Elena Karina Byrne
Paraphrase: Paper Mask

Your head unrocking to a pulse, already

Hollowed by air, posts a white paraphrase

Among bruised roses on a peppered wall.

—Hart Crane


This one was presented to me

while I was falling asleep:—veil of paraphrase

from the words you sent, from the perishing stanzas in the bed

to assume this air-appearance, bruised shadow

on the new white paper maché, simple sum

of both our verbal traits.


I was speaking from the mask

with the tongue of pearls:

    my breath softened this compromise

and the edges of the mask.

I wore all the extravagance of lost syllables: androgynous lethologica.


I was sleeping on paper.

I was speaking from the tapestried books of Eros, speaking

to your wrists. It was the pulse

of dying bees, pale in a bowl

carried across a dry field.


The sky was a blank page of the mask.

Bees: this terrifying

devotion to language.

Found In Volume 31, No. 04
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  • Elena Karina Byrne
Elena Karina Byrne
About the Author

Elena Karina Byrne has curated poetry readings at the Ruskin Art Club in Los Angeles, and at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Her poem "Berryman's Concordance Against This Silence" received a Pushcart Prize in 2008 for which she has been nominated eleven times.