From October, November, December (1972) OH YOUR BODY Oh I still see your body through the ink, Ink that stains us even in our dreams Like bitter animal sweat. I want to reach you And my fingers slide, I can hardly see you, I can hardly hear you, Tell me, tell me once more that The whirlpool I plunge into Darkens us both the same. I call to you, But the ink runs violently out Between us, as though from a wound Do you still know me? Still wait for me? Will you still let me go back, Will you still receive me From the purple mud? Will you still come back to These blue fields, The desert seas, Speechless and in tears So I can offer my trembling mouth And lips, bruised with words, To your kiss?
From Predator Star (1985) YOU MOVE You move through the mist And I know you do, And therefore the clouds Don’t seem to be cold Insatiable coffins That grow and grow to swallow up All humankind In a powdery fog, Shifting and bitter, That thickens the air. You move through the mist: Lucid and tall, a spirit that Metes out meanings, That garners worlds from death – They tremble in amazement As you effortlessly guide them, Your hands on their shoulders To calm their fears: You move through the mist And your eye splits open Logical pathways Through the chaos of life: You move, love, And I know you do...
THROUGH THE AIR Enormous moments, floating in shreds through the air, And moving shadows on barely tinted snow, I watched them form, and row across the land And vanish in the light that brought them there. Guilty of impermanence, multiplied reflections Of chimeras on complicit snow, arranged As though such fragile beings had to have a reason To exist. Or, bewildered, wanted to explain To eternity the peaceful, intense thrill of Living as ragged bodies of cloud. Tall and austere, Exterior to history, innocent of meaning and sense. Enormous moments, floating in shreds through the air.
IF If I had been created To stroll among the leaves of mint On narrow banks of streams That flow through grasses With ancient scents; If I hadn’t been made With a bell in my skull Whose constant chiming Fractures the bone and Makes up fears connected by rhyme; If I weren’t always given The same maddening proof That stars flow away and mountains soften Beneath the great commandment That echoes in my ears so often ...
THE SCREAM A comma, a few pebbles, A smattering of snow, A tenuous ray of light, Some houses and leaves – What modest props To set off a scream! The scream Is straining to cling on with its nails And always slips back down Glass walls, Broken pieces In a pile, Balance unsteady, Up to the teeth Savagely clenched In endless silence.
From Architecture of Waves (1990) TABLEAU There are six or seven With their snouts stuck Into the same dead prey, Their bodies made longer By those terrifying slithering tails Like the spokes of a wheel On the asphalt, Forming a sun With fat, quivering rays, Risen from the canal. A sun of rats In the asphalt sky, Apollo of garbage, a future Star with fur for A different age of sewers and drains Trickling toward the day of hereafter, A rodent god That gobbles up the years With a halo Of garbage.
OMPHALOS A stone is a god that Moves so slowly My swiftly dying eye Cannot perceive the motion, As we cannot ask A wave, A cloud To understand the ocean. When everything collapses And afterwards dissolves Into a poisonous mixture Of yesterday and tomorrow, A stone is a seed of the world Still alive, The shrivelled sense that remains, Omphalos and bud, from which the whole Murdered universe Will grow again, When the god that was shattered Into equal stones Will rise up as a barricade.
FULL MOON Come, moon, and wake us from our sleep, Cast your nets into our waters And bring us out, Pour us Into the insomnia of air! We may not survive, Our lungs have turned to gills from so much sleep, But, In spite of the risk, wake us And leave us, alone and free, at sea: So we can slowly move, With infinite care, Forward across the waters, On the shifting architecture of waves A horizon stretched like a rope Between two hells, Staring into your lunatic eye, crazed with hope.
From Clock without Hours (2016) AND SO ON AND SO ON I only dream about myself. Though I’m several other characters Who terrify each other, I know that I am always I, Always willing to dream of this same self. And even if I wake up I know it’s only a dream Of waking up And I can hardly wait to dream that I’m asleep To be able to dream that I’m dreaming. How marvellous it is, this game of being myself! A game without an end! Because the end Will also be something I dream and So on and so on and so on...
IN A WOUND We live in a wound And do not know Whose body it belongs to, Nor why. The only certain thing is the pain That surrounds us, Pain That our presence Infects When the wound tries to heal ...
BENEATH THE SNOW They say the snow gives warmth. Gives warmth? Are you content beneath the walnut tree You used to climb? Do you recognise the town? As everyone has gone To harvest strawberries in Spain, The empty town looks almost like it did When you were a child, Except that the dome of the church, Covered in tin, Is uglier now. In spring The grass will be the same – You’ll see! I’ll come back then to ask you If it’s true that you can hear it grow ...
MESSAGE Indecipherable message. I can only understand That it’s a message Or a creed. I try to decipher it Without even knowing If it’s meant for me Or, conversely, It’s a line From my childhood, A halo Wiped out between then And now Without being read.
CLOCK WITHOUT HOURS They plucked the hours from the clock The way you’d pluck Out an animal’s eyes To make it blind. Instead of 12 numerals There were now only 12 black holes of the universe Through which Could be seen the great Inferno of machinery, The cog wheels Kept on turning The hands Groping blindly around the dial From one hole to another, Not knowing what they pointed to. Not knowing that they pointed to A time without time – A time named Never.
By Ana Blandiana
Translated by Paul Scott Derrick and Viorica Patea
This selection of poems is part of a larger volume, Five Books, soon to be published by Bloodaxe Books. Our thanks to the publisher for permission to publish these poems.
Read The Romanian Riveter in its entirety here.
Ana Blandiana was born in 1942 in Timişoara, Romania. She is an almost legendary figure who holds a position in Romanian culture comparable to that of Anna Akhmatova and Vaclav Havel in Russian and Czech literature. She has published fourteen books of poetry, two of short stories, nine books of essays and one novel. Her work has been translated into twenty-four languages. She has won numerous international literary awards and was awarded the highest distinction of the French Republic, the Légion d’Honneur, in 2009.
Paul Scott Derrick is a Senior Lecturer in American literature at the University of Valencia. He has edited and co-translated into Spanish a number of critical editions of American works. He and Viorica Patea have translated all of Ana Blandiana’s poetry into English.
Viorica Patea is Associate Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Salamanca. She has published critical studies of Sylvia Plath, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (2000), and studies in the area of witness literature in East European countries. She has edited, translated and analysed the work of Nicolae Steinhardt (2007) and Ana Blandiana (2008, 2011).