When You Send an Email Asking for Money to Support That Mission Bringing Jesus to Romania
I was born in a land wiped clean from the maps, a place you associate with AIDS-stricken orphans, tucked into Balkans, needing your bibles. Idiots needing salvation. Peasants needing administrations of missionary impulse. Come clear-cut this culture. Plant a flag. Mail a postcard. How you would have loved Ceausescu, his staunch anti-abortion policies. The workplace vaginal exams required by law. To check women for babies. To save baby lives while denying a mother’s. Illegal abortions, automated jail time. Birth control punished as contraband traffick, a violation of the national body. Borders decided the line between import and crime. Only Party members were permitted the honor of empty wombs. Only the Party ensured flesh against fetus. Pro-life is this boot on the neck of a lesser human, a blade you sanctify with statecraft.
I was born in a place where parents listened to shadows inching over concrete. Shadows don’t speak unless you count subtraction—the sound sucked away from nearby objects. A woman’s body is a mine, a natural resource. What’s natural is owned by men. You with bonafide smiles and big ole blessings. You with holy-roller heads & empty hearts. You hear nothing. Count the silence articulated in the portrait’s airbrush to taste the melody of what is missing. A math you cannot imagine. You who are blind. You who don’t see foreshortened folk ambling sidewalks. Take refuge beneath a roof slant. Seek the refuge you won’t grant refugees. You are busy bearing bibles. You are bringing the bible to the people of Romania. You are coming, eager to selfie. Tell the world what you’ve done for Romania. Tell what you’ve done.
I was born in a land that stopped naming its children Nicolae. The dictator’s name curses any child it touches. I am in love with the vacant wist of the local executioner, his grizzled voice, mourning the retirement of Alabama’s Yellow Mama. A mother who kills is a native Kali. An electric chair is the proper American matriarch, penultimate sizzle. Baptists forge petitions to bring Yellow Mama back. My mongrel womb won’t bear your life. I sew lips shut, vagina muzzled, verbs safe inside. My body is forbidden samizdat. Paul Celan is my answer. Please keep your American Jesus at home. Muffle his face with flags. Stars and bars you brand across his back.
“[I] wrote it last week after re-reading Svetlana Alexievich and thinking how much the Russian desire for the “strong man” resembles America’s. And how sad.”
Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania, raised in Alabama, and reared by various friendly ghosts. She won the 2015 Ryan R. Gibbs Flash Fiction Award and was a finalist for the 2015 Robert Dana Poetry Award. Her poetry and prose can be found in PoemMemoirStory, Shadowgraph Quarterly, Parcel, Noble Gas Quarterly, Minola Review, and others. Objects In Vases, a poetry chapbook, was published by Anchor & Plume in March 2016. A poem from this chapbook, “Oscar Dees, No Apologetics Please,” has been nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. Alina currently lives in Tuscaloosa with her partner and four friendly mammals. More online at www.alinastefanescu.com or @aliner.
From Alina: “Wrote it last week after re-reading Svetlana Alexievich and thinking how much the Russian desire for the “strong man” resembles America’s. And how sad.”
Reading Recommendation: Objects In Vases by Alina Stefanescu.