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Alina Stefanescu


We pay to arrive, alive. After we
die, a meretricious person who loved us
may lay the viaticum atop the tongue
attached to our carcass. My grandfather
said if I talked too much, I would croak
with my mouth cracked open. Blessed
be the bed-head who gets buried as their
12:00 AM self, for they will inherit
the most festive ferrying. My mother
laid her palm on my bladebone and
said: Don’t look for the nodus. She eyed
the suitcase I’d packed for Romania—
added three cartons of Kents, two
Playboys, a lipstick kiss. I left my family
in the states to go it alone over borders.
One half of me is all-American currency,
the other half would trade anything to keep
moving. In the homeland, the exchange on the train
occurred without introduction, without explanation.
The officials said nothing as they accepted
the lurid fare. Blessed be the mother
who knows her daughter’s nightmares
will come true. The summer of my
eloquent degradation began with a barter,
a small bet. The world is the casino.
If one knows the tell, it is a curse
to name it—a blestem to acknowledge
the exchange which comes with the payment.
Dear Romania, land of my fucked mythomania,
why do your men take eternity with them?
I go back to visit the dead. I pay my respects
in the country where hidden taxes haunt
the train hallways, where bodies are zombied
by language, by habar n-am, by habit.

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