The Romanian Riveter: POEMS by Ion Monoran, translated by Marius Surleac and Marc Vincenz


Rain – not tears –
under the flood of curses and gnashes
that collapsed the moujiks’ plate of chow,
into the colours of one hundred lei,
what power, what pallor, what
treachery guarantees you a Balcescu.
You’re not forced to swallow swords,
to dwell beneath piles of lies.
A blister of a man, a blister, a zero.
That glittery paper swells within you.
A moujik like your old man (at twenty
you hope to repair yourself) and in those overalls
bespattered with the spittle and the belches of that seized
in the munching noises of the building,
eating tins of vegetable stew, dozing in barracks
splattered in ‘we host girls’ boy graffiti,
discharging wagons, digging foundations in December,
stripped to the waist.
Soldier, locksmith, lathe and bulldozer operator.
A blister of a man, a soiled fifteen-hundred man.
Your life runs on without these mouldy lands.
The blue hailstones of the furnaces darken your vision.
Black smoke black gas blue-green or yellow gas
floats on the dais of the most absurd narratives.
Heroism, fanfare, tiny snapping flags – world of whirlpools
in a muddy future of bogs,
with its fresh and potent sugar cane.
O plebeian beauty – in these agitated mornings –
by Venus’ eternal birth, I belong to you.
O plebeian beauty, our youthful misery

moujiks: Russian peasants.
Balcescu: Romanian revolutionary; appeared on 100 lei banknote


Towards evening,
I believed in your sunburnt pasture,
and like a vagrant in a red sweater,
I avoided the villages,
skipping back and forth over the Timiș River,
crashing into
high-voltage power lines,
into tractors and ploughs.

I trusted you with our terrible love.

Reading the newspapers at random,
not suspecting that the tastes of the era might
completely change the tradition,
without knowing that for you destiny
is no chasm, even if it opens
a similar perspective;
as long as cities and factories will be built,
new generations will be forced to comprehend
that this will change no one

I believed in you

like a big bad beast of burden
with gentle salt-lick eyes,
confused that there are no distances
between our villages, a lonely room
far up in the blue remoteness.

By Ion Monoran

Translated by Marius Surleac and Marc Vincenz

These poems were previously published in English on Asymptote.

Read The Romanian Riveter in its entirety here.

Ion Monoran (1953–1993) was a poet and publisher. His first poems were published in 1976 and he lectured at the Pavel Dan literary circle in Timişoara. While he received several prizes for his poetry, none of his books were published during his lifetime, but four have appeared since his death.

Marius Surleac is a Romanian physicist, poet and translator from English to Romanian. He has published an original collection of poetry in Romanian: Zeppelin Jack and a bilingual collection of translations. His recent work has appeared in Solstice and the Ilanot Review.

Marc Vincenz has published eight collections of poetry; his latest is Becoming the Sound of Bees. He is the translator of many French-, Romanian-, and German-language poets. His translation of Klaus Merz’s Unexpected Development was a finalist for the 2015 Cliff Becker Book Translation Prize and is forthcoming from White Pine Press.

Category: The Romanian RiveterTranslationsSeptember 2020 – The Romanian Riveter


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