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Two poems by Clara Burghelea

"Nebulas of Desire"

A crescent moon limns each linden tree with white gold. Inside the dormant room, a fistful of worries nested on the couch. Tasting like pine needles. Syrupy, yet choking.

To soften his gaze, I slip out of skin. We plunge into a tunnel. Later, I feed my other thirst.

Tonight’s special, zuihitsu, and yes, crumbles are a thing. Let them pepper the page, curl up the nib of the pen. Meanwhile, a spider is feeding on my left shoulder. I only discover it later. Busy wrestling white space.

After my mother’s death, I wear black for six months, during the day, outside the house. My kids do not seem to notice. At night, naked is the skin that feels less of a fraud.



Each day, dappled horses galloping along my veins, the radiant pregnant libido, my breasts too present beneath my shirt. A dream of pouring my face into everything that feeds the heart, later quenches this body.

As a girl, I never dreamt of motherhood. My dolls never played house, instead they were endlessly getting ready for a party. I am mothering with joy, says one of my friends. She has perfectly polished nails, impeccable clothes, and two picture perfect kids. I want to know how joy inhabits a skin.

Joy as in triumph, jubilation, exultation.

As a toddler, my daughter asked for trains with faces and dinosaurs. When she was gifted her first Barbie, the hair vanished in a second. It looks more like a mom, now, she explained. Thomas the Tank Engine was a solid block, coming out safe and sound of all her trials. Almost bald Barbie and Thomas often ran into one another in the toy box. He obviously gave her rides to parties. Is joy or lack of it hereditary?

Things inherited: brown eyes, a sweet tooth, A-positive blood type, the green thumb, biliary dyskinesia, insomnia, the bunny lines, temper, a temper, the temper. Ravenous. Un joli cou. Ți-l rup dacă mă faci de rușine. Language of smoke.

Tongue-kissed sun. Pink magnolia in bloom. Did its scent ravish the brachiosaurus? Were its leaves a joy to chew on? A pile of speckled dinosaurs tower at the root of the tree, my daughter’s brown head moving above, whispering. Tentacles of love, radiant embrace. Ledges and wounds. Only three more breaths of babydom, one for each mammal that I once cradled in the crook of my left arm. The puppy, too. What’s your favorite lie?

"Everyday Absences"

The misread body. Tinkering between revise and rehash. A pair of big jungle cats in the same cage.

The patterning and ritual of loss. Comb hair ten times before the tall Ikea mirror. Scrub face with circular movements before sunscreen. Stumble upon a breath mint box filled with milk teeth.

Sharing space with the nail clipper, upper drawer, bathroom cabinet. Name gnawing from within.

This zuihitsu cannot go on without a feathering. Bristle the brush, let pigment impregnate the skin of the poem. A screaming nest of word cells. Soft, drowsy, a perfect eyespot on its tail. A smattering of color. At times, a gossamer ladder to the ear of a deaf god.

Intimacy as a product of distance and estrangement. At language level, slurping words in Romanian, macerating their roots and tendrils before regurgitating into an English open palm.

Choking on residue. Revise and rehash. The temperature of dreams as they simmer behind bustling temples.

My hands, smelling of lovage. LOVE and AGE. The patience it takes to learn how to make a soothing soup. How to live without salt and be salty. A dazzling speck of unrest.

Kida and her zoomies, outside the window. Every now and then, a gust through the branches of the cherry tree. Sending Akita glitter my way. When she takes a break, she crashes into the grass and her shaved, scarred belly stings my eye.

A storm of a question, melting under the right tongue. Was it my right? We learn everything through the open window. The faint sound of the falling magnolia petals. The cry of the lost owlet. The full-throated song of the velvet skies. Mostly, we hold the power to call night into being.

You ask for a clear uterus. Inside this house of cards, the blinds bang the wall, the bed dreams of plaid. Any nerve in the palm you rest on my pubis could be a tree. Heavied with barren fruit, hiccupped flowers, and inciting speculation. Except for the nails aching to thrust into every inch of skin.

Ten mason jars on the windowsill. Halved apricots sprawled in honey, unfurling their sheen. One spoonful is God’s finger brushing the roof of the mouth. Goosebumps. Another, God’s breath on the back of the neck. You hand me a glass of lemon water. The fatigued swiftness of yet another July day.

Nouns that dress the summer

Salată de vinete Plimbări cu Kida Halbă de bere Caniculă

Ciorbă de fasole Dermatită periorală Cură de pepene roșu Caietul de rețete al mamei Prăjitură cu vișine

Folding a sheet of paper in pleats. Two times. To cool the faces of the neighbor’s twins. On the boy’s forehead, a birthmark shaped as a holder. I sit between them on the curb. Little hands diving for cherries into a big bowl. The girl rests her head on my shoulder. Intoxication is also baby sweat. To hold against the roof of the mouth.

The womb hums back. Its voice thickens to shriek. It begs to be soothed. I remember I left my tongue in the butcher’s den. Numb from my own howling. The Akita muzzle pushes the memory back into the skin pocket. Inside this fraying house, Kida and I. Leaking amber grief.

Clara Burghelea is a Romanian-born poet with an MFA in Poetry from Adelphi University. Recipient of the Robert Muroff Poetry Award, her poems and translations appeared in Ambit, Waxwing, The Cortland Review and elsewhere. Her second poetry collection Praise the Unburied was published with Chaffinch Press in 2021. She is Review Editor of Ezra, An Online Journal of Translation.

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