what a weird poem this is when the ram

 

why not in green snow

why not in a lily of asphalt life

rolling over like a pomegranate in the gutter

garbage dumps and nights

with cracked shingles

through which strange fingers

squeeze themselves into my chest

someone says he’s protecting me

and tightly wraps my heart in a burlap bag

what a weird poem this is when the ram

bleats when the man at the corner

urinates on the laurels

 

give me a smoke

the carriage driver breaks his whip

the coffee in the china cup has the face of a blasé

black woman

and how high - you ask me -

will you pull the zipper



in the labyrinth

 

i could come back nothing postpones me

there’s a fence around me and a cricket in the middle

cogwheels grind sometimes

i’d like to tell you that a winning lottery ball dropped

into the labyrinth

maybe that’s life

and yet sometimes a tree

looks like an outstretched hand

waiting for something more human

 

and it’s yesterday again everything is yesterday

as if i’ve died in advance



in a chalk pit


if earth and flesh

are meant to hurt

and like a wound the soil opens

when you bury the carcass of a dog

whose nerve will stretch with a harp-like sound?

 

it’s my bone the one

talking alone in its sleep

of strange convoys

it’s my foretelling nail

cutting off the edges of a world

 

along the veins of the earth

a lizard passes

and in a chalk pit

the song makes secret detours

 


selfishness and armour

 

i caress these lines of mine

smell them shake them

i can’t accept my powerlessness

to snatch them from the paper

the visual mutilation of their dance

demented, though possible

i can’t budge the inertia of the columns

their substance dried

by magical abstract fires

i can’t escape the trap of

these kaleidoscopes

- the schemes of an alien and cruel mind -

i can’t unfasten the selfishness

of too heavy an armour

i, the turtle

 


about the blue wart

 

not this state interests me

not this always hunger for love

and not the mercy for people or affection

for faces uglier than mine

i want to talk about the blue wart

about the evil star lurking at the woman’s temple

when nursing her baby she dreamed

of three white horses and

an overturned gas lamp

 

it’s sunny outside – stick a leaf onto your face! -

like a spider a hand gropes you

(the blind have a habit of searching for

secret stains under your skin)

what do you dream of when you lie at night

in the white of the sheets sucking while you are asleep

the sweet milk of death?



billiard balls

 

let me sleep

covered in this unmoving soul

outside

your hands shoot billiard balls

and muffled smacks hit

my temples

someone surely snuck

a clock under my skin

and all the fluxes of this body

are equally measured

an immense city continues

its workday inside me

and again outside

your hands 

shooting billiard balls

red and white blood cells

muffled smacks

in a lazy painful

rejection

let me



a day like a wall

 

how vapours billow out of marshes in the evening

what a sacred thermometer in a teenager’s armpit

gently waving its milky way

- a mercury worm and slow steps -

how memories don’t go back there

on chimera’s palms writhing the desire

 

at forty with frog eyes

you unlatch doors and rip your white glove

 

a day cold like a wall

a temptation that makes you a coward

the leaden fear in front of the golden desert

and then you light a match

under the summer sun

and wait for it to burn your finger

 



View Original Work ↓

ce poezie şi asta când berbecul

 

de ce nu într-o zăpadă verde

de ce nu într-un crin de asfalt viaţa

rostogolind-se ca o rodie în rigolă

gropi de gunoaie nopţi

cu şindrila crăpată

prin care degete străine

se strecoară în pieptul meu

cineva zice că mă apără

şi-mi leagă inima bine într-un sac

ce poezie şi asta când berbecul

behăie când omul în colţ

urinează pe floarea de laur

 

dă-mi o ţigară

birjarul îşi rupe biciul

cafeaua în ceaşcă are faţa unei negrese

blazate

şi până unde - îmi spui -

o să tot tragi fermoarul



în labirint

 

aş putea să mă întorc nu mă amână nimic

împrejur e un gard şi în mijloc un greier

se ciocnesc din când în când două rotiţe de ceas

ţi-aş spune că a căzut o bilă câştigătoare

în labirint

poate asta e viaţa

şi totuşi uneori un copac

seamănă cu o mână întinsă

aşteptând ceva mai omenesc

 

şi este iar ieri totul este ieri

de parcă am murit dinainte



într-o groapă de calcar

 

pământul şi trupul

sunt făcute să doară

ca rana huma se cască

şi atunci când îngropi hoitul unui câine

nervul cui se întinde într-un sunet de harfă?

 

e osul meu cel care singur

vorbeşte-n somn

de convoaire ciudate

e unghia mea prevestitoare

tăind marginile unei lumi

 

prin venele pământului

trece şopărla

şi-ntr-o groapă de calcar

cântecul face ocoluri secrete

 


egoism şi armură

 

mângâi aceste rânduri ale mele

le miros le zgâlţâi

nu pot accepta neputinţa

smulgerii lor din hârtie

mutilarea vizuală a dansului lor dement

şi posibil

nu pot urni inerţia

coloanelor cu substanţa uscată

în magice focuri abstracte

nu pot scăpa din capcana

acestor caleidoscopuri

- calculele unei minţi străine şi crude -

nu pot să-mi desfac egoismul

armurii prea grele

eu broasca ţestoasă

 


despre negul albastru

 

nu această stare mă interesează

nu această mereu lăcomie de dragoste

şi nu mila de oameni sau afecţiunea

pentru feţele mai urâte ca mine

vreau să vorbesc despre negul albastru

despre luceafărul rău pândind la tâmpla femeii

când alăptând-şi copilul visa trei cai albi

şi-o lampă de gaz răsturnată

 

e soare afară – lipeşte-ţi o frunză pe faţă! -

ca un păianjen o mână de pipăie

(orbii au obiceiul să-ţi caute

pete secrete sub piele)

ce visezi când şezi noaptea

în albul cearşafului sugând din somn

dulce laptele morţii?

 



mingi de biliard

 

lăsaţi-mă să dorm

învelită în acest suflet nemişcător

afară mâinile voastre

impulsionează mingi de biliard

şi pocnete surde lovesc

în tâmplele mele

cineva mi-a strecurat

un ceas sub piele

şi toate fluxurile acestui trup

sunt măsurate egal

un imens oraş îşi continuă

ziua de muncă în mine

şi afară din nou

mâinile voastre

impulsionând mingi de biliard

albe şi roşii globule mici

pocnete surde

într-o respingere leneşă

şi dureroasă

lăsaţi-mă



o zi ca zidul

 

cum ies din mlaştini aburii pe seară

ce termometru sacru-n subţioara unui adolescent

îşi unduieşte blând calea lactee

- un vierme de mercur şi paşi înceţi -

cum amintirea nu se-ntoarce-acolo

în palmele himerei zvârcolind dorinţa

 

la patruzeci de ani cu ochi de broască

desfereci uşi şi-ţi rupi mănuşa albă

 

o zi ca zidul rece

o ispită care te face laş

frica de plumb în faţa deşertului de aur

şi-atunci aprinzi chibritul

sub soarele de vară

şi-aştepţi să-ţi ardă un deget

Translator Notes

One of the most important and original Romanian writers, Nora Iuga was born on January 4, 1931 and made her editorial debut in 1968 with the collection of poems It Isn’t My Fault. Soon after her second book, The Circle’s Captivity (1970), Iuga was banned by communist censors from publishing fiction and poetry. She was accused of disseminating “morbid eroticism” and having a bad influence on the younger generation. Between 1971 and 1978, her books were also withdrawn from public libraries and bookstores and destroyed.

 

The translated poems belong to Opinions about Pain (1980), published after the ban was lifted during the short period of political “thaw” after Ceauşescu rose to power in Romania. This book won her the first Writers’ Union Prize, the most important literary award in Romania. Iuga confessed to me that she wrote these poems on paper napkins, usually at the Writers’ Restaurant in Bucharest after many shots of vodka, during the eight-year publishing ban. She saved them in a laundry drawer despite having little hope that she would ever publish again in Romania.

 

In her distinctive surrealistic style, Iuga expresses her revolt against the dictatorship’s dehumanizing nature, as “strange fingers / squeeze themselves into my chest.” Occasionally, she also deplores her own “selfishnesspowerlessness” to leave the safety of her silence and speak up against the regime. Despite the four decades that have passed since 1980, these cultural artifacts not only speak about the lack of freedom in communist Romania, but also address essential human anxieties: “and it’s yesterday again, everything is yesterday / as if I’ve died in advance.” The startling images and minimal punctuation help Iuga suggest multiple meanings, while the specific Romanian syntax guides the reader toward a grammatically correct, though paradoxical understanding.

 

Translating Iuga’s Opinions about Pain has been an emotionally charged experience. The poems’ history has compelled me to be cautious, as if I were handling the old paper napkins on which they were written. It has also been fascinating to capture their ambiguity, the multilayered suggestions and puns, without adding punctuation marks. Moreover, the absence of gender agreement between the noun and its adjectival determinants in English has made translating Iuga’s surrealistic metaphors even more challenging.


Diana Manole

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Diana Manole

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