Two works by Romanian poet and fiction writer as part of the World Poetry/Prose Portfolio [WPP], curated by Sudeep Sen
1. Phantom Diary: ‘Country’ Poems
I take calcium. My nails are no longer brittle — glass that cracks and breaks. Romania has shut me down. From my nerves, fragile thin wires, something is always dripping like from eaves. Cristi was bragging the other day: they had put the gun to his head and he hadn’t got scared. Some guys in shiny black jackets who ate only plain chocolate. He loved Antonela. A dark-haired girl with a pale complexion. It happened one winter. In a pub near the swimming pool. Mihai has left — Germany is a refrigerating room, it preserves you. Romania equals the kingdom, the garden with a broken fence. The spiny ball of a rolled-up hedgehog: inside it, a dark empty space. In Romania, the neighbour from upstairs is the king. He makes noise, plays football with concrete blocks. He drags posts on the floor. I must hang in (t)here, practise my kuji-in1 on the toilet. Let me imagine a millstone and lemon-green water. In Romania, the most common landform is the radiator element. This country tears off in strips. As the continents did long ago. The borders are maddeningly close. A rabbit would cross them faster. More courageously. The borders are small ditches. Kilometre-long molehills. Move, move forward with the sledge on your back, in search of snow. I believed in Mircea Eliade, in Alexander the Great. I have never defeated any monsters, I have only written about them: huge catfish, tomcats in disguise.
My notepad is an ossuary. The lists are elementary: shoelaces, blades, socks. Something that may bring a change, however minor. Now I am going to stand up, just like that, to throw away the used cotton bud, the foil of the empty cigarette pack, the dirty tissue. All at once, they all seem a woman’s bathing accessories. I can’t stand the remains any longer. We’ve got holes in our temples, we are perforated. Like suicides, like casks. The tap makes us look like Memo, the robot in the cartoons.
1. Japanese meditation technique
There is a sort of Switzerland, a golden bubble. Everybody has a printer at home. Yet everybody prints stuff for everybody. Profusion is already annoying. The strudels come out well all the time. Maria bends to blow the sugar off them. The Sundays are warm, sunny. A layer of ivy leaves always keeps the pies warm. The avenues are powdered with sugar too. Under the elm trees, along the walls — the most Germanic coolness. Mothers age beautifully; they carry their sons and look after them until late. They follow them with small silver plates in their hands. The city is small. The cheese, a darker shade of blonde.
“Tudor, my dear...”
In winter, we fight with hot meatballs that make plonk sounds. And the fur coats are gorgeous. The dead are not ruddy, their cheeks reflect the joyful snow. They smile too, lying down, dressed in shepherd’s coats.
Once I had been interested in Columbia, I smoked long brown cigarettes. I was used to press conferences. The cold light didn’t make my skin look white. I talked calmly and a whole country was listening. Then I was obsessed with Jamaica. Coloured caps. Light shirts. The thick locks always smell(ed) like shampoo. The skulls were soft shells, the brain lay sprawled in them like in a cocoon. And I loved maize silk. In summer, it also smelled like Pantene. I was a pacifist, I threw wigs over javelin tips. The earth was softer too. It made a round hole under your bottom. Women in high-heeled shoes stepped with difficulty, like on a pillow. A terrycloth country, a warmed sleeve. And what have you (not), carbide evening with sharp pains in the chest.
I watch my belly from time to time. I’m proud of it. I’m an MP with a amorphous stomach of boiled celery. Something spongy, with a faint smell. You can’t be important unless you’re stout, deformed. Unless you feel your heart is a stewed legume. Unless you carry the thick wad for your progeny in the pocket of your peach-skin suit. He’s going dancing tonight. He must spin on soles with beacons. Move his ass. The drooping nut tree branches touch his jeep.
Most likely, I’ll never get to see Sierra Nevada. I watched J. yesterday — he waves his hand in disgust and laughs when it comes to Singapore or Tierra del Fuego. It’s much better in Papillon (the most local pub).
My country is a blend of correction fluid and macerated paper. Of polenta and milk. Of yellow, I mean, and white. All fresh.
My country is a lonely mosquito leg. Stuck in the bald plain: mud, mud, mud. Flattened.
My country is a bluish tunnel, a jeans leg. Pre-washed. The dead have retired under Poodle ears. For the Boxer or Dobermann ones it is too cold.
“I can feel You cutting me off from this world.” I can feel how I leave something else than the house and the pub behind. A white mist seems to colour the air. Boiled air. And the firs are armoured, they have needles like maces. Help me. Sometimes my hands seem somebody else’s. A purer, more dignified man’s hands. A soft death envelops me. I keep sniffing at it with my short, pug-like muzzle raised obliquely upwards, like a satellite dish. I can already see the football player missing. The ball – made of brick – breaks. Help me. I crawl like the caterpillar-beggar: the peaceful one, killed like in a corrida.
The cup of the hand will open above (me): Your palms will resemble a hip roof. You will take turns: You, Virgin Mary. And I shall laugh in pubs. I shall shriek with laughter. And chew shoe polish drops. The same all over again.
Help me see Your palms open to the light. And the doors, the windows will be/ have only frameworks. Placid, like in advertisements.
I write when the flat is sweet-scented, when mother dries the long johns on the clothesline. I bake myself like a cake. I am Little Crumb. Crum-bie. My relatives touch me gently on the head:
“Don’t worry, it wasn’t meant to be.”
Climb the knotted tree trunk faster than a monkey – this is how you rise. So they say at Aloe Vera or any other MLM system. Their marble smells like sponge cake. Uncle S.’s head couldn’t poke through the lard crust more than a sausage end — we were all captive in that jar — until he married Aunt Anatolia.
“So tell me, dear nephew, do you still write?” (To write: to drill a fresh core smelling like mountain snow). “Tell me,” he says, stuffing a beans paste ball in his mouth. This is how Anatolia makes Raffaello pralines, from beans paste.
The first traps, in the Cretaceous, must have looked like his jaws.
1. A young man wearing a peasant waistcoat, maturing under a schnitzel batter. He likes leaking ballpoints. The cigarette has already become a torture. His breastbone grows thinner — like a match. “Get over your troubles as you pass over a mistake in a good book.” As the teacher ignores the errors when he corrects test papers with a Parker pen. Or an even more expensive one. He gets sugar from fruit.
Diary fragment(s): once I stopped to catch my breath, our company is in a block of flats. A death notice written with a ballpoint: the commas were in the right places.
Cold sandwiches, talks about disease. Grandma goes wrinkly in a spa. She wraps herself in huge cabbage leaves. I cut my nails more and more carefully, even more carefully than Radu did in the second grade.
I know an MP. I accompanied him, I melted butter on the back cover of his book. My bones are empty. Hung on a line, they would hiss like tubes made of the most various metals, they would get hysterical in the wind.
A mistake is a black, purulent dot. A wart with hair growing from it between words. Wherever I see one, in a tram, for instance, I scream like the agonizing figure in Munch’s painting, I cover my member like Adam.
I have short dreams – trees with whistle holes. With hollows like the whirlpools on the Mureș. Kafka is no better than the dust lying on stale biscuits.
I am putting it on, of course. I speak solemnly, gravely. You know what it is like: you pick up a lump of earth, you (re)discover the planet – the pulsating infectious magma.
2. I leant forward and read: “they were turned around and blindfolded”. The bullet was green like phlegm, phosphorescent. The posts — pale. The coolness of the forest embraced them too.
Here and there, little holes: the minutes were typed. I leant closer so that I could see through them. I closed one eye.
I think of death even while on the stairs — then they become rounded and easier to climb. The grey colour, tantalising. Everything smells — like in a bathroom — like a barely wet Fa soap bar. The soul moves ahead a little faster. It too has bones — tiny and fragile, like the elastic in the underpants waistband. It cannot crack its knuckles. The soul is a good boy, a poppet. Sometimes, when I lie down it sits up in a right angle: its skull rises towards the ceiling, while mine moves towards the wall behind. It likes it when I massage the back of its head. The soul sits right next to me. It pulls its little chair and assists me like a good friend. It points to the monitor: look, you’re missing a coma. It quickly digs a small hole like a tooth cavity and lines it with straws. Life really passes by: cling film strips stretched over the skin. Continuously. You almost don’t feel it/ them.
II. Live Poems. Continuous fragments
I no longer feel like a man
unless my hand smells like smoke
I once joined some kind of peace corps
the soldiers bringing peace with their beauty
the girl with pennies instead of dandruff
on her nicely drawn parting
the shaman with a crossword puzzle on his face
vomiting in a red bowl
the devil with curly hair
green shirt and pimples
his chest dark with fleas
the statue of the guard dog with a pink soap bar in its mouth
the sea surrounding an artesian fountain
you flow you roll ETC.
like the reddest carpet
I can only feel your presence
a hovering cloak casting shadow
on the garden
these strong white cigarettes are the first
they are salt and butter
I saw you naked
ruddy and red-headed
like a chick
I saw the bed cloth slipping
remaining — I mean — in the grave
my god is a gypsy
ginsberg’s poetry — a flooded slide
on which beacon lights and punch-smashed watermelons
keep flowing down
once I wrote the history of the most haunted country
of the spider-bride
and I believe
this word crushes
devastates the beaches
and the sin lies again with the secluded
wrapped in soft bacon slices
so much fog so many prints suffocate the window
one upon another the books — I don’t know
it will be like in baudelaire
like when you turn the music on
the dead are dried dolls
idols with empty eye sockets
like a moth I lie in hiding
like a larva — wood full of eyes instead of woodworms
the prophet’s homeland is square
carved in halva
in old home-made laundry soap
the slabs are polished
(you run your hands over for pleasure)
and the old women their mirror-like foreheads
jut out like clocks from cuckoos
the rivers are slower
they flow like sap
from pierced wood
you see you read everything
in the flat quilt
you pray with hot doughnuts under your knees
hit the piano key with your head
let’s hit it all one by one
let’s pull up our tiny chairs
for little children for mortal beings
let’s hit it with our white forehead with our eye arch
let it be heard
as far as the dunnet head and ben navis
this is the message sent from here
(from their dining-room)
by people most certainly honest
who have sliced the tomatoes nicely
decorated the salad and prepared the napkins
the first to come will light the candles
pull up your chair watch
the tunnel mouth
and the bull will dash out
this is the country where
dark balls of thread
are put on the scales
and the god of the contrast
between the black beard
and the white-white skin
the creature in grey clothes enters your room
(you withdraw and defend yourself like a spider)
you write and you seem to grab him
and push him into the sea
you sweep the floor under his feet
you even scrape it with the penknife
you whiten it
this is how you`d free your mind –
as easter island of its statues
lay a trap around the tracks as well
night is when the temple
hits a hot plate
a row of blood-red cauliflower
of brains pulsating in puff pastry
I may not have finished my cigarette
by the time a drop of juice
from the orange you are peeling
or a strand of hair falls
on this sheet of paper
on its sadness
like a celebration
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