Maya Catherine Popa


Romanian-American poet Maya Catherine Popa graduated Summa Cum Laude from Barnard College, Columbia University, in 2011. She went on to pursue an MFA from NYU, where she worked with veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan under a Veterans fellowship, and an MSt from Oxford University under a Clarendon Scholarship. She is the 2014 winner of the Gregory O’Donoghue Prize and the 2013 winner of the Oxford Poetry Society Martin Starkie Prize. Her poems and criticism appear in The Kenyon Review, Poetry London, Oxford Poetry, FIELD, Colorado Review, Southword, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.


I served my loves’ sashimi hearts
on iceless beds of clean bamboo.
Some were tasteless, others,
spoiled at the oil-rig of our departure.
There was the horse-mackerel
bucking at the rice, as if another life
were to await. The wheel-shrimp
hugging his white station like a pillow,
the koi promising to love each grain.
I knew the knife-work it had taken
to get here, the hands, my hands,
unfolding origami nerves, widening
fields between modest fish lungs.
I could smell blood on the stone floor,
heard a bell that signaled the start
of an auction. I plucked and plucked
at another urchin’s stitches
as my own heart shivered on the scale.

The Lyric I

Let the things that I’m afraid of
be things,

let me see them through the lens
of a woman’s camera.

Winter snaps its tripod into place.

The long-tailed jaeger, horned lark
abdicate their thrones.

I feed on what desire grows
in its own gardens,

pines by the dozens,
the shape of you beyond them.

I move a theft between the acres
of my selves,

while in the most unfashionable
of all possible presents,

someone’s Laura
struggles with a shoelace.

She is not the roundabout
the moon inhabits.

Should I self-reduce
to a shard in a hoof,

who will hold me that close?

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