The Romanian Riveter: POEME/POEMS by Şerban Foarţă, translated by Daniela Rai


‘Women are fruits. There are peaches, pineapples, hazelnuts ...’
(Paul Valéry)

... Nuts, too gathered into themselves, and pineapples, too scaly
(and of an almost weird exoticism); as for the peaches, we know
them from Renoir.
What kind of fruit are you, though?
Leaving aside the smooth apple, juicy strawberry, astringent
quince, cerebroid walnut – and considering your subtle
trecolori (the very same as those of Ireland and the Ivory Coast):
the white of your smile, the almost-green of your gaze and the
chestnut of your helmet of fine hair −, you rather remind me of
the almond: dehiscent with difficulty, pubescent, lactescent ... 
The almond that, what nonsense, is called amande!


Steam up Madam’s nails, one
by one, minus those two
on the fingers without precious stones,
within a circle of yellow
gold, silver or only red
copper (greened by time).
Steam up Madam’s nails
with pale lunules, – and the one
with the black spot that in the red
nail polish looks like the yellow
iris of the feline between two
naps, the opening of an eye is stone.
Moisten every stone
from the slabs of madam’s nails
as the tiles that are bathing in yellow steam
in the morning, one by one, −
play in her angle between two
fingers, with scales, red at the tip.
Don’t forget: there are ten red
aces in a pack as opaque as stone;
don’t let them be reversed in those two
closed inside hands of the madam, −
that sticks her nails, one
by one, in the back of the hand, yellow.
As you try, between your teeth, the yellow
to reveal the red core of herself,
tear Madam’s nails, one
by one (not like a stone,
but like a cherry),
by turns, on both hands.
Madam’s nails, ten minus two,
fogged up, in a yellow
dusk in late summer
would give you as a gift so much red
to write in fog, like in stone,
the letters, one by one,
of Amore mio ... One,
maybe two, in red, like on a stone
or on a yellow, will be Madam’s cipher.


Don’t forget, as evening falls, to make butterflies
on her cheek, fluttering your eyelids:
palpebral butterflies with two wings,
semitransparent and frills of eyelashes,
for which the insipid water of a tear
takes the place of dew.
Let them enjoy the tears,
these unfaltering butterflies,
which, in autumn, are thirsty for dew,
turned to frost between the lashes
that melts only if the eyelids
flutter like ever more quicklied wings.
Don’t stop fluttering, fluttering your wings,
at dusk moistened by so many tears,
that dry when you flutter your lashes
on her cheek invaded by butterflies
like a peach tree whose pearly eyelids
are crammed full of dew.
Bathe her peach bloom in dew,
or in the rustle of these wings
that blink the same way as eyelids
without sleep, that you flutter
on her cheek glistening with tears,
that have not been poured from her own lashes. 
Rejoice because from lashes
other than hers, with eyes in dew
as clear as that from which the butterflies
that ‘wear the caterpillar between their wings’,
angelically, water themselves − when, in tears,
dozens of eyelids dissolve
superposed on an eye with radial lashes,
with, at their tips only, tears,
as heavy as the beads of dew
that trickle slowly on the wings
of swarms of betrothed butterflies ...
Fluttering your lids and lashes
like wings, on her cheek in the dew
of lively tears, in the evening, make for her butterflies.


Li, unit for measuring distance,
specific to the Middle Kingdom,
consisting of 360 steps (=644.652 m),
is apparently, the equivalent of the beat
of the human voice. − After Lia walked
the distance of one li, she said something;
from the distance of one li, she said,
she whispered something. I don’t know
very well what Lia said, from the distance of one li ...
But, she said something (that’s for sure),
she whispered, mumbled something, which
from the distance of one li, I should’ve
heard. I should’ve heard what
Lia said, from the distance of one li.
I heard she said, but not what she said.
Maybe Lia shouted, but the distance
of one li has changed Lia’s shout
into a whisper; it became a whispering,
a murmur ... Maybe this li is not helpful
for her: it doesn’t suit Lia’s voice ...
Then, I turn around towards Lia,
asking her the next question: ‘Lia,
from one li, did you say something?’ I’m saying
it in a low voice on purpose, I’m whispering it,
I’m murmuring it. It’s strange that she can hear me.
Only that she doesn’t answer the question
itself, Lia, − saying to me, smiling,
that one li was (and still is) a
distance of 360 steps (=644.652 m)
and that the same li would be the equivalent
of the beat of the Chinese voice. ‘Lia,
do you mean, and then I murmur, of the human voice ...’
‘No, of the Chinese voice,’ she persisted.
‘A li,’ said, added Lia, anyway, ‘only in
the Yellow Empire is a vocative standard.’

By Şerban Foarţă

Translated by Daniela Rai

Read The Romanian Riveter in its entirety here.

Şerban Foarţă, one of the most important Romanian poets, was born in 1942 and has worked as a poet for sixty years, and has published more than ninety books – of poetry, essays, literary criticism, prose, and translations.

Category: The Romanian RiveterTranslationsSeptember 2020 – The Romanian Riveter


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