translation is dedicated to Betina, as though it were a poem written
purely for her.
here and yet I know I should be over there, that somewhere a soul
frozen with fright stares at the clock's hands till the hours blacken,
they blur into a shriek which erupts from the surrounding air, shooting
into the gaping mouth, like a bottle of sulfuric acid. I tense,
I listen, I gaze, my fingers plunge into the shivery gush of papers,
I am here and I fathom that over there somebody is fidgeting in
anticipation of my arrival, but I don't know when I can make my
departure, suddenly! orders are shouted; I slap my hat to get the
dust off, I execute so many gestures dictated by well-learned purposes,
but it torments me, it burns me, this thought, that somewhere a
soul is fidgeting in anticipation of my arrival, that it's there
I need to be, to give comfort.
could fling open a window to the subsided harpsichord in the park
and I could stare at the season flit its wayward fingers over arpeggios
of unfurling blossoms. The keys discernible in the flower beds,
quaver under the very same finger, further off, and much later,
awaiting the frowning resonance of fruit and decay. Pears, greengage
plums, ellipsoid grapes. The light puts on an apron of ash, the
footstep grazes the gravel like a cheek, our eyes grip hands. The
poem lounged in the sun like litmus paper, and if, in passing, I
happen to jostle against your name, it's like an ant hill scrambling
with so many alarmed memories. I crouch over a word, over another
word, it's a spring imprisoned within the mirror's mechanism, I
am here and I'm tormented because I know I should be somewhere else,
when the voice slices like a scythe through the grass, compelling
it to curtsy, unleashing an echo-like tremolo latched next to the
wheat spike's camphor sachet.
during this watch winter pushes its tents to other discarded whereabouts,
summer's wild beast cages clamor along the sweltering sidewalks,
a pliers' jaws wrench through the leadened portals of rain, the
ripened bread of October.
one of us, unsuspecting, harbors within the tidings of his or her
own death, like a dove that ferries under her wing a letter posted
for a recipient of the happenstance. Someone will slowly strip us
of foliage, deliver us again to the air, the water, until at nadir
he will trace the envelope which our plasma has fetched for us from
our forefathers so that we may drive it forward through the hour's
marshy curtains. In me or in you, another soul will plunge like
a pearl diver, and, between the barrette and a smirk, this being
will swivel to illuminate the pebble left behind by the echo, or
a delirium. A bird large as a cable concealing electrical wires
will ignite in tone with the phosphorescence of flight. And the
corpse carted off on an invisible stretcher will incessantly evaporate
among worms and celery, will turn into the steam which at times
you'll discern floating over swamps and mirrors.
word is on this wall the push button of a bell which - poked - will
call into existence the requisite being. So many words, so many
beings. In vain will you wait on the phantoms to rise from their
ancient easy chairs, to fetch you the scent of basil long persisting
in the pillows along with the laughter, sharded like a walnut still
green. Here you'll stagger into thousands of spider strands, where
your voice will wobble and reel irremediably. And myself, in a rush
to be finished, have still another key left to try in the lock confining
the secret of words, and all the while knowing in my bones that
I should be somewhere else, where someone fidgets in anticipation
of my arrival, somewhere next to the bottles faintly containing
an ink which will transmute into an eternity of shrieks.
shuffles the days like playing cards. One day replacing another
has the semblance of a card lifted from the deck with the kings
and the minuscule, multi-tinted Ladies. It is fruitless to clamp
your fingers to your temples: no one can verify that today is Monday,
or Wednesday, that today it is I or December. Until the burgeons
sprout, granting passage to the startled rabbit ears of the leaves,
the fingers of hands will not learn that immaterial gleam which
compels the mirrors to suddenly murmur. Until then, the corpses
left behind by the moon's clamor through the chest of drawers will
not rattle the curtains and the folded linens. The silence tended
with so much vigilance under the stained glass of the hothouse will
not complacently wilt. Through the herbarium's bay windows brimful
of the sun's blazing weed, the shouts of the strolling push cart
salesmen are scarcely the extra cotton for the lusterless diamond
I spotted mounted on the ring of soundlessness.
times the ox-carts unload a new twilight in the courtyard with the
resonant pavement, a few inhabitants scuffle by my writing table
without a greeting. At times. Someone else barks an order at me,
casts a reproof. The words fidget in anticipation, like a string
of shirts, to be unfurled by the flatiron of my revelation.
train of redolence lopes through the walnut's marrow, through the
gooseberry, with a swiftness of shrieks.
walls reveal processions of canvases, some in semblance to the raven
of the wooden whimper over the clods stuffed with earthworms, others
like bouquets shooting out of the refracted drinking glass disclosed
by the plaster.
I trace the measure of my breath, lapsing back into my lungs, after
which, it coils like a cobra, along the mirror's limpid arms.
cards, more canvases, parade before the retina's steam. Nightingales
peck at my pupil like a bead, and afterwards, all of Beyond's hues
endorse it with trills irradiating from their tiny crops.
the slumber hovers over me short of a graze, stork or cumulus of
an early afternoon.
spring it will be as though I am in a target shooting booth, where
row by row, the tiny mechanism of the tender cherry is animated,
of the jittery eggplant, of the unexpected hare. When the eye grows
weary, the pellet will sweep wide of the target, and the tiny wheels
will fail to spin. Will it then be the autumn within me, or the
one in the garden?
window unendingly farther, an aquarium where the shrieks of the
multitude transmute to other conjured up aspects.
I lean out, I can grasp the wind in my fingers, like a blackbird
in a birdcage.
earthquake could shatter the frail ash of the poem.
iron becrimsoned in embers, in the fingers grasping this flame in
unrestrained entrancement, in the metal shops speckled with the
soot persisting like grounds at the bottom of existence's coffee
cup, in the nail that punctures the heart easier than the hoof,
the same face swivels from midday to midnight.
this grotto, am I myself not a stalactite which, manifested from
nothing, amassed within itself sodium and visions? Thus, from the
calcium of the initial granule of bone, of flesh, a whimper first
sparkled, then the resonating voice, and later, graying hair.
alternate chambers, creatures analogous to me slice into large squares
the feast-like stuff of days. From their fingers, as in witchcraft,
hats and vestments are hatched like peacocks. In courtyards, stout
scullions plunge daggers into goats and buffaloes, construct, on
top of glimmering trays, castles of salads and roasts.
and culinary secrets journey from generation to generation. Some
learn the utterances of thread strands and with them they know how
to inscribe the embroidery drum or the vestments incessantly rejuvenated.
Others, out of their tools, organize rakes with which to glean the
plasma gravel sweeping over the expanse surmised heroical. There
are those who know how to coax, in flutes or tenuous piano keys,
the songbirds, with a corn flour they alone preserve inside their
hearts. But all of these, through the rivers of flora and years,
cannot wrench me yet from this place. The same notion that I should
be elsewhere torments me.
hands of the clock journey through snows or maritime foam, my slumber
fragments like amphoras on the morning's cold grindstone, evening
and night follow irrefutably the celestial procession of light,
humans plough, sing, demolish or build towns, the bread's gates
swing open or close, and yet no comet stabs my cranium's sweltering
planet. I'm still waiting for my hands to liberate themselves from
me and roam searching for a cheek to caress.
word then: fireworks fulminate. When our cognizance of words dissolves,
we'll need a baton to conduct the orchestra of the budding vowels.
They will undoubtedly be the same, but the clamor of this summons
will awaken all things and all beings as though from a legendary
slumber. In the citadel from the tale, it's not the princesses who
slept a hundred years, but the words. And from time to time Prince
Charming, the poet, journeys through cities, and brings in his cask,
resurrection water for the slumbering words.
when the liberated hands return, I will inquire of them: What did
you bring me, you, Right Hand, returned from Midday? And you, Left,
back from Midnight, what did you? Where is the flocking of the carpets
of fulguration, where are the redolent vowels? The hands having
first rested upon the shoulders like ceremonial epaulets, will then
resume their place among the instruments of reading. I will be obliged
to recount to you, reader, the chronicles concealed in their touch.
night fragments on the granite windows like a throttled street-lamp,
the mittens unharnessed from the hands like some wings still retain
the itinerary through a breathed-out echo: Come with me through
the alleyways leading to the occulted dwelling of Light and gape
at the enraptured begging each other forgiveness, while an ocean
like an autumn of carmine clamors through the fronds of their tears.
a secret code, rapture shows up on the leaf of every age.
no apparition procrastinates its presence on the photographic plate.
With a single step you leave behind immeasurable distances. Where
was I an instant back? The ostrich shoves his head into the fans
of sand, the ruins are clavichords veiled in penumbra. I know, you
delivered Pegasus to my door, you girted his waist with a sash blooming
with verses, and yet I will not comply to your beast stalking gymnastics.
begin now to distinguish: behind these backdrops, more backdrops.
Incessantly yet another backdrop. Your successors will incessantly
dismantle the cardboard landscapes, and their successors the same.
Do you know whose turn it will be to unveil the penultimate? Incessantly
yet another landscape. Would you like to follow me, our fingers
interlaced, down this alley only a doodle? Quickly, take off your
reality like you take off your dress so you can leap into the morning's
artesian fountain. We'll be nothing but essence, tint on doodles
purged of dimples, lacking brim.
aurora were an arbor, we'd creep to the top to gaze at the advent
of day. All is traced with disappearing ink, and the entire doodle,
dissolving leisurely, crumpled in the pocket of a rover.
incantation will it take to return us back to our selves?
heart plunges deeper into the plasma, like a raft in the water.
I could hurl this heart in your face like a sponge soaking with
highway is a hammock where the slumbering city sways. The lips explode
like a pomegranate and fracture all the words.
we journeyed, do you think, through the marrow of summer? Or the
marrow of winter? I have told you before: through birds the electric
current of flight is disseminated to our bashful quarters. Through
cherries or apricots, the coagulated fire, the petrified flames,
permeate our chambers.
for what reason the unfurling like a slingshot of the stretch between
the scattering trees? Why the wig of thunders, the suddenly rumpled
wig of the mountain among the slanting of pines? What transfigurations!
I will trespass through the squeeze of the brick walls, or I will
wait here, between the pages, among the books decomposing on the
shelves, for you to appear, or for another, to bring it to my attention
that I am here, that elsewhere some soul, frozen with fright, gazes
at the clock's minute hands.
these, could they be, do you think, purely an act of presence?
Voronca, born Eduard Marcus in 1903 in Braila, Romania. Poet and
theoretician of the Romanian avantgarde. Publishes in avantgarde
magazines of the twenties and thirties, such as Punct, 75HP, Integral.
Moves to Paris in 1933. During the war he is active participant
in the French resistance. Commits suicide in Paris in 1946 while
working on his book "Manual for Perfect Happiness".
Semilian teaches film editing at the North Carolina School of the
Arts; he has published his poems and translations in Exquisite Corpse,
Arshile, World Letter, Suitcase, Syllogism, Mr. Knife & Mrs. Fork,
Transcendental Friend, Vatra, Romania Literara, etc. His translations
of Paul Celan's Romanian poems are coming out this year from Green
Agalidi is a writer, translator, and art historian. She teaches
art history at California Institute of the Arts.