June dis•articulations poem — Elena Karina Byrne

At the beginning of the month, Elena gave Terry four prompts. She engaged in fevered writing with each of them and gave the results back to Elena, who then used the words from that fevered writing to create this dis•articulations poem.


I. Metamorphosis: Everyone Was

Quiet. Yell.
There will be road rage and stones, a few
months forgotten in each other,
lease of two who need more.
Taking double oxygen turns, I will lose everything.
There will be white tablecloth moss and tiny cake
flowers. But only a moment
will I get that big red heart, choice
of donor, mourning a booster shot-start in flames,
energy transfer, too much energy…
spontaneous testosterone seed.

Now: Who more tame and spent––
fossil job boss, sitting maniac, scientists over an iceberg––
who’s going to make me me,
an anthem for me? (Two sunsauce girls?)
Double game orbit. Lunar fluid-
feeling over the head, twirling. This too I take to mean
something is gathering to invigorate both players for
a moment. It is. It was. But
to win was a forced will of forgetting
about her.

II. The Beginning Too: Her-self, My-self

But I don’t want trash game, hopscotch choice-play, to start
singing the girl holiday, don’t want need, sauce hoola-hoop, don’t
want (bullet shame in wanting) to combust over
the great way darkness, its frozen stadium
in the middle trapped… In the somewhere, this
spinning in, first leap onto, ending with, –– this
heard-about jumping left and left, left toward
the Japanese square to stand in as if
my life, its underside water (fish-breathing by herself begins)
celebrates my birthday pekid end.

Because, like a two uncle blood transfusion,
the stuffed cake bled raspberry sauce
and an aunt started screaming a shit-faced key in C
toward the perfume sun…
the wrecked table, its frozen, pale surface,
everyone ending there, forgotten, in the flipped over
face-place, myself, argumentative and anemic,
what’s long been a taking under-side,
untypical family seed of myself
laid in the solid ground’s iceberg where my name
(how someone becomes)
then shame-played around my hips,
that tame-time Panda patience punched
out of you/me. Because of this
long attach-kind of development, it forces breathing, bones
to grow, cake mass to quadruple, forces you to get even,
to release the fluid rope of spent names
when jumping onto/in/under the water…
that underside other anthem game, the kind of great
feeling you get into when, beneath
breathtaking shots of the dark, you both
can birthday yourself for a first time
in the picture.


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.

June Poetry Prompts

Prompts are drawn from the media—print, broadcast or social.

Collaborating poet Elena Karina Byrne offered these prompts to Terry Wolverton:

• …low energy transfer orbits to the Japanese lunar (from Wikipedia on Edward Belbruno)

• An Iceberg Flipped Over, and Its Underside Is Breathtaking (Smithsonian.com)

• DOUBLE GAME (Book title: Sophie Calle)

• Birthday Cake Shot (Instructables.com)

Terry Wolverton offered these prompts to collaborating poet Elena Karina Byrne:

  • Sundown Over Ghost Town (album title, Ellen Jewell)
  • Set Yourself on Fire (song title, from American Spring, Anit-Flag)
  • Lions Don’t Eat Us (book title, Constance Quarterman Bridges)
  • Abandoned Detroit Home Filled with Thousands of Flowers (flavorwire.com, May 30, 2015)

We invite readers to write poems in response to one or more prompts (or the fevered writing that results from these prompts) and submit  in the Comments section. The best Reader Poem we receive in June will win a $25 prize.

June Collaborating Poet — Elena Karina Byrne


In June, Elena Karina Byrne will collaborate with Terry Wolverton on new dis•articulations poems.

A freelance teacher since 1982, Elena Karina Byrne is a visual artist, book reviewer, editor, lecturer, Poetry Consultant and Moderator for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, former 12 year Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America and Executive Director for the AVK Arts Foundation. She is currently a Contributing Editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books, a reviewer for ForeWord Reviews, and Literary Programs Director for The Ruskin Art Club. In addition, Elena was part of the West Hollywood Book Fair’s Planning Committee and worked with Red Car studios editing several documentary film projects including, The Big Read, Muse of Fire and Why Shakespeare? Since 1991 Elena has organized or funded programs for the Museum of Contemporary Art, the University of Southern California’s Doheny Memorial Library, the Getty Research Institute at the J. Paul Getty Center, UCLA’s CAP/Center for the Art of Performance, Columbia University’s School of the Arts International Translation Project, CAFAM’s Poetry and Art Collaboration Series, The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Metro Art live Poetry in Motion annual readings, and the renowned Chateau Marmont “Act of the Poet” series.

Elena received this year’s Distinguished Service Award from Beyond Baroque’s Literary Arts Center. She was the 2005 Poetry Co-Editor for The Los Angeles Review and one of three judges for the 2006 PEN USA Literary Award in Poetry. Her book reviews have appeared in Slope, Poetry International and The Journal.  Elena’s publications, among others, include, 2009 Pushcart Prize XXXIII Best of the Small Presses, Best American Poetry 2005, The Yale Review, The Paris Review,  American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, TriQuarterly, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Painted Bride Quarterly , Barrow Street, Volt, Antioch Review, Massachusetts Review, Verse, The Journal, Hotel Amerika, Pool, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, Verse, Drunken Boat, The Offending Adam, Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry, Breathe: 101 Contemporary Odes, Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics From California , Poetry Daily Anthology, and Spunk and Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language and Style.Books include: THE FLAMMABLE BIRD (Zoo Press/Tupelo Press 2002) and MASQUE, (Tupelo Press 2008) and SQUANDER (Omnidawn 2016); she just finished a book of essays, VOYEUR HOUR: Meditations on Poetry, Art and Desire.