The Romanian Riveter: RAP IN NOVOSIBIRSK by Petru Ilieșu, translated by Dorothy and Stuart Elford

      The vibrations of an Aeroflot in an imaginary land crossed by the NGOs of Mother Russia
in a landscape with birch trees mega-buildings far away in the forest oblique-eyed women a mixture of olive and pale cheeks
soft look scented honey in cups
apples oranges and fog
hot aeroplane tickets having a melody a thousand kilometres away from the fringes of the ex-Iron Curtain

       The abrupt conversations all in one breath
with the soul on the lips flashing in the strong smells of rooms
painted recently and thickly
       Huge candlelight-trees projected over the internet
two women posh dressed in black trying to merchandise cosmetics
on the stairs of the conference hall in the academic city
       Andrei Tarkovsky saying something not necessarily for my ears
A few treacherous words like
                                                     democracy institutions legalno reformo niet
and a bottle of unopened champagne in room 99 of a 12th of September
                                                                                      so familiar
indecipherable paper reams and the human tide of the former empire blasts of some massive men dressed in leather clothes with immense shoulders tossing their mobile phones from one hand to another in Moscow airports
       cigarette smoke and bottles of beer
laughter
       slow fretting cool air torn by the night JETs
corks from bottles of champagne celebrating a poor world
toasting in the camera flash and the tinfoil of Siberian chocolate
peeling off from the enormity of the ‘sleeping’ power of Mother Russia

       the suburbs of our world

       the fragrances of Asia and the Georgian wine
the translators and the wooden houses and tiny gardens
aligning two three rows
of cabbage heads
among which heads with long straight cut beards are sliding slowly
       and ancient Volgas and Japanese automobiles with the wheel
on the right
       the structure of a new world and of a new way of accounting
in the buttresses of intelligentsia hidden in the middle of the tundra

       from an antique shop a tiger eye ring rolling along
my past
       to the end, brother Vysotsky
for I heard that ‘God is right within us,
at most one prayer away’
brother Vysotsky
       For I have seen you brother Vysotsky galvanising the flashes of the discotheque in a fabulous endless marble hall
disguised into ghostlike pairs who
go arm in arm and hit the air with their roiling blood
       Brother Vysotsky the disease of your anxiety is grinding harshly
as I clench my fists and wipe the wine flowing from my eyes with my sleeve while shrieking in Russian curses imagined but never understood
       I cry brother Vysotsky in your imperial language because I can speak with my soul
about the same cureless torment that pulls my mind under the birch trees in search of what you have succeeded in finding now
       I am crying brother Vysotsky
with my lips cut by the glass
with my inept language and the memory of imaginary touches
while you are spiralling in disguise
through the marble hall of the discotheque of the Siberian core
through the tens of comrades who will disappear
       and die for ever tomorrow morning
when a loyal gigantic white Aeroflot swimming in the ‘foams of eternity’ will rock me into another world
in which I will carry under my tongue
the new drop of venom
to spit it in anguish into the cataract of the New World’s eyes
like a poem
                      from an apocalypse at the end of 20th century ...

By Petru Ilieșu (Novosibirsk–Timișoara 1997)

Translated by Dorothy and Stuart Elford

Read The Romanian Riveter in its entirety here.


Petru Ilieșu is a writer, artist and social activist. He ran an experimental theatre before it was closed down by the authorities and was one of the dissidents under the Ceaușescu regime. Ilieșu has published more than twenty books of poetry, essays and historical studies.

Category: September 2020 – The Romanian RiveterTranslations

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