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Pandemic Postlude— Cosmin Perța

Dec 22, 2023 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the Romanian by Andrew Davidson-Novosivschei

Pandemic prelude antonym

Pandemic Postlude

I

Nothing stirred in this dry ice sky,
My heart.
The same miserable world, same unbearable summer, plastic mountains over
Bashful vegetation.
We fill the gas tanks to seek deliverance,
We begin down the road, hundreds of thousands of kilometers of fog ahead,
No certainty, no future,
Just the feeling of a dry throat,
Just the feet monotonously oscillating between the clutch and the gas,
The memory of an average childhood on fast-forward at
the edge of sight, in the corner, the vanishing point of the eye.
My mask is my skin, I’ll walk into your houses and you won’t know it’s me.
We’ll eat and drink together, you’ll tell me all about your children and
I’ll smile in amusement, we’ll open the third bottle of wine and, with shrunken, glazed over
Eyes, you’ll see me as a dear old friend
Without knowing it’s me.
There is no way out, although every morning we convince ourselves that there is
So we can eat another croissant, drink another cup of coffee,
Work another 8 hours.
We convince ourselves that there’s solidarity so we feel less dispensable, abandoned,
Like in the first seconds of life, when the doctor cuts the umbilical cord
With surgical scissors. But you don’t know it’s me.
My mask is my entire existence, a perpetual series of faking it and dodging
Trying to protect myself from all of you, a race of murderous scum
Who feel entitled to anything.
We aren’t friends and we never will be; the road is the only answer.
Travelling endlessly from one world to the next, one life to the next, one fraud to the next.
Far away from you and all your psychotic successes. Far away from the worlds you’ve built
on dead bodies.
Clutch and gas. It doesn’t matter.
There are only the deepening and sprawling cracks
In this dry ice sky,
My heart.

 

II

I passed the school with black mold where we prepared ourselves for life,
Next to the parks where we buzzed about the brightest future
With a twinkle in our eyes,
Next to the crowded apartment where we raised our children,
Where now everything’s empty and somber.
No past and no future,
Only an infinite, hopeless present.
Like those immortals in movies who beg after hundreds of years
To die somehow
Because they can’t go on.
A protean puddle which continually gives life.
But it isn’t really life.
A stray beam of sunlight on a shaded wall covered with vines,
You see the small mites hiding in its path, burrowing deep into the mortar,
You see the whole history of the wall,
All the stories it boarded up for years and years,
Corroded, ready to collapse,
It doesn’t mean anything to you now.

A portrait of a man aged beyond his years
Propped up by a broken window, looking outside.
And her portrait, on the other side, held up by a tin box turned over
With a bouquet of flowers, dried up for years but still pulsating.
She looks inside. She smiles in the frame
And the spiderwebs spin in circles around her,
Covering everything but her confident smile.
You slide back through the wild grass up to your waist,
You slide as if you were trying not to see anything,
like you got it wrong and turned on a melancholy area of your brain
Which you won’t be needing in the new life.
Everyone on their own,
Every man for himself. It’s the only rational solution.
Sorrow worthless. Memory worthless. Everything needs to be forgotten
And everything needs to be emptied of emotion in your new life
To survive.
To
Survive.
To
Sur
Vive.

 

Death Fugue

 

This path is not your path,
it never was.
I entered the eye of the storm, I saw you during the war,
a sad scarecrow in the middle of the field
in black clothes, muddied and torn.
The wind blew you side to side, whistled through your rags.
Iron yard birds fought high in the sky, and the earth
shook under exploding missiles, rattled with machine guns.

 You wanted justice,
but that wasn’t yours either.
You paint hearts on the window to no avail:
the prince of silence
gathers troops below in the castle yard[1]

That justice was buried with those denied it.
Now, there is room only for revenge,
for strips of flesh hung to dry.
For un-move-me-nt.
It is your thoughts that—small nuclear bombs—will splatter
what’s left of the evil minds onto walls. 

Poetry cannot save the world,
it can’t even save your body.
But you need to imagine how it would have been.
If you could have floated. If you could have levitated endlessly over the gloaming.
If your body would never decompose. If you’d find love. And reconciliation.
If you’d forgive yourself. If it wouldn’t hurt.
If none of them were born. Neither your parents nor their parents.
If it wouldn’t begin. If it wouldn’t end.
If you’d have been stronger.
If the Seine weren’t so cold. 

You scribble your name with a fingernail on a vacated wall
in the middle of a field.
It’s quiet now.
Don’t look back.
Everything you need to forget is skulking behind you.

Black milk of morning we drink you at night
we drink you at dawn and noontime we drink you at dusk
we drink and we drink you.[2]

 

 

[1]  Paul Celan, You Paint Hearts on the Window to No Avail.

[2]  Paul Celan, Death Fugue.

Also, read “On its Own: Radiance of Life – Deepti Gupta”

On Its Own; Radiance of Life— Deepti Gupta


 

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Cosmin Perța was born in Viseu de Sus, Maramures, in 1982. He is a poet, novelist, playwright and essayist. His works have been translated into sixteen languages, and, in 2012, he was selected as the Best Young Romanian Prose Writer. In the Romanian and foreign press there are more than five hundred reviews and references to Perța’s work. In the last ten years he has been awarded some of the most prestigious Romanian literary prizes. Perța is currently working as a freelancer editor and professor of comparative literature at Hyperion University in Bucharest. In 2022 he made his first multimedia installation, Youth without old age and life without death.

Andrew Davidson-Novosivschei (b. 1987) is a teacher, poet, and translator from Arizona, currently based in Bucharest. His Romanian-language poems have appeared in Poesis International, Tribuna, Poetic Stand, and others. His English-language poems have most recently appeared in Apricity Press, and he has been invited to read his poems at festivals such as Poezia e la Bistrița, Bucharest International Poetry Festival (FIPB), Iași International Festival of Literature and Translation (FILIT), and reading groups such as Republica and the Blecher Institute. His translations have appeared in Asymptote Journal, Trafika Europe, and others, and have been awarded grants from the Romanian Cultural Institute and FILIT.

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