Girl on Red Background
I'm inside an old building, on the fifth floor
in Todd's new apartment with large rooms,
green walls and an orange balcony while Todd
tells me about the painting he wants to buy
and I am able to imagine Girl on red background,
a huge five thousand-dollar painting,
the creation of a contemporary Romanian painter.
Things like that make me feel proud I'm a Romanian
but my pride completely disappears when I think
of all those famous painters of the world
who died in poverty and starvation.
Todd's friends arrive, Bob and his brother Mike.
Bob's an American who works in Romania, like Todd,
but Mike is here for the first time and I ask him
the question each American who visits my country
is asked: What do you think about Romania?
Worse than the Third World, he answers.
Although I do speak English, I refuse to tell him
that Romania has interesting places, beautiful cities,
famous poets, musicians and painters who actually sell
their five thousand-dollar paintings even to Americans.
In Praise of the White Town
I experience Srbija, visit Beograd, walk Knez Mihailova,
climb Kalemegdan, sip a cold beer on Ulica Skadarlija,
go round the colossal Hram Svetog Save.
Old buildings lit at night, great architecture,
good-looking people loudly speaking the language ja volim.
Dojaja is a synonym for Belgrade.
I join a wedding, right in the middle of a street,
surrounded by guests and Bregovic's Mesecina
played from old metallic instruments
and feel like an actor who plays the main part
in a movie directed by Kusturica.
I cannot help shaking my body, taking pictures.
I cannot help buying 30-dinar-postcards either.
"Volim Beograd" is written on a blue trinket attached
to my keys.
My right hand holds it, wants to show it to everyone.
Though my verb is to have not to hold.
The right motto spins inside my head:
Go east; go west, Belgrade is the best!
I enter every bookstore asking for a name
but nobody seems to know who the national poet is.
I don't dare to wear my American T-shirt,
the one with a flag printed in front.
There are postcards for sale everywhere
showing cartoons with Serbian soldiers
pissing on the American flag.
I try to understand their anger but who am I
to judge what happened here?
I meet Boban. He is a fitness trainer.
Dark skin, white teeth, good English.
He tells me about Serbians' hospitality
while we have a coffee at Prima Cafe,
a nice place for wasting time, writing a poem.
I ask the waiter, Boban's friend, for a visit card
as a souvenir. He brings me a red T-shirt,
the waiters' uniform. I say it is too much.
My hostess says the same each time I listen to
Zeljko Joksimovic's Varnice on Pink or Palma Televizija.
She doesn't like the city, the language, the people
but she understands my excitement and takes me to Moda Cafe
where she often has her coffee in the morning.
Boban tells me about his brother who is a Japanese teacher,
his father who's a musician, his mother who works as a nurse.
He takes out of his wallet the national anthem instead
or a family picture. He is a patriot although he wants
to go to Italy, to find a job. Boban explains how Beograd used
to gather all the labor's fruit of people from former Jugoslavija.
He says that nobody likes people from Belgrade.
I carefully listen and think that no one has offered me
rakija or sarme, no one has asked me to stay here forever.
I'm not surprised that nobody likes people from Belgrade . . .
"In the Family" is the latest Polish film I watched.
Good subject, but no translation.
A lot of actors play (not only) their parts
and celebrate Christmas ten days earlier.
Kasia plays a girl who speaks Polish with a Spanish accent.
Her friend, Jessica, in the role of a Mexican,
brings a bottle of Tequila as a Christmas gift.
Jessica's on again much later playing Virgin Mary
while little Jesus is played by the bottle.
Grzegorz (a traveller recently returned from Peru)
becomes a reindeer who brings
Santa and his presents down to earth.
Santa is played by Remik
(who cooks a lot in the first part)
while the presents are played by themselves.
It's obvious that the Christmas tree plays the part
of the Christmas tree and food plays food.
Only the carols almost forget to play their part.
Jacek (the one who enjoys kissing)
has one of the leading parts: the host.
Maja and Jendrek play a beautiful couple.
She likes Italian movies, he likes directing short films.
Ania and Mateusz play another kind of couple:
the one who leaves the screen too soon.
It's not the case of Magda and Piotr who are on
till the end without putting themselves forward.
Marek (who looks better in pajamas)
plays one of the secondary parts.
Pawel is on the same level, without pajamas,
but Bogdan and Anna brilliantly play themselves.
Docia tells a funny story about her mother
(not funny for me because I don't speak her language)
while Jola moves from the secondary to the leading part
when she puts on another kind of Santa's suit.
I remember Monika, one of the best,
the girl who likes conspiring and underwater dancing.
But Alex plays one of the best parts also,
the one who wants to put a smile on everybody's face,
"a gift from God", as Sebek says. Didn't I mention Sebek?
Well, "easy attitude" is written in front of his T-shirt
(although he doubts it).
Another inscription (too obscene to be mentioned
and back side this time) is on Rafael's T-shirt.
He's definitely the main character,
the one who tries too hard to be famous
while nobody tells him that this is the reason
he will never be. No compassion please.
He is the bad guy, too dangerous to be followed.
I must mention a scene from the middle when
Rafael tells both the Poet (who prefers the absurdity
of writing poems to the absurdity of not writing them)
and Agnieszka (a girl with a Spanish figure who also
writes poems from time to time) that they are not
members of the family, they are just guests.
But it was almost Christmas, and everybody deserves
to be a member of a family for Christmas.
That's why the Poet sympathises with Agnieszka.
I play the Poet, and keep my character to the end.
I'm early each morning
sipping black coffee
from a black mug.
It has become a habit,
my way to start the day.
I move carefully
through the crowd
and often count my steps.
The ones from tomorrow
will match those from yesterday.
I will divert from
my course someday.
I won't choose the next day
cause I still want simplicity.
I don't want to know my future.
I walk the crowded streets of Bucharest
and watch how people hurry home.
I hold the keys of the city.
I can afford to take my time
and join a group of tourists to visit
the so-called People's House.
Huge rooms, massive doors,
gigantic chandeliers, lack of taste.
I think about the huge amount of money
needed to maintain this monstrous building
and follow the tour guide
through the biggest room of the palace
while she says that the enormous carpet
from the floor is hand made by the nuns
from the north-east monasteries.
Then she wants to know if we have any questions.
Everyone laughs when a man asks her:
Can I have your phone number?
My question echoes inside my head:
Do the nuns feel proud?