by Alina Stefanescu

Published in Issue No. 232 ~ September, 2016

Write me a doina about it, a mother used to say,

meaning I should dictate the lament’s terms and tones

within a traditional Romanian village vehicle.


My son wonders why I say it carefully,

handle the word like a clay pot

as if a word can break and what

spills is a puddle

of vowels soaking.

vowels and vowels and vowels


Loosen the grip and explain

how the doina sets apart

sacred spaces better

than fence posts,

this pragmatism of form

bonds as it bounds

dividing one

from the Other

I’ve become. an american


Loosen the grip a fudge more

look to numbers

for magic

devise a series of equations

to keep things

in place . for a spell


Start with self-evidence:

at which point the word

equals only what lies

right of equal. Nothing given,

nothing taken away. everything removed



doina = a form of traditional Romanian music

doina = only musical genre in Romania’s more forbidding rural areas and villages until 1900

doina = a woman’s wail

doina = something like the blues, but different

doina = a reconciliation of despair with the courage to name it

doina = a fearless persistent

doina = a word between you and the wind


I’m loose enough now

to be losing my grip.

The equations ask for more

or less. get lost


doina =  a reed instrument + a broken voice + the audacity to delineate longing

doina = (local knowledge + local musicians) – big picture

doina = voice + music + form + homage (life’s thresholds)

doina = lamentation soaked in dolor + series of notes taken up by a female voice

doina = improvised, folk-style chant + vocal trills resembling the sound of shepherd horns

doina = a source of familiarity + a local history + a spiritual defiance

doina = tears + tears + tears + legends + tears + hope + laughter

doina = insurmountable slopes – mechanizations

doina = breeding ground  + nostalgia + culture


Problems arise given uncertain outcomes.

Doina equals breeding ground for preservation

of local folk-ways and traditions,

but the petri dish is packed,

maybe a culture breeds virulent nationalisms,

outbreaks of over-identified ethnicity.

We can’t believe the preserves

grow poisonous intoxic-ations


A doina, inevitably

an accumulation:

a heartbreaking pile

of disremembered presents

that looks like mountains

from here.

account_box More About

Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania, raised in Alabama, and reared by the love-ghost of Tom Waits and Hannah Arendt. She lives in Tuscaloosa with her partner and three small native mammal species. Her story, "White Tennis Shoes", won the 2015 Ryan R. Gibbs Flash Fiction Award. You can read her syllables in current issues of PoemMemoirStory, Tinge Magazine, Jellyfish Review, New Delta Review, Lunch Ticket, Change Seven, and others. Her poetry book, Objects in Vases, is available from Anchor & Plume Press (March 2016). She wants to imagine you reading it. More online at