June Fevered Writing — Elena Karina Byrne

Some people are just born over-achievers! This month’s collaborating poet, Elena Karina Byrne, not only produced fevered writing, but actual poems based on four prompts given him by Terry Wolverton:

Prompt: Set Yourself On Fire

Set Yourself On Fire

On fire set and selfsame sorrow’s
soot and tinder-making and making

you into night’s bonfire bride of bed mattresses thrown
from the windows, white sheet Spanish sails in surrender

as if, as if carried off from that last thing you wanted
yourself consumed by, the last borrowed air taken

from the ashen mirror’s aged face forgetting you every time
you left the room, every time the house

tooth and nail, two-by-four splinter
falls down back into the marriage ground, blackened,
tongue-tied by time and time again

until you can’t see, burning from inside out, beehive-alight:
red dress, flame ribbons, dissolving paper shoes,
shame on you.

 Prompt: Lions Don’t Eat Us

 No, Don’t

Stanley Kunitz said the thing that eats the heart is mostly heart
and I wish, there in the blue blossom-backwards garden I was hungry,
so hungry in someone’s arms again, afraid in full open mouth-desire.
I wish I knew where I put my fear, my childhood, sitting in the past,
it’s zoo, sitting on the winding Escher stairs, saying this outloud
to my dead mother, so loud a lion’s head in the mouth loud
caught audience breath for breath measure making us sad when we go
home to say it to the father, you, dead in the heart and alone
because they are all gone and can’t feed you anymore;
you can’t sit in the lap, on the mouth, kneeling on the floor;
you can’t sit in the cement highchair, sit in the room
with the lion who won’t eat you, who won’t eat me, facing
the garden, his yellow haystack head shaking.

Prompt: Abandoned Detroit Home Filled with Thousands of Flowers

Home Filled with Thousands of Flowers,

so many flowers you couldn’t breathe coming in
the front door, fallen and rising, lilac-bruised and picked and plucked fresh,
slipping hothouse skins, hot-headed-red over green, spring’s temper tantrum
in silence for this… wedding funeral, abandoned sweet constellation,

petals large and small, stem and stamen, torn softly, each
severed pink and yellow head where the missing bed is now,
missing moon table and chairs replaced with so many mouths,
but see there over the fireplace mantle its invisible family portrait, all
Impatience over Peony, the private parts of field Lavender are chained
around the ankles of the children no longer here.

Bathtub filled with so many sunflowers, wedding names for herb rows.
What happens in Detroit, thousand mouse corsage, dust lintel and moldings,
greening their perfume, still wet in prayer along the stained corridor, seed nails
driven away from open sky, when you empty the first home, its roof gone?

Prompt: Sundown Over Ghost Town

Palm Springs, Pale as a Church Candle

You can’t see sundown, where you’re going fast.
You can’t see over the wood steering wheel.
You drive and drive and drive away from the shining shore and
holy smell of her, ghost in a town of ghosts driven.
Giant white windmills ache and cut, ache over
the hills and through the fields, grandmother’s ghosthouse
small in the distance until the hot road brings the water
back, rising up mirage black from the blacktop,
a nun’s habit horizon disappearing as you near.
Desert mountains, fallen politics, last cowboy cactus
and dry rock and rock thrown centuries ago,
your cowboy hat flattened under the pillow until you
wake up over the edge of the canyon, the horsehair bed
tipping its scales, imaginary gun in your hand,
your head, one starving coyote running…

Readers who are contemplating writing your own poems may work with just the prompts or choose to use one or more passages of fevered writing to inspire your poems. Best Reader poem we receive in June will win a $25 prize.


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