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Three Romanian poems by Mihail Gălăţanu

March 16, 2011 2 comments

translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Petru Iamandi

Umblînd prin lumea morţilor

Dacă mama mea ar muri,
Eu, cum să supraviețuiesc?
Eu, care nu sînt decît o terminație a ei, un terminal al aeroportului ei, un apendice, o extremitate a dorului ei de viață, întinsă, din păcate, spre moarte.

Eu nu sunt decît o unghie a ei, rebelă, care a crescut prea departe. Un ovul care s-a rătăcit. S-a lepădat. Un firicel de păr al ei care s-a pierdut și a căpătat, temporar, autonomie de zbor. Căruia i-a intrat în cap, treptat-treptat, c-ar putea exista de unul singur, c-ar putea trăi și muri de capul lui.

Eu sunt doar o lacrimă a ei care s-a întărit,
s-a condensat,
a crescut
și s-a făcut bărbat
s-a solidificat într-atît încît a devenit o statuie de sare,
umblînd și plîngînd pe la morți
și în lumea morților,
pe la obor și bazare.

Sunt o tumoare a ei care a crescut nefiresc de mult
și acum nu mai știe cum să intre înapoi.
Care se miră cum, dintr-o singură femeie tristă și frumoasă,
m-am replicat
și acum am ajuns doi.

*

Wandering the Realm of the Dead

If my mother were to die,
what about me, how could I survive?
I, who am just one of her terminations, a suffix, a terminal in her airport, an appendix, an extremity of her urge to live, tending, unfortunately, toward death.

I am just a fingernail of hers, rebellious, grown too long. An ovule that has gone astray. Rejecting all that is. A tiny hair of hers that lost its way and temporarily attained independent flight. That got into its head, little by little, that it could live on its own, could live and die by itself.

I am one of her tears that has congealed,
solidified,
grown,
turned into a man
hardened so much it became a statue of salt,
seeing the dead and weeping for them
wandering and weeping for the dead
in the realm of the dead,
the stockyard and the bazaars.

I am just a tumor of hers that has grown unnaturally big
and now no longer knows how to get back inside,
that wonders how, from one single woman, beautiful and sad,
I was duplicated,
so that now we are two.

* * *

La Perfuzia
(Fîntîna Perfuziei)

Bolnavii dădeau noroc cu perfuziile
şi spunea cîrciumii, care era în burta mamei mele,
“LA PERFUZIA”.
Mama din milă îi primise acolo, îi aciuase –
erau cu toţii sans-abrit.
Îi ospătase.
Era un fel de azil al tuturor celor asemeni mie,
Al tuturor nenăscuţilor

— mama tocmai de asta se îndurase să-i primească aici, pentru că toţi semănau cu mine, toţi erau eu, toţi eram eu, la diferite vîrste, eu cu mustaţă şi sabie, la cavalerie, eu mic şi tuns proaspăt, gata să merg la şcoală, eu ras proaspăt funcţionar,

eu aventurier în Anzii Cordilieri,
eu marinar.
De fapt, în LA PERFUZIA
mă întîneam doar eu cu mine însumi,
era o bună cîrciumă de a mă întîlni
singur, necăsătorit, douăzeci şi opt de ani, încă brunet, ochi negri
cu treizeci şase de ani, căsătorit, copil, grizonat.
Viaţa mea se împletea
Cu mai multe vieţi virtuale,
Tot ale mele,
Mai amare, mai jucăuşe,
Mai eremite, mai venale.

Viaţa mea se topea după mine.
De fapt, viaţa mea
Se nutrea ea însăşi dintr-o perfuzie,
Eram veşnic perfuzionat,
cum era altul veşnic iluzionat.
Ce perfuzie e viaţa, spuneam,
însăşi fîntîna perfuziei,
din care sorbeam
şi întineream,
chiar burta mamei mele era perfuzia,
chiar limfa
şi lichidul amniotic,
otic
otic!
(Spunea ecoul).
Fîntîna lehuziei,
Pentru mama mea,
Aşa ecoul mai spunea. Mama mea trăise o lehuzie de peste patruzeci de ani, cu mine, după mine, de aceea nici n-a mai putut să mai aibă alt copil, de aceea nici n-a mai putut să cunoască alt bărbat. Eu sînt, Doamne, prin Voia Ta, facă-se, pururi, Doamne,
Singurul bărbat pe care mama mea l-a cunoscut cu adevărat.

Zilnic mă gîndesc la asta.
Mama mea nu m-a născut prunc, ci direct bărbat,
Să mă poată iubi la maturitate,
La maternitate,
Să se bucure de părul meu deja lung şi buclat,
De ochii mei tăciunii,
De firea mea aspră şi şfichiuitoare,
de rus ne-nţărcat.

*

At Perfusion’s
(The Fountain of Perfusion)

The patients clinked their perfusions in a toast
and called the bar inside my mother’s womb
Perfusion’s.
Out of pity, Mother had let them in, sheltered them—
they were homeless.
She hosted them.
It became a sort of asylum for those like me,
the unborn.

—that’s why Mother had agreed to take them in, for they were like me, all of them were I, I was all of them, at different ages, I with moustache and sword, a cavalryman, I short with a fresh haircut, ready to trudge to school, I clean-shaven, a clerk,

I an adventurer in the Andes,
I a mariner.
In fact, at Perfusion’s,
I met only my own self.
It was a good tavern to meet myself
alone, single, twenty-eight years old, still dark-haired, eyes black,
then thirty-six years old, married with a child, gray-haired.
My life wove itself
with many lives, all virtual,
every one mine, personal,
more bitter, more playful,
more hermetic, more venal.

My heart melted for me.
In fact, my life
nurtured itself on perfusions.
I was permanently permeated,
like one who had permanent delusions.
Such a perfusion, life! I said with great effusion,
itself the fountain of perfusion
from which I drank
and grew young,
my mother’s womb itself the perfusion,
the lymph
and fluid amniotic,
otic
otic!
(the echo quoted).
The fountain of childbed
for my mother,
so the echo kept echoing. Mother had experienced a forty-year childbed, with me after me, that’s why she couldn’t bear another child, that’s why she couldn’t even know another man. I am, oh God, according to Your Will, may it be forever and ever, oh Lord,
the only man my mother has truly known.

I reflect on this every day.
Mother gave birth not to a baby but directly to a man,
so she could love me in maturity,
in maternity,
so she could take delight in my hair, already long and curly,
my eyes black as a raven,
my nature severe and authoritarian,
incorrigibly Russian.

* * *

Capătul lumii mele

Pe mama o iubeam pe molecule.
O iubeam subatomic, pe particule, pe ţesuturi, pe fascii musculare, pe mici aglutinări adipoase, pe grupe de muşchi. Prapurul era ptolemeicul linţoliu al lumii mele. Prapurul era capătul lumii şi marginea universului.
Şi universul era rotund, aşa cum numai o burtă de fecioară
poate fi, curba perfectă,
curbura perfectă a lumii,
cum numai o burtă de mamă poate fi.

*

The End of My World

I loved Mama for each molecule.
I loved her sub-atomically, for each particle, each tissue, each muscular fascia, each small adipose agglutination, each muscle group. The peritoneum was my world’s Ptolemaic shroud. The peritoneum was the world’s end
and the universe’s edge.
And the universe was round, as only a virgin’s womb
can be, a perfect curve,
the world’s perfect curvature,
as only a mother’s womb can be.


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Mihail Gălăţanu was born in 1963 in the Romanian city of Galati. He published his first book of poems in 1987, Stiri despre mine (News About Me — Bucharest: Litera), his second six year later, Scrîsnind în pumni (Keeping My Fists Tight — Galati, Romania: Porto Franco, 1993), and since then, the equivalent of a book of poetry or prose each year. Among recent poetry titles are Mormîntul meu se sapa singur (My Grave Digs Itself — Bucharest: Vinea, 2003) and, from the same publisher, Burta înstelata (The Starry Womb — 2005). Gălăţanu was editor-in-chief of Playboy Romanian and now edits Flacara, a glossy monthly magazine. His poems have appeared in Arson, Diode, The Bitter Oleander, Glint, Born in Utopia: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Romanian Poetry, ed. Carmen Firan, Paul Doru Mugur, Edward Foster (Talisman House, 2006) and New European Poets, ed. Wayne Miller and Kevin Prufer (Graywolf, 2008), and are due out in Wheelhouse Magazine and Calque.

Petru Iamandi, PhD, is an associate professor with the English Department of the Faculty of Letters, Dunărea de Jos University of Galaţi, Romania, and a member of Romanian Writers’ Union. He has written American Culture for Democracy (2001), English and American Literature – Science Fiction (2003), American History and Civilization (2004), Literature about the Future (2004), An Outline of American English (2008), and An Introduction to Consecutive and Simultaneous Interpreting (2010), and compiled an English-Romanian Dictionary (2000). He’s the co-author and co-editor of several dictionaries and English textbooks. He’s translated twenty-four books from English into Romanian and twenty-two books from Romanian into English (prose, poetry, drama, non-fiction). In 2008, the Dramatic Theatre in Galaţi staged his translation of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party. His translations have been published in various British and American magazines, he’s received awards from Antares, Porto-Franco and Dunărea de Jos magazines, and he’s included in Who’s Who in the World (1999, 2001).

Adam J. Sorkin recently published Memory Glyphs: Three Prose Poets from Romania (Twisted Spoon Press, 2009), Mircea Ivănescu’s Lines Poems Poetry (University Press of Plymouth, UK, translated with Lidia Vianu), Rock and Dew, selected poems by Carmen Firan (The Sheep Meadow Press, 2010, translated mostly with the poet) and Ioan Es. Pop’s No Way Out of Hadesburg (Plymouth, also with Vianu, 2010).