30 april 2011


Libido Sciendi
This Dance
Ghazal of the Afriad

About Maya Catherine Popa




Nights we leave the windows open

but can’t tell engines apart from thunder.


I sit up and breathe and if it’s rain, I tell you.

I say rain and wrap my legs around you,


it means no pressure to enjoy tomorrow.


We know there’s a moon but by morning

our minds are on wet wool and steamy subways,


people smelling like the dogs they walked at dawn.


You wear a suit I imagine myself the silk of,

my legs adjust to touch without the sheet.


We break from morning, leaving a hive—

all day, the tiny engines continue.


No matter what, tonight, I’ll sit up and say rain,

wrap you like a snake nodding jaw-wide.


No pressure to love tomorrow morning,

it rains all evening and the gutters are full.


The moon, all iris, sees but says nothing.



Libido Sciendi

I. Adam & Eve:


It wasn’t even delicious. It was a stone fruit

only gesture dooms us.


How doomed are we this morning, Adam, how doomed?


Everything is terrible in its beauty.

No cabbage flowers, everything is Iris blooming.


No shade, Adam. When your name is called

run because what finds you is what is.


The syntax of desire

is a death event.


The seismic body says miss you everywhere.



II. Switzerland:


The Hadron Collider holds the intrigue

of forfeiting the body to the freezer.


We want to sleep in its steel pipes.

Touch our tongues to its godless tongues.


If something sticks with you, it’s the idea

of two things either colliding or not.


Soon the premise of Dangerous Atoms,

will they meet or miss? Will our world be consumed?


How do you undo an ocean?

By forgetting we cannot replace it ourselves.


Dark matter is every shadow at night,

the space between the lamp


and shade especially.



III. Cell Politics:


Bob 1 and 2 have different notions of heaven.

If born in a dish, heaven is a womb.


Robert Hass tells us angels can’t be consoled

but we can run on the beach declaring absence to each other.


If a pancreas saves your child, it’s the most beautiful thing

in the entire world. Let’s visit the organ museum


and count the things we can’t live without.

Let’s make a wish in the fountain of donors.



IV. Picture of Einstein:


When asked about splitting the atom,

he wept.


In a sketch of the body

life is impossible.


I never place my hands near my chest

afraid the logic fails

like a fawn on the porch.


Pay attention and it leaps into awareness.

Pay no attention, pray you’re spared.



This Dance

I know this dance of people changing minds,

people pulling away. Betrayal begins in my arms


as an impulse to tuck someone’s hair

behind the ear. It follows me into the darker places,


it Jackson Pollacks my lover’s face.


One girl is sufficient to destroy a city,

to dilute the centrifuge, to mar the drinking water.


I know this politeness I keep close by

to robe the unreliable body, always


in the midst of an exhibition.


How do we keep from wanting what began

as an impulse God blew into us like glass?


I want to kiss the boys of my childhood

now that I know how to love a man.


See how I chew on desire like steak,


how can I make myself more Greek for you?

I know Helen with my round hips,


she was never built for children, but for ruin.

She was an eclipse on all the cities;


she set fires one by one.



Ghazal of the Afraid

Too many parallels, too many veins,

all avenues for an exit blessed and afraid.


When the time comes it will be a matter

of performance, umbrellas closing on the mind afraid


of audience, delivery, diction—I am dying,

summon the angels (a dozen in a frayed


pattern of distinction). Such a perfect way

to relish in precision. Feather after feather unafraid


of the division—goodbye good spirit. Something

unusual about death on stage, late edition of afraid.


A match burned near the gas tank, hinge

and rope thinning bridge, weight of afraid.


Days might as well be dangerous—if you’re going to live,

why not shock with the possibility of not; afraid?


Say it like you mean it: I am mortal

and mortally afraid.


Oh Maya, teach them in French how to say…

Tongue to the roof of the mouth—afraid.




(of the indoors)






            Kettle singsongs heat’s steamed ghost.



            Seeds for solace. Unlikely separation.



(Of my eye) division of the heart and what will you do?



            Tiny world says spoon

singular moon.








 (To) no larger than a pearl.



Canvas from whose shore sand is familiar.



Tip of the iceberg.



            Instructions repeated over large megaphone,

performed backwards.





            Day of spring in exchange for other seasons.



            History sits, horizon since still.



            Small desire to subdue the outdoors.

                        (see also “taming”)



I left my scarf at your place.

            The rest you may keep.





The state of things once they are lost

                        i.e.: “it was my best sweater”



Bird reflects on clipped wings,

decides feathers are shoots

for an installation piece.


Acceptance crucial.



            Autumn says leaves fulfilled in piles.



Morning, no noon. Midnight, no moon.



is a senior English Major at Barnard College. In the fall, she will be getting her MFA in Poetry from NYU, as well as an MSt in Creative Writing from Oxford University, where she will be a 2011 Clarendon Scholar. She has served as a Bucknell Younger Poet and was the 2010 recipient of Columbia University's Van Rensselaer Award for poetry as well as the Annette Kar Baxter prize for Women Studies. Her non-fiction appears on The Huffington Post and her poetry appears in 92Y Podium Magazine.