The Romanian Riveter: MADAME BOVARY AND DAVID LYNCH (PANDEMIC POEM) by Daniela Rațiu, translated by Antuza Genescu

And then I saw Madame Bovary dying in the film
Her porcelain skin
Her lust for life just as she was dying
Then the TV news about people wearing masks and gloves
The whole planet wears masks

Empty city streets
People in white coveralls
You cannot see their eyes, you cannot see their hands
Ambulances wailing in the streets
That’s all you see on the news
Our everyday soundtrack
Then images of deer wandering through European cities
People are scared they film themselves laughing and singing
People are scared they film themselves wearing street clothes
Taking the tube in their bathroom at home
People are scared they barricade themselves in their homes
Sleep among mountains of cans and toilet paper

Then the Pope alone in St Peter’s Square

We all get tired at the same time
Our hands are itchy and dry
We wash compulsively
Every inch must be rubbed harder and harder
Use more soap
More, more soap
Still not enough
Do not touch the doorknob, do not touch anybody
Do not hug anybody
No kissing
Cross the street
Do not get on the tram
Do not take the plane do not drive on motorways
Do not go to the cinema
Then dolphins, whales, deer, pigeons
Soldiers marching on empty city streets

David Lynch says we will be kinder
We will be gentler
Will we?
David Lynch, your films do not cover this
Empty cities millions of faces pressed against the windows
Your films do not cover this
People walking out in the silence of the night
Hungrily breathing in the air
Listening to the night wind rustling the young tree leaves
The metallic sound of leaves touching each other click click click
People sneaking out like thieves
Afraid they may get caught
Voluptuously stepping on the pavement
The city is a lover you may not touch
The pavement is his skin
Thieves stealing the air of the city touching leaves trees 
        empty benches

Then blocks of flats on boulevards
People in window frames
Staring into space
Police sirens
Plastic bags whirling in the wind
Tags, paper wristbands for cancelled shows

Then Madame Bovary dying shedding tears
Bitter like poison
Crying for her life
David Lynch leans over her and arranges her hair for the final frame David Lynch sits by her bed and takes her hand in his
They both look into the frame
Beyond the image
Emptiness

By Daniela Rațiu

Translated by Antuza Genescu

Read The Romanian Riveter in its entirety here.


Daniela Rațiu is a Romanian writer, cultural journalist and TV producer. She has published poetry books, novels and dramas. She was one of the finalists in the 2015 HBO screenplay contest, as a co-author, with a screenplay about Ana Pauker, one of the communist leaders of the 1950s.


Antuza Genescu (b. 1968) is a freelance translator, teacher and writer. Besides several volumes of Romanian poetry and art albums, which she has translated into English, her work also includes translations into Romanian of various poets around the world (Sudeep Sen, George Szirtes, Fiona Sampson, Jean Portante, Alice Notley, Erkut Tokman, Kama Sywor Kamanda), as well as science fiction authors like Gene Woolfe, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Vernor Vinge, Orson Scott Card, Robin Hobb, Stephen King.

Category: September 2020 – The Romanian RiveterTranslations

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