Two Poems from Alina Stefanescu

2 April, 2024
Romanian American poet Alina Stefanescu describes her new book Dor and present the poems “Playing Possum” and “My Polish Child.” As Emily Holland writes, “DOR is a compendium of desire, displacement, longing, and belonging. While the word ‘dor’ itself ‘serves as a bridge which creates its own territory from fusion,’ here Stefanescu’s words do their own act of bridging the spaces between the body and language.”


Dor is published by Wandering Aegus Press
Dor is published by Wandering Aegus Press

Alina Stefanescu


Playing Possum

This is my mother, newly-dead, Mom says. She died without suffering. 

I fondle the photo of my maternal grandma playing possum.
A dead possum in a ditch is called roadkill.
A possum who’s just playing is not yet carcass.
The women in my family will play anything to make you wonder.
Just to see what you’d say about us then.

The woman in the photo is my namesake.
The photo taken by the man she met and married in med school.
It was he who administered the final morphine injection
when breast cancer claimed her brain. He did this
without telling their daughters. He consulted none, invited

none into the living room of the Transylvanian cottage
he drafted and built by hand. It was her green dream-house.
He did it because she wanted to remain herself.
She made him promise. She made him promise again.

She said if you love me….

He signed her request with a blue fountain pen
from Czechoslovakia. The contract hid among papers, letters,
photos he preserved, images of her naked breasts, arms raised
above her head, his Alina—winsome, hungry, amorous,
and finally, finally, faceless  two gray hands
locked in languor over her chest. An orthodox cross
laid over v-shaped limbs, a flock of birds on their way to the Danube.

I am an atheist now, he announced.

But no one believed. None believed a man who hated god so faithfully
could ever come to disbelieve Himself. This was Ceausescu’s Romania.
The dictator ruled from posters with iron fists. I know hate and
hope are kindred, knit through our palms. And these lines

in my hand: a silenced mutation.

My Polish Child

I lost a child on the streets of Krakow.

Somewhere near the center of the square,
women queued with pigeons.

The ending I wanted
was illegal.

My cousin came on a train
from Romania.

Like an accordion winding down a carnival,
we tried

hard to find the absent word. Loss
layered like velvet curtains
round our lips.

The cathedral held a rat
in reserve, its eyes approaching vermillion.

I felt a color. Not an expression
of life.

Stones steamed with the imprint of ancient chariots.

I crossed my heart, told my cousin: we have always
been running, letting the next breath escape.

A couple ended an argument under neon. I held tight
the ticket. What happened is unlikely

to explain. I must have carried it

Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her partner and several intense mammals. Recent books include a creative nonfiction chapbook, Ribald (Bull City Press Inch Series, Nov. 2020) and Dor, which won the Wandering Aengus Press Prize (September, 2021). Her debut fiction collection, Every Mask I Tried On, won the Brighthorse Books Prize (April 2018). Alina’s poems, essays, and fiction can be found in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, World Literature Today, Pleiades, Poetry, BOMB, Crab Creek Reviewand others. She serves as editor, reviewer, and critic for various journals and is currently working on a novel-like creature. Her new poetry collection will be published by Sarabande in 2025.


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