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Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Canto XIII and Other Poems— Radu Vancu

Jan 31, 2024 | Poetry | 0 comments

TRANSLATED FROM THE ROMANIAN BY THE AUTHOR
 
 
 
 
 
Canto XIII
 
 
How strange it seemed to me when
Mircea Ivănescu told me that he
shaved without looking in the
mirror. The small cuts on
his face seemed to me
an absurd poem each. I counted them
as an anthology.
 
Today I shave and brush my teeth without
looking in the mirror. Avoiding to
see my eyes. The eyes are the only
part of the brain that can be seen,
isn’t it. But I’m not contemporary
with my brain. Which is a
privilege. I prefer
 
to keep my eyes stuck on the
small bathroom window. The blade
works on my cheeks and
throat. I’ll count
later the cuts as a
rosary.
 
Meanwhile, those arrived a few
centuries ago in my brain
smite him with thick crowbars
of light.  Good for them. They torture
him as a traitor and apostate.
So it is.
 
And if from time to
time it groans almost
humanly, do not be im-
pressed. I am not. His groans
are not contemporary
with me. Mashed under the
crowbars of light, this brain
who had the air of a
perfect victim
really was one.
 
He will sometime count
his disasters as an
anthology. This will  also be
a privilege.

 
 
Canto XXV
 
 
White picket fence: a small kid
satchel illuminating all the
cemetery.
 
White picket fence: a child holding
tight the doll to his chest and jumping
into sleep as from a
stool.
 
White picket fence wood: children’s eyes
moving in sleep on the rhythm
of a rope which is
swaying.
 
Oh yes, Anne Sexton, surely we can
build white picket fences
which to keep
nightmares away. One can build
whole worlds in which thought
does not tear the brain. In which
innocence is not only for
the children and the devastated;
 
and our mutilation
will tenderly subtitle
how the mother calls her child
at the table;
 
and somewhere at the edge of the fairyland
we, the “perifairyal”, we’ll write
elegant domestic cantos
about mutilation.
 
But for
whom.

 
 
Canto XXVII
 
 
Dad, you talked to me too much,
enough, for now I’ll talk to you.
Not in dreams, but for real.
 
And I say it plain from the outset:
no matter how much I love your suicide,
I will not commit suicide.
 
However technicolor death is,
however beautiful we would both look
in the film with our suicides directed
 
by we know who, however much
pure poetry is in suicidology textbooks –
I will not commit suicide.
 
I’ve also cut my arms with a razor blade,
I’ve got on them more scars
then pictures with us, or with you only.
 
I’ve drunk canfuls of methyl alcohol,
hoping terrified to die directly,
not to wake up blind the next day.
 
You think I do not know how sweet
the blade deepens in the flesh
of the forearm, going ever deeper
 
in the cuts juicy with blood
through  which will all-splashingly move
the gilded-wheels chariot of God?
 
You think I do not see how the scars turn
irradiant as spoiled children
whenever I think of you?
 
I envied, I still almost faintingly envy
the dead so immersed in their silence
like roses quitely smelling themselves.
 
But, dad, roses are without why,
they blossom as people commit suicide.
They have no other choice. As I also don’t:
 
After I cut the rope around your neck,
you only had to meet my eye.
I have to meet Sebastian’s eyes.
 
And now, alone among your roses,
you only have to meet God’s eye.
While I have to meet Sebastian’s eyes.
 
So understand and forgive, father –
I will not commit suicide.
(And only this is, actually, a suicide.)

 
 
Canto XXXIV
 
 
The night sky was gently lit, it was such a peace
that I had to remember
my cousin Radu, how he pulled away
the crows’ heads with his teeth. And then he laughed
with the crows’ little eyes looking at me imploringly
from between his indifferent teeth.
 
And I remembered how my friends in Cisnădie,
generous kids who would have died
for each other (and, by association,
also for me), hanged cats upside down
on the carpet-beater frame
and turned them into meat paste
with the baseball bats. How they drowned dogs,
laughing like crystalline angels at the
horror in their faithful eyes.
 
Stars looked at me with the eyes of a faithful dog
while you laughingly push
his head underwater.
 
If I still drank, this was a good time
for vodka. If I smoked, for
a nail. To defend my brain
from the metastasized brain in the sky.
I closed my eyes, like a cat
hanging on a carpet-beater frame,
and I waited happily.

 
 
Canto XXXVII
 
 
I had found with my brother Iuli
behind the block
a she-hedgehog with cubs.
Look what this is about:
 
I took them in my arms,
I was scared, but the hedgehog and the cubs
were so scared that
one could see the God of the hedgehogs
hovering over them.
 
I took them in the laundry room,
at the fourth floor, near our door.
And when I put them in the carton box,
with a thick coverlet beneath them
and grass on the coverlet,
with our little tea cups
filled with water for them –
they were so scared that one could see
even the Holy Spirit of hedgehogs
wrapping them like a coverlet
of thick light
with grass and little tin cups on it.
 
And we were so scared
and happy, that our hearts
were floating and twitching
somewhere in front of our bodies,
as only after I had cut
the noose around dad’s neck
and I thought he was still breathing
and God floated like
a coverlet of breathing
above him
I have also seen.
 
I covered the carton box
with a thin plywood. I closed the window
of the laundry room so that
they could not jump. I closed the door
of the laundry room with the key.
The next morning they were gone. The door
closed, also closed the window, the plywood
untouched. I was not too surprised,
as I was also not too surprised
when my father disappeared.
 
And my brother Iuli, in Kutna Hora,
40 km from Prague, makes computer keyboards –
and that does not surprise me
too much. Not as much as the
coverlet of light wrapping his
every gesture, leaving the rest of him untouched,
untouched.
 
 
This was what it was actually about.
 
 
 
 
[from the volume 4 A.M. Domestic Cantos, Casa de editură Max Blecher, 2015]
 
 

Also, read Morning Tea and Other Poems by Sabahattin Kudret Aksal, translated from the Turkish by Neil P. Doherty, and published in The Antonym:


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Radu Vancu

Radu Vancu

Radu Vancu (Sibiu, Romania, 1978) is a Romanian poet, scholar and translator. Since 2019, he is the president of PEN Romania.  He works as a professor at the Faculty of Letters and Arts at the „Lucian Blaga” University from Sibiu. Editor-in-chief of the Transilvania magazine – and an editor of the Poesis Internațional magazine. He is the organizer of the International Poetry Festival in Sibiu Poets in Transylvania (2013-ongoing), and was the national editor of the Romanian section for the Poetry International website. He has published nine books of poems since 2002, for which he was awarded several prizes, both national and international; his poetry was translated in circa 20 languages in anthologies/magazines or as individual books. He has also published a novel, Transparența (2018), two volumes of a diary (2017, 2021; awarded several prizes), two children novellas, and a book collecting his social & political articles. His scholarly publications include two book-length essays on Mihai Eminescu and Mircea Ivănescu, and a book on the anti-humanist poetics of modernity. He has coordinated several anthologies of modern and contemporary Romanian poetry, alone or in collaboration with Mircea Ivănescu, Claudiu Komartin, or Marius Chivu. He has translated novels and poetry, mainly John Berryman and W.B. Yeats, and is the translator of the on-going four-volume Ezra Pound edition coordinated by H.-R. Patapievici.

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