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.