Horoscope for the Past

Maya C. Popa


My godmother looked most at ease smoking.

She didn’t have that flair for French cinema,


angled wrist, rolling paper held delicately

as a question. It made it easier to breathe,


to be my godmother. She didn’t care

how the sun is held so capably, the bridge


bears its weight or the pomegranate wrinkles.

She only wanted to impart her pagan breed


of Christianity, how next year would unfold

under some celestial phenomenon.


She was happiest talking electional stars,

auspicious at some hour, indifferent at the next.


Each prediction, unveiled to us like a painting.

We grew to who we were, benign and fearing.


She never mentioned the influence of arrogance,

steady drag of untruth through light. Didn’t see


the family zodiac twisting, a sprig burned slowly

in ceremony. Instead, a noble and endurable


suffering, melodic complaint of ewes in white fields.

Not the mirror’s contradiction in a corner


of the sky, her tongue thick with planets and ash.



Maya Catherine Popa is a writer and teacher in NYC. A 2015 Ruth Lilly finalist, she is the recipient of the Poetry Foundation Editor’s Prize for review. Her writing appears in Poetry, The Times Literary Supplement, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook The Bees Have Been Canceled was recently published by DIAGRAM New Michigan Press. She is a member of the English faculty and oversees the Christine Schutt Creative Writing Program at the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York City.