Three Poems

from Like a Vagrant in a Red Sweater
Translated from the Romanian by Marius Surleac and Marc Vincenz

 

The Socialist Republic of Romania

 

Remnant
of a sprawling ancestry
clambering northward,
once further north. I won’t go there,
I refuse to go—billions, even hundreds of billions
of virtually imperceptible juvenile eras,
make her the one you dreamed of like yellow gasoline.
While other billions tell you “Tomorrow!”—
yet deny it exists
at any cost, in their rhythmic exuberance
like dusty grey cosmic rain and insects,
or animated like the fiery-red rhododendron
on the mountain. Successful—
and shimmering like a cloud in a sky brimming with stars,
I fill my thoughts with her rosy cheeks.
And around lonely hearts—
elongated,
romping in small, white rumors,
her thighs could slum the pubs anytime:
the features of a creature
laden with complicity, packed with fragrant spices
(an indication that she’s activated her ova,
many of her offspring could already have become
Zoe or Nicu …) so tender and intimate,
here in this room where,
on the table the wine glares at us from its bottles,
distills our despair under the skin.

 

 

(written in the army; Pitesti Petrochemical Works)

 

Hell only knows if I was ever a poet
Since I arrived here in Pyrolysis II, I kind of missed my turn
at the pen and at handwriting’s blank sheet.
There’s no more time for solitude,
the steam pipes bellow
and there’s a cyanide smell that burns the eyes.
I’m on the second floor of a building with four levels
and responsible for the wheelbarrow and catching the buckets
full of mortar that drop from the crane.
I shout and swear like hell
when a woman in overalls with her hair
tucked up under her helmet passes.
Standing on the scaffolding, we soldiers undress her
with our glances from morning to night—
because only this Pyrolysis will bring
the national economy
a benefit of two million Lei daily.
I don’t even know what autumn’s rusty leaves look like.
The only flower that grows here is the corn
and it is green from spring until late into autumn.

 

 

What an evening, Lord, I am like a wooden effigy.
My body is blind and my palms are riddled with worms.
And somehow I feel how the sky-nailed moon
inflicts a heavy damage within my voice.

And in my heel somehow I sense Cain,
and in my mouth respect for Abel grows, and look
how deep within the visible spectrum his laughter appears
and his teeth, white as cemetery gates open and close.

What an evening, Lord, I am like a wooden effigy.
During the night, I build myself into a Name.
As sometimes people say: on the waves
the sailing boat and the fish tell tales.

 

 

 

About the translators

Marius Surleac is a Romanian physicist and poet. His translations from English into the Romanian, include the poetry of Marc Vincenz, Valzhyna Mort, Peycho Kanev, and in collaboration with Chris Tanasescu, G. C. Waldrep, Fady Joudah, Cornelius Eady and several others.  He has published an original collection of poetry in Romanian: Zeppelin Jack (Herg Benet, 2011) and a bi-lingual collection of translations, The Propaganda Factory, or Speaking of Trees / Fabrica de Propaganda, sau Apropo de Copaci by Marc Vincenz, (Tracus Arte, 2015).

Born in Hong Kong of British-Swiss parents, Marc Vincenz has published eight collections of poetry; his latest is Becoming the Sound of Bees (Ampersand Books, 2015). A ninth, Sibylline, is forthcoming with Ampersand Books. He is the translator of many poets, including the Herman Hesse Prize winner, Klaus Merz, Werner Lutz, and Jürg Amman and has published eleven collections of translations. His translation of Klaus Merz collection, Unexpected Development was a finalist for the 2015 Cliff Becker Book Translation Prize and is forthcoming from White Pine Press. He has received several grants from the Swiss Arts Council and a fellowship from the Literary Colloquium Berlin. His own work has been translated into German, Russian, Romanian, French, Icelandic and Chinese. He is International Editor of Plume Poetry Journal, Executive Editor of MadHat Press and lives in Massachusetts. Recent and forthcoming publications include The Nation, Raritan, Ploughshares, The Common, The Manhattan Review, The American Journal of Poetry and World Literature Today.

 

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