Mnemonics by Romana Iorga

She fears number eight, because it’s
infinite. Being alone, flying, playing the flute.
At one end of her fear, the void
of a night sky, its cold mouth
sucking us into space, at the other, the almost
weight of tiny feet in her palm.
Fragile, papery things, hardly real.
I used to watch her wax statues
cave in, hair and skin melting like tears.
A sort of punishment. She speaks for them
sometimes, the wax people. An alter ego
more than a ventriloquist. A shapeshifter.
Up north, she’s afraid of the light’s
untimely birth, a river of milk, a river
of blood. Up there, she says, what doesn’t
belong has a vile odor—the air so clean,
everything taints it. Everything,
except ice. She hates it, the ice, how
brittle it is, how vindictive. She hates
its splintering underfoot, the tears that freeze
on her cheek, the blood that won’t
wash off, no matter how many times
she plunges her hands in the snow.
Something could always be
worse than melting wax, she tells me,
worse than staring at asymmetrical things,
her own imperfections, a baby
footprint. She could forget to be afraid.
Forget what it felt like, that burden
unleashed from the prison of her body.
How gravity tugged at her innards. Split her
open under the great void. Like a fish.
Gutted, deboned. On the shore
of an immense pain. And she could
forget all that blood. A river. A whole
ocean of it. Flowing and ebbing.
Farther and farther. Away.


Originally from Chisinau, Moldova, Romana Iorga lives in Switzerland. She is the author of two poetry collections in Romanian. Her work in English has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals, including New England Review, Rust + Moth, Salamander, as well as on her poetry blog at