coming & going without me. So, for both of us, I
realize, in this cause & effect we ask from each other, there is no
limit to inquiry, ache, & precarious part. One mind is not like another:
kite, moth glove, straitjacket, hop-scotch squares, underwater door,

falling camera...

Published in Denver Quarterly and If This Makes You Nervous (Omnidawn 2021)


Elena Karina Byrne



© 2021 Elena Karina Byrne


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