Translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Marius Uzoni
I saw the fiddlers of my blood
with raspberry christs as necklaces,
dancing on Mambo Siria’s symphonies.
I saw Columbian minstrels dreaming of a floating hotel,
when the Danube’s banks were full of wild raspberries.
I saw the macramé of genius covering dark shipwrecks,
from which the raspberry grew like Amazonian jungles.
I saw a Mediterranean of red algae that floated like lungs –
even there the wild raspberry grew
out if the orange sand with bushes of bread.
I’m the holy first son of a holy family.
I was one and a half when in bitter winter Mom hung the laundry
on a line outside our apartment and yelled:
For many months afterwards, we ate only rotisserie chicken
given away by a lady afraid of being put in jail.
Dad used to bring home miners who were put to bed by his side,
he said they were his guardian angels.
Mom put him straight with some pills that made him choke,
he quit drinking in ’93 when my sister was born.
I only touched my parents at anniversaries
and other occasions that demanded holiness.
I cannot stand the spit left on my skin from someone’s tongue.
When I was ten, I joined a young biologists’ group,
for days on end we studied a family of potato leafhoppers
under the microscope.
When I was a little boy, Mom and I would go to the woods to pick raspberries.
She told me not to pick from the bushes where bears had already been,
I saw bears everywhere around.
Mom picked raspberries to make preserves,
the raspberry was the wild cat’s liver in the primer.
Our teacher told me that angels don’t live in the forest,
they don’t eat raspberries,
they fill their chests with air and their hunger goes away.
Mom didn’t think of the raspberries the way I did –
would she have enough money to buy sugar for the preserves,
do birds live in a single berry seed,
but I found only worms and red beetles.
My sister’s small eyes
like black sugar crystals
are what’s left of our lives –
mashed potatoes and chicken drumsticks,
the food of a girl who’s searching for her parents
in the bathroom’s mildew.
Father wakes bewildered at each touch of the doorknob.
My sister tells him, it’s me,
and he goes back to sleep.
Whenever I leave the house I look at the windows
blue and lit by alcoholics.
My sister’s blonde hair
appears in the kitchen window
when I can’t be seen any longer.
Land of holiness and ripe strawberries,
land of streets strewn with garbage,
take us in, oh Italy, our hands are swinish,
we endure the ridicule of your fatso-thieves
we clean mafioso-marines’ latrines and skivvies,
we kneel before your plump donnas,
for a couple of euros we leave your entire house spotless.
Italy, Italy, holy are the geezers in wheelchairs,
a tip here, a swindle there, hey, we’re making a fortune, Italy!
I’m the holy last son of a holy family.
Holy Ginsberg who sanctified the lesser sons,
holy the poetry that doesn’t flow into the sewers,
holy the cats that mate in June.
I sit on my knees by your side
and tell you about beauty.
I no longer have the arrogance of the dark poet,
nor love of myself do I have.
Only on my knees have I learnt to be
like a prophet – with his tongue cut out.
My hands aren’t my hands,
my teeth aren’t my teeth,
a rooster’s neck on a wooden board
and the cook, how she kisses it.
Beware my caustic-soda eyes
and my treacherous touch.
All that surrounds me smells of raspberry,
but raspberry has no meaning to you!
Remember me, love, at the counting of the dead
when I’ll weigh no more or less than a prosthesis,
remember despite everything,
although my heart is lighter than lint
and I’m the most fainthearted man in the world.
Having to talk about my own poetry can mean, one way or another, an attempt to forge its meaning. I am usually more open and willing to discuss the poetry of others, entering their mind, enjoying their wonderful writing but also willing to be critical, if they do not reach their full potential. Facing my own poetry I feel a slight shame: I neglected it, considered it trivial and banished it out of my life, pleading to it not to return. Still it stayed with me, in my mind and body, as a last reserve of what I am. After every published book I thought there is nothing left to write about, that I have to give up and retire in order to escape never-ending images and repetitive feelings. I was living quite intensely the edges my written poems had imposed on me. I was also convinced that a poet’s published books are a mere history of his or her creative and emotional limits. Despite all, experiencing this limit is, in fact, one of the best spiritual exercises. It is quite clear to me that I couldn’t write poetry if I didn’t find its roots in silence. It happens that months go by without my writing even a single verse, while I forget that I am a poet but I soak up reality as the best poetry. After a long silence, first images and verses emerge, finding their proper language and drifting slowly away from the obsessions and style of the poems written before, despite being connected like blood relatives. Whether a poet is a minimalist, hyperrealist, visionary or anything else, he or she cannot be boring: a poet can revive or resurrect a poetic style if the right moment to be silent reveals itself.
Marius Conkan is a poet living in Cluj-Napoca. He has published two books of poetry: Soporia (Bucharest: Vinea, 2009) and The Ecstasy of St. Markon (“Extazul Sfântului Markon,” Bucharest: Tracus Arte, 2012). With Ruxandra Cesereanu, he wrote the poem-novel The Otherland (“Ținutul Celălalt,” Bucharest: Cartea Românească, 2011), a story about a boy and a girl who build imaginary worlds that they inhabit. He is a regular contributor and reviewer for Steaua and România literară magazines.
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