Alexandra Barylski


A Woman Desires an Origamist


He smooths bare palms
over the paper; smooth
paper is required for folds.
He experiences texture
and considers the weight 
of soft threads, their origins
sourced from shared soil
and mailed to him in a letter.
A gift too profligate for return.
Uncommon occasion. Fingers
long since lost their desire
to press, to crease, to exact
a shape from tiny bright squares.
On the counter they lie idly
catching sunlight, attention.
After all, what a waste it would be
to discard the pulp of love pressed
into each supple piece of forgiving
material—fibers that when folded
leave no mark, allow error and time
for relearning and unfolding hereafter.
So fumbles and false starts become
petals, butterflies, and pinwheels…
become the swan’s thin sternum,
a delicate handmade affair.



A Woman Desires an Out of Practice Cellist 


He cradles her wooden face, features hand-cut
and polished into a musical figurehead 

carved in spruce, hair flowering and scrolling
into four pegs, the open-box exposing 

song’s sinews—each string wound taut
around each pin, each note’s desire coils 

and tightens in that throat-like space.
Elongation of time and neck, left hand frets— 

oils wooden, oils human, worked and rubbed
down to the fingerboard where true purfling

like collar bones ornate a body’s shoulderline.
His legs split wide embracing each side of glossy 

waist, pine resin varnished into delicately flexible
curves—sound’s history and broken skin, the craquelure,

the crazing, tensile stress of heat time body against body
bow over body—and ƒ–holes biological evolutions 

contain twice the aural power of half-moons in a fithele.
Yes. A few missed notes, too long a half-rest. His ears 

(he blushed) were out of practice—years without touching
those warm bouts, coins curved like the hip bone’s iliac crests.



Alexandra Barylski is a senior editor at Marginalia, LA Review of Books, and the author of the chapbook Imprecise Perishing (Finishing Line Press). Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in Ruminate Magazine, Phoebe, Minerva Rising, Ithaca Lit, and elsewhere. During National Poetry Month, she wrote for the Tupelo Press 30/30 project. She won the 2015 Morton Marcus Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2016 Fairy Tale Review poetry prize, the 2017 Yemassee Journal poetry prize, and the 2017 New South poetry prize.