The Poem, Afraid

Some dog’s ghost
glares from the
attic window.

I know the door
to a nuclear plant
with his teeth

captioned above it:
Some mammal was
​and such.

When our youngest
walked in on us
last night,

I was coming.
She was scared
because she heard

someone crying.
I kiss the bruise
a bad dream leaves

in her head
& keep an eye
on the lonely ghost.

Aubade with Def Leppard

I drive dirt roads
      to touch

and see what fire
      does to tire

            tread harder,

to scrub my face
      with the silt

of your bodies, or
      bruise my mind

                  in the jilt

of guitars grovelling
      it’s no surprise

love bleeds
      skidding, stalling,

                  your chests

pothole beneath me,
      the quiver of past hands

rockets this ride, expecting
      nothing of sunrise

               I cross my heart

against what we’ll kill
      to keep


when love lies
      in parked cars, bars, stars

Good ole boys of the south,
      keep throwing

your stunned faces
      beneath me

as love dies
      in high-throttle

hunger, shut your eyes:
      I swear any light

looks bright
      in a desert

                  And I came

to honor the zygotes
       of nights

we couldn’t quit
       to catch our breath

in the excess of kudzu
       I relish each

astonishing death,
       knowing what feels good

feels no less
       for having

                   felt it

And no surprise
       making love made us

easy​ to have
       must be to​ hold

an empty chamber
       of music, to know

what the moon prays
       over blanks

                  we just left

The Mother Test No One Talks About

Perhaps the phlox
needs pinching, I tell another
mother. As we circle each other
for hints. As we drop favorite punk
bands like crumbs on the
porch of possible friending.
As we pause near the door to gauge
intent, to fathom postures on traditional
marriage. As we test the word​ feminist​,
flex it like thigh muscles developed for
running away. In case we outgrow the
house-shaped box and the family
that stuns us. In case we scorch the angel
food cupcakes. In case we open our mouths
and secrets bond us like pansies
in potted cement.

Alina Ştefănescu was born in Romania and lives in Alabama with four incredible mammals. Find her poems and prose in recent issues of Juked, DIAGRAM, New South, Mantis, VOLT, Cloudbank, New Orleans Review Online, and others. Her debut fiction collection, Every Mask I Tried On, won the Brighthorse Books Prize and will be available in May 2018. She serves as Poetry Editor for Pidgeonholes and President of the Alabama State Poetry Society. More arcana online at or Twitter: @aliner

Images (©) Robynne Limoges Twitter: @LimogesRobynne
1. (Banner Image): From the Hallway with the Flowered Wallpaper
2. Driving at Night, Three Battery Barns Ahead
3. Cleaving