Nine poems by Cosmin Perţa, a Romanian poet and novelist, translated into English by Tiberiu Neacșu and Chris Tanasescu, as part of World Poetry/Prose Portfolio [WPP], curated by Sudeep Sen
Translated from Romanian by Tiberiu Neacșu
Green is the Color of Hope
I’m quickly getting further away.
Soon I’ll be too far to go back
in this lifetime.
And I don’t care if there’s something beyond.
In the country a living man is declared dead,
and can’t prove to Justice he’s alive,
in which we wanted to build cities of quiet & peace,
and hide behind the rough smell of thyme,
we found death.
My supplies of courage and resistance are fewer and fewer,
longer and longer my backward stares,
bigger and bigger my regrets, and weaker and weaker my movement.
I sometimes wake up from a sweating sleep,
roll over in the valley, between the hagberries,
and the wind spreads crazy petals through my hair.
Let’s break a door, a taboo, a canon. A shop window.
Let’s break something in these beings so adapted to routine & humility.
Let’s break this image of the world, develop,
reveal the image of a tortured dog, hung by the pylons in the ceiling by a string —
Let’s not duck words, let’s not be hypocrites,
let’s not pretend we don’t care anymore,
that there’s nothing to be done
(even if there’s nothing to be done, there’s always something to be done).
The field of ending in too many images,
with small and equal people doing the same endless thing.
Happy. So happy. So insensitive, so brutalized.
A society that kills the unadapted, a crowd which suffocates
its revolted, and blood-thirstily follows its marginals.
And yet again I, in this world, vocationally subversive,
marginal by action and unacceptance. I had seen a picture
with some children gathering hay on the hills—me at 10-14 years old.
No remains left from that world
in this new world of violence.
No exact memory to ease the image of a foul end.
A broken family, an uncertain destiny, several hundred books
that stroll around town as an extension of an almost beaten body.
Is there something to be worthy of possession? Is there something worthy?
I failed everything I believed in, even what I compelled myself to believe in all the way.
I sometimes wake up sweating, I stretch my hand towards the image of past things,
towards the heat of some volatilized bodies, towards the love of beings I killed.
Pulverized, my image in the entire room, along with my breath.
I stretch my hand, and there’s nothing there anymore.
Let’s break language & suffering. Let’s say what we believe in and how it is now.
Let’s exhibit so we don’t lose ourselves, so we don’t feel ashamed, so we don’t kill anymore.
So we don’t… shards of glass under the skin in the palms. The big beautiful chandelier in the palace
fell and broke.
We fumble on our knees, on the floor, no smell, no rustle. A heartbeat
that’s heard further and further somewhere, hidden, frightened, unreachable.
A fully empowered woman waving like a battle banner to keep you away.
Green is the color of hope. A woman giggling all for herself.
Commotion comes from sadness. An exceptional love,
as if she’d been possessed by the devil. A good or a bad woman?
Perpetual suffering is irreversible, just like in the old times, love
of nature was for poets. The kindness that lures and darkens you,
which breaks you in tens of meaningless fragments. You watch confused,
but confusion comes from sadness. A broken adventurer, retired.
Is green the color of hope for the retired too?
No serious reflection and no deepening regarding war & cruelty,
to what end? Finally, everything is a good of ours, it belongs to us. Completely ignorant.
Serious problems, simple detours from life, walks through communal enterprises,
detours meant to break your steps, all the problems in our world
are hidden in the heartbeats.
Diamonds for monkeys, we’re not talking sins, we’re not touching the moral aspect of the subject,
polite humor, precision and dryness, an unmoving silhouette between two lanterns
on the meadow. Eventually, someone is dragging you inside, indulge them,
things cannot be changed anymore. A lonely cyclist.
Are you comfortable? Are you crying? Are you reading these stupidities? You can’t go round anymore.
It happens in so many ways: you can tear an ear, be locked in a room,
be hit in the face by someone, be sick, buildings and blocks collapse,
and streets be broken, be somebody’s first man, coordinate the tortures,
need to say goodbye to the dearest of people,
get three bullets in your stomach and survive,
look at yourself in the mirror every day, apologize, slip on snow, fall,
be a woman, wife, maybe have children, inherit a case of someone who died in Auschwitz,
die in Auschwitz, break a shop window, be born before the war,
get fucked by a leper, be poisoned with mushrooms, get your whole heart torn, be found
in your hiding place, get killed by a criminal, be forced by your parents to play the clarinet,
flee to America, be old, a statue of Stalin grow in your yard,
hate & fear grow in your flesh, be bathed in sweat, not be a hero,
dance, be over, clean everything with sand, be guilty, have wings,
crack your organs, not give a fuck, be sarcastic, not make good sandwiches,
cry, be alone, not raise your children.
Silence and Light
What I receive is more than enough,
talentless and clumsy, only diligent,
I try not to drivel.
I used to talk to friends
who are maliciously smiling, who are frowning,
I care about you and I’m showing you a letter which I wrote
all my life.
I met you one summer,
you’re here, with me, waiting for a light
to furiously shatter all our drawbacks.
“we hide in the cupboard during the day,
and draw bodies
floating above the garden”
we use imagination as an irritated painter
we draw a well-made woman,
a nurse to cure us,
to guide us, to take care of us,
pretext for an almost religious story.
Horrible, but true,
a medusa head, a curse.
A nice bicycle ride.
She promised she’d be here at 12 o’clock,
she was nowhere to be found. We were feverishly searching for her
to save us.
You screamed and deafened me,
no problem, bare a little, we’re getting out of here in a moment.
True writers have themselves been victims of this kind of illusion.
A plagiarism, a joke, enough for a demonstration.
“Good literature is not written with feelings,” Gide said,
I explain in detail, the superior rank of feelings
is a matter of manner and style.
How could have I ever believed in exuberance without feelings?
I came for food, the children are in the room, and they need food,
fear is just a sensation, hunger is just as strong.
You lured me with a pleasant smell, got me out of the dark,
I burnt all the clothes I’d ever touched, everything I’d touched.
I burnt your skin that I’d touched.
Maybe it’s not so bad.
I haven’t felt this free since the ceremony in which I got a name.
So dry. We’re waiting for silence and light.
Do not unjustly behave to others. It’s a bad omen.
The only force that generates drama is injustice.
The old head, stubborn, articulates images rabidly,
gesticulates images. I want to see it shot in close range,
If it wasn’t for this girl with white skin, if we weren’t waiting
for light and silence.
A girl sings alone in a carousel,
she sings beautifully.
How nice of us to listen to her.
Artificial insemination, people biting the bait like fish.
I looked at you in the mirror and marveled,
the sun was building an aura around you, it was excessive,
an anomaly compared to my ill-like pale skin.
I was oscillating between annoyance and fascination,
I spoke to you all afternoon,
you were purposefully rejecting me, I felt
pushed to the edge by your aura,
I got scared by you being silence & light
and I wouldn’t be able to ever touch you.
But it wasn’t you.
I came back to reality, that’s God’s will,
with shadows growing from one side to another,
I walk through a narrow corridor.
Outside there are riots, I keep going upwards through the tunnel.
If we can’t get out of here, we need to make sure
nobody can get in.
Diamond reflections, Colombian cocaine,
the storm from the end of life,
the sadness of guilt.
Speaking about yourself, you double,
you become impressed by your own estrangement,
a fiction through doubling. Alterity.
And still, the body resists duality,
you lose the order of ideas, life builds
from circles which you walk on with daring steps.
As if it mattered.
You look towards the end of the tunnel with intensity,
You look for silence & light.
You’ve been terrorized enough by the feeling
of profound futility of the world. A grave-like world.
We’re glorifying it.
It’s your sensitive character, you say.
I don’t understand anything. In the world, on TV,
the body of a child.
You watch it—quiet.
We turn on the radio and listen to the news from the front,
Shadows, walking, avoiding the unavoidable,
lakes filled with dead fish,
the girl in our story, the nurse,
is crying in a corner with her entire body.
Paradoxical, stunted and spasmodic,
I light a super long cigarette.
Who needs oxygen?
A disavowal act.
Assistance given by God
in his mercy for you.
Freedom & freshness,
I cover my mouth with my hand.
We’re all playing in the sandbox.
I wasn’t planning on playing with you,
but there’s nothing to be done. Consensus is essential.
The decay of public life began in Antiquity.
The nature of feeling, will, passion & injustice
don’t even deserve to be written down. Obscurantism.
The nurse is tired, she’s sleeping on the doorstep, half
on one side, half on the other.
Inside and outside at the same time.
Negative values got her tired, the discourse on death,
everybody who has populated earth so far.
The lack of clear ideas. A woman’s duty is to get prepared,
to wait for the groom, for the silence & light.
One arm underneath her, the other one bent to the left,
seems broken in this unnatural position,
her temple rests on the floor, her right knee bent over the doorstep,
above it, the dress hangs, moved by wind,
moving dust. I take a big step over her.
I Saw a Little Animal Crossing the Street
I saw a little animal crossing the street.
It was walking as if it had to get somewhere.
Do you still love me?
You bought me sneakers. I spent several hundred hours in those sneakers
on the street, at my desk, during classes, on benches, in parks, and in bars…
I sat as if I had nowhere to be.
I thought at some point to tell you something good,
I kept thinking of what to tell you,
and no good word from my lips.
You know, when I was six, my mom took me out to take pictures with me,
as if she knew that little boy wasn’t going to make it,
that his image needed to be kept somehow.
I followed that little animal for tens of meters,
but it seemed to know what it was doing, and I envied it.
A hedgehog on the street,
an old, tired, huge hedgehog. He was crying.
I slept with the hedgehog on my chest,
and he, scared, and I, insomniac, we somehow connected,
and fell asleep.
You told me we snored, me and the hedgehog.
The sneakers from you broke and smell horribly, although I still wear them in sun or rain.
I think that little, untamed animal is the one who has no place or no reason to go.
Do you still love me? Tomorrow I’ll throw away these sneakers,
but I’ll keep them for today, they’re so hard to peel off my feet.
Poem About Beauty
It was cold, and windy, and dirty
under the stupid sun like a badger guarding the entrance of the den,
smell of mustard, the middle of the world. It was cold, and I heard crows
cawing about life, and I saw preoccupied people talking about fish
on their way home. And you’re 39 today. I felt sick and helpless and
that hypocritical wind was rummaging through my sickness from the inside, making me cough and spit.
How it was curling up inside me.
We watched waves together, we lived together
through great unhappiness, and several joys in the strange rhythm of your blood.
Under the stupid, warm sun of today I thought about your beauty,
about that line you wear under your dark circles,
under the layer of skin, about the love and the light (oh, what pointless words) that make you something else.
I looked at your legs, I saw my uncertainty and the crumbling asphalt, and felt something else.
I walked quiet streets and met skeletal cats, I went downtown
and the same cats were climbing buildings. Today you turn 39, the day is short and night gathers scars
in the city, and I only know this: your beauty is as real as the asphalt, as disease, as this sun
smelling like mustard, your beauty is cawing about life and speaks to me about fish.
I walk, therefore, through this city, and I praise your beauty, my love, I praise and sing,
towards the morning an orange sun with stupid birds, with grey people and asphalt on which we step
until death do us part. And your beauty is the fog, the air, and the cloud through which everything
will survive. Your beauty is that without you, and after you,
living is impossible.
Translated from Romanian by Margento (Chris Tanasescu)
The Gravel’s Coolness as You Pass By
The First Lullaby for My Generation
Cry, cry on, for I’ll buy you a plastic heart, a
clean silver bypass, a miniature X-ray machine,
a miniature cobalt radiotherapy machine, a fresh new scalpel.
Cry, cry on, I’ve stashed away piles
of wooden pills, a dolphin, an elephant’s tail, three partridges,
and a diamond goose for you in the house’s foundation.
Cry, cry on, I’ll give you a gas mask, a Molotov cocktail,
a snowflake-spangled tiger’s hide patched with sable fur, a cut off finger, a machine gun, some
greasy fruit, some threadbare pajamas, an onion, a monkey’s paw, a rhinoceros’s foot,
a tiny Soutine painted on an earring, a first misfortune: precisely.
Cry, cry on, I’ll borrow money from everyone and buy you
a nice camel-hair hairpiece, a kidney, a liver, three surgeons who
will remove your colon polyps.
Cry, cry on, you’ll get cancer, you’ll eat. cyanide. you’ll drink
cyanide. you’ll breathe in. cyanide. you’ll throw up. cyanide. you’ll buy theater,
rodeo, ballet tickets. We’ re gonna go to the opera. You’re gonna croak, your heart’s
Cry, cry on, one million coffins will fit perfectly in 162 paperback pages,
one million dead people fit perfectly in my brain, I’m gonna buy them all,
and will buy it too for you.
Cry, cry on, I’ll buy a president, a parliament, a school, some pavement
for you to step on, I’ll buy you sockets for walking on the pavement,
for going to the doctor, for making your feet stink,
I’ll buy you a meadow for you to breed wild airplanes up there,
to tame death, cry, cry on, I’ll buy death for you
to mount, to ride, to name; call her
This is Superman, this is the word delight, upright
and perpendicular. This is history, this is memory, this is forgery
and use of forgery.
Those ones are us, those ones are them, those ones are those who kill.
That’s France, that’s the Mediterranean over there, that’s England, that’s Germany,
The U.S. and Russia, China and North Korea.
All these are linked, tagged, interconnected, we’re talking here irascibility.
Look closely and here’s what you’ll spot behind each of them: death.
This is a boiled egg, a glove, some amber, a dead language,
a chemistry textbook, the tendon, the collarbone, the press, the free press,
the occupied press, the meat press, the wine press, the press. Look closely
and here’s what you’ll spot: death.
Those are the graveyards, those are the ones lamenting the graveyards, those are
the ones occupying the graveyards, those are the ones liberating the graveyards. Hold on!
Stand still! I’m resting my hand on your shoulder. Look closely:
It’s almost every day
that I read a piece of news about Apocalypse,
about earthquakes, hurricanes, wars, the economic downturn, child abuse…
Yet all this charade
all this swarming world
spewing its vileness and hatred into my mind
accomplishes nothing else but convinces me even more
that to eat an apple and rise from the dead
are in fact pretty much the same thing.
At once with the heart, the enlightenment.
It’s getting more and more worrisome for me
not to be able to give birth to language anymore. Can’t make myself understood anymore
and it’s not like I really really care about it either. I could easily forget about it,
it’s just that I’ll be stuck with a fear of world destruction
that gets the better of me.
Ever more tiring and terrifying,
the ascent. The demon’s evolution in literature and the world.
The demon is now everywhere.
The demon doesn’t mislead us about his nonexistence anymore,
the devil needs marketing, PR, visibility,
likes on Facebook.
The demon. I won’t say that word again.
We say: penumbra. In the penumbra there is no good and evil,
in the penumbra we all live in a virtual world.
In the penumbra we play Counter-Strike and we’re happy.
We kill people in the penumbra and that’s not enough.
In the penumbra nothing is real, in the penumbra
the knife won’t cut, the blood is nothing else but pixels.
We play in the penumbra, throw orgies there. Secretly?
It’s bad in the penumbra, I’m scared in the penumbra,
I don’t understand you in the penumbra, I don’t know you,
I don’t recognize myself. I’m the same. Numbed. Dead.
When the penumbra spreads its chilly eagle wings
who will decide who’s got to stay and who’s got to go?
Who will get scared by the penumbra’s metallic touch?
I’m already falling, which one’s the true reality?
I’ve already gone wrong and will continue to do so
until everything I see dries out.
You don’t understand, in the penumbra
we’re punished for whatever is moral about us.
We have no beauty, liberty, or honor,
vanity is some kind of feces naturally flowing down our throats,
we live off of surrogates, those cerebrally absorbed, virtual,
interstitial, pestilential, cheap, and colossal drugs.
Happiness is for real, it is possible and it can surpass
our animal nature. The world has to be abandoned
in order to be gained.
We all take the weird path, we all write dead style
while still alive. Mummies. Meanness, selfishness, self-centeredness,
decadence, the avant-gardes.
The absurd is the new rule in society. The absurd does not
bring about ruptures anymore, does not break things up, does not
frighten or sever, reality does not dissociate it,
the absurd is appealing, it’s cool, we treat the absurd with
tolerance and irony. We flirt with it as if it were
a woman, a likable and giddy little floozy.
The absurd overwhelms us, ingurgitates us, chews us up, crushes us,
Normalcy is a word with no signified,
we’ve gone haywire. Everything is uncertain.
We are sophisticated, ironic, superior,
we are too post-anything for anything ethical, for life in general.
Nothing will please us, nothing is good enough, we are a vegetal carpet,
rotting and stinking. Language broke. Crash!
I hate what I can’t understand.
Non-vision. The absence of darkness is the void.
Non-vision. The absence of darkness is the void.
Dear Lord: It’s Time. The World Has Gone On for too Long
The Second Lullaby for My Generation
Sleep, sleep on,
I’ve never been able to get used to the world,
to human skin, or to anything that can be explained.
Sleep, sleep on,
every day I think everything through with precision: Now
I make myself. I slowly caress the truth with zaps of skin electricity.
Sleep, sleep on,
dark times, no memories outside,
the tenacious insect gnawing at my brains. Warm and cozy in the Cosmos.
Kicked the door.
Kicked the door as hard as I could. Put my ear
to the door, sensed your pulse, heard the injustice, heard your blood gushin’ out.
Fog, blue fog,
sink my brain in your immensity,
let me dig a giant grave in your boundlessness
together with the snakes, the lions, and the elephants
my friends in the grave inside of you,
fog, blue fog, I will dump them
and they will drink your blue wine, fog, blue fog,
they will dance in your immensity
while my sunken brain will rejoice in your boundlessness.
Then corpses will fall from the sky.
The sun will be covered by dry corpses.
The rabble will pick up corpses for the days to come.
In the penumbra, like a starving beast, history
digs a million cement graves.
Who’s going to rise from the dead, you’d wonder, who’s going to rise from under the cement slabs?
Nothing is left of this flesh
that’s of any use to you.
There is joy in any kind of destruction,
in any kind of ending. There will be a way,
the doors will open, and we will run
into the happy and the merrymakers, but we’ll come through,
we’ll read, get cultivated, experienced,
we’ll do good, we’ll make it somehow.
Each with their own chainsaw.
More than enough, my love, non-vision, will be said now and then.
I wanted things, got them, got to know them, my non-vision love,
We drank together my own blood until we had our fill.
Everything shrinks down while waiting for that little breath.
It’s going down.
In China, in Belgium, in Afghanistan, there are people on the road.
Even if you fall down
I’ll lie down there by your body.
I’ll write you a letter while lying by your side, in the cool,
a love letter.
Nobody thinks about your body
the way I do. I freeze with joy
at the mere thought of it. The cool.
Your body well buried, wrapped up in layers;
I play chess, backgammon. Nobody
thinks about your body the way
I do, fragrant in the cool.
Came to mind: in a station of the metro
hundreds of faces
embittered, hostile, callous. Period.
But there’s more to it.
I got something for you: precisely.
A black rain in a town
A greenish wind circling the buildings.
Nothing desolate so far.
When they found his body in a bin
the bell overshadowed precisely her window.
Cold metal in the veins.
In the nose, thousands of swarming spiders.
There is a light in my mind, getting directly to the brain.
When I woke up
rain falling on the pavement. No city. Electric field.
The heart doesn’t hurt. I’m faking.
The brain doesn’t hurt. I’m faking.
Estrangement from God doesn’t hurt. I’m faking.
When I say I’m afraid of my sex organ,
and that I’d cut it off,
I’m telling the truth.
“I shall sit here, serving tea to friends”—
So I’m lying by your
Holding your hand really tight
Don’t lose your ground (war)
don’t let the light ever die.
In your palm (music)
grew such flesh,
in your dead, tender, beautiful palm.
The good ones play soccer
on an endless field deep in the blue
fog. The dying ones and those who kill
are your heart and soul,
don’t lose your ground (music)
don’t let the light ever die.
Hold tightly (war), forget, forgive, and never mention.
The Return to One’s Own Body: A Necessity
The Third Lullaby to My Generation
Sleep on, you are in a box.
Cry on, do not harm the others.
Sleep on, you are in a box.
Cry on, do not punish the other.
Sleep on, you are in a box.
Cry on, do not harm the other, do not blame.
Sleep on, you can feel the way fury makes
you cry on, while your hand gains heat,
sleep on, which causes it to pass
cry on, through the stomach,
sleep on, through the bed you hatefully rest in,
cry on, you are in a box,
sleep on, do not punish the other,
cry on, do not harm the other, do not blame
forever and ever.
Be thankful for the understanding,
this is a good evening,
you are drawing angels in the stairwell.
All around you political charades,
you meticulously set up the charade of your own life in your head,
and you can’t escape it.
You kill time—is there any time at all in Romania?—
can’t shake off habits,
for 13, 15 years now, been dying, been killing.
my body—this suffocation.
The transport of a cockroach nymph
from the living room to the chute of garb… age of ages.
The Wind Has Torn Down Old Walls for Years
The Fourth Lullaby for My Generation
Here I am, 29 years after, in the middle of the journey.
29 years of waiting, the first 29 years
before World War III
or any other apocalypse.
We try to find a new language,
a correct language of depersonalization, dehumanization,
of tension in the air, lack of continuity, lack of privacy,
solitude in the multitude, electro-mutilation, electro-authistication.
Beware, we’re entering the realm of the inarticulate. Failure.
Where we don’t have to express anything anymore. Failure.
Everything is known, imprecise, and pristine all over again.
The perfectly explainable system of inexplicability
is an equally perfect
Just a shadow of our lives over the others’ lives.
A breath blown over a photo covered in dust.
We tingle with fatigue
and can’t defend ourselves.
I forget everything.
A great love passes me by within inches.
There was a time when everything was perfect.
When we had no conscience, no regret,
when we didn’t think about a thing.
don’t even give
Somewhere in the already mentioned dust in your room
a beast with the body of a crocodile and the head of a rhinoceros
lies in wait for me
crawling slowly on the tiles, the scattered notes, the rug, the floor
swinging its horn ferociously, and tenderly
meanwhile big black birds flock at your window in droves.
You’ve got to go alone
with a light — and rose-tinted — heart
arm in arm with your dead wife.
Straight ahead, straight a-dead, back into the past,
one past life to the next, aimlessly,
arm in arm with your wife Death.
I was lying in the snow pondering.
Not pondering anything.
Rolling in the snow.
Ponderous, more ponderous than the year before.
Used to have a mattress once in an empty room.
So silly to lose even what we really own.
All there is
left of this dreadful sun
We Hit the Rock Bottom of Delirium
The last lullaby for my generation
You should have stuck around those familiar friendly places,
here you’re stalked at every step by the pale madness
while the mind’s pattern is of no avail.
You should have stuck around the familiar friendly neighborhoods,
here everything is formidably dangerous,
everything can kill you in no time.
You should have stuck around,
enjoyed your own average world,
here nothing is average and nothing is of avail, except for death.
We will start a committee, we will be thankful,
we will get a new place, we will hire a band,
we are unprepared,
the smell of blood hasn’t intoxicated us yet,
the black light bulbs haven’t illuminated us yet.
We will start an inquiry, produce evidence, and cry throughout this freezing cold century.
Back home after a long disquiet,
the moon up there shriveled up and dried out like a wineskin.
I will jumpstart a new life solely due to a new weakness.
Here was once the rock bottom of delirium.
You can watch your end most effectively in that blind spot.
You too will see a
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mă regăsesc în unele,,,,,
Jan 1, 2019 at 22:47
mulțumesc,,mă regăsesc în unele...
Jan 1, 2019 at 22:46