When I come home, my English sticks to everything.

My son watches me in silence, uncertain of my restlessness.

Grandma wants to know if I have a cold

and promises to make me a garlic sauce to wash away

the raspy voice, her eyes a smoldering fire.

My gait, an appendage to the memory.

When I return to NY, on the Mineola track,

an older gentleman calls me Latina. One girl from Bridges

believes Romania is a third world country, then says I clean up nicely.

I later send her a YouTube video with the greenest,

tallest mountains she’s ever seen. She smiles.

Her family comes from Lebanon and she calls this landscape home.

In my mouth, my native language turns strange,

a stranger’s doing. Home has become elastic,

the body caught in the burden of stifling days,

its inked veins brimming of contradictions.

The world’s roof reeks of fresh poetry and I take shelter in its lines,

a tremble in its voracious filament. It lights up my darkness.


Clara Burghelea is a Romanian-born poet. Recipient of the 2018 Robert Muroff Poetry Award, she got her MFA in Creative Writing from Adelphi University. Her poems, fiction and translations have been published in Full of Crow Press, Ambit Magazine, HeadStuff, Waxwing and elsewhere. Her collection The Flavor of The Other is scheduled for publication in 2019 with Dos Madres Press.