Dialogue by Ioan Flora

“This one’s a wedding, right here in your neighborhood.” You’re trying to explain
to the short elderly man, to show him
an old but clear photograph made, it’s obvious,
by a true craftsman.
“You should be able to recognize at least two or three among the wedding party,
even though this celebration took place a good many years before you first cast a shadow

                                     in this world.
Perhaps your eyes can glimpse an uncle, an aunt,
maybe your father
surprised in the foreground, a flask in his young hands.”

Late one autumn evening, I was talking like this, like a flowing stream,
questioning the old man, flesh of my family, who
kept turning the photograph this way and that, saying no, he didn’t know anyone.
“You must at least have said Good morning to some of them.
Or Good evening.
People would have died in the meantime,
houses fallen down, but
not to know a single one –
I can scarce believe it!”

“This wedding,” my grandfather Saviţa said, after another wait,
“could have been in the Inculescu family… though they didn’t have
a big covered gate dividing the house in two, so high
a cart heaped with a royal load of hay could pass under
on its way to the threshing floor.”

                                                                                                                    Translated by

                                                                                                                    Adam J. Sorkin and Alina Cârâc

The Mare Danube by Ioan Flora

                                                         To Gellu Naum

Contractions, convulsions, solitary confinement in broad daylight,
free-fall as a form of survival, effigies
of an Alexandrian age.
God, how I itched for cleansing rain, a raging flood,
a cloudburst on the map of Romanian poetry, rivers
rampaging out of their beds,
with bridges of ice collapsed in rye fields.

Look, Epimenides, I’ve come! says Gellu Naum
(in the meantime Victor Brauner has disappeared from the walls,
and the surrealists seem to have acceded to power);
I was wandering through Siberias of the future, I’d already halted on the Bug,
but by sheer happenstance I traveled the road back home
astride a mangy mare cut in two,
an Appaloosa mare called Danube.

Another moment gone by, another century past, Medea
(certain the rickety mare was lame) ordered me to stab her, to shoot her.
My bowels clumped in tangled knots, my tongue staggered on my thoughts,
I developed a limp in my writing hand,
I couldn’t go on living with myself, or with others.
What’s more, the cauldron of the sky slipped and fell, sticking halfway
into the soil of their mute, tricolor homeland.
Then a couple of slick boys showed up, from Vâlcea,
from Teleorman, and in less than no time took her crippled life and skinned her;
her hide they draped over the withers of a white horse beating a retreat,
and my march to the tail of my homeland became
a forced and singularly glorious one.
By now, the Bug was far behind, to say nothing of the Kurils
or Vladivostok.

Look, Epimenides, I’ve come! says Gellu Naum
(Epimenides of Crete sleeps through stormy weather
in the hollow of an oak and stays hidden
the space of half a century),
my mare Danube
is now a glove or a boot; my war –
a forest of wolves.

Epimenides! Epimenides!
(Here intrudes an image, the story of Father Cleopa
one autumn some years ago,
with the steward Haralampie following on his knees, step by step,
and an eagle that issued forth from the pulpit, from the churchyard,
from the wide world of the monastery,
taking flight high into an elm and singing.
O Lord, how it sang!
Father Cleopa became convinced that this steward Haralampie
had caught a glimpse of Heaven while listening to
the eagle’s song and that he had returned
to the holy edifice after an hour and something rather longer, which
in our rustic measurement delineates at least a century
and a half.)

Epimenides, Epimenides!
Look, Epimenides, I’ve come! says Gellu Naum
Your skin is speckled with letters.
My mare Danube is lost now,
lost in its skin
among steppes and railway stops;
the grande dame, the creature, the ghost called Medea, confesses to the four corners of

                                           the earth
that man is a simple broth of herbs.

Epimenides, I’ve come!
Here are the morphological limbs of my mare by the name Danube,
here is my commune, here is Comana
where I learned to fish for bream, barbel, words, words, words,
here is the hide of the mare called Danube,
dressed with sand, with salt, hanging from the back
of the white horse beating a retreat.
Epimenides, I should go away, your oak hollow
is no longer a hollow and can’t shelter the sleep of dream
after so many decades in a row.
(For three years I didn’t utter a word; I’d wander off to the pond –
I’d fish, ever silent.
Silent like the fish, you might say, but that’s not so.
In breathing, I spoke, though making no sound.)

I’ve sunk deep in an armchair.
Semidarkness, thunder outside,
Nigredo and C.G. Jung, the quatrain of immemorial signs,
gamma, yin and yang,
automatic writing as a patriarchal staff, the clock that chimes the hours
gone astray somewhere inside the house.

(I’m writing this poem on the border of a catalogue of the painter Maxim D.
bearing the title Garment, dwelling – cuckoo. That is, I dress my poem
in the trappings of twigs, in clay, in chaff; the poem that is the cuckoo;
Garment, 190 x 60 x 80 cm;
technique: twigs, clay, chaff, gold leaf;
material – woven wattles, clay, manure, synthetic resins, pigment;
dwelling as the capacity of lodging both cuckoo and poem;
cuckoo which by definition denies location,
cuckoo of feathers and flight, cuckoo
of clay, of enamel;
Garment, dwelling – cuckoo,
poem of woven wattles, clay, manure
and synthetic resins, poem collapsed into cuckoo,
clay, enamel.)

Look, Epimenides, I’ve come!
The hide of the mare Danube hangs sideways on the nightstand;
the poet stubbornly refuses the letters of the alphabet.
Medea and her broth of herbs, Medea and her war machines.
Gesturing in the air, the surrealist patriarch goes on writing
his quatrain of immemorial signs,
in clay, in enamel.

                                                                  (October 1994–March 1999)

                                                                                                                    Translated by
                                                                                                                    Adam J. Sorkin and Alina Cârâc

Letters and Bees by Ion Pop

In the sun-drenched days of May, as a teenager, a high school student
come home from the city to my grandparents’ orchard,
I used to climb an apple tree in full blossom,
a book in my hand,
and allow to mix together
with golden pollen
letters and bees. All around me
they composed a circle inside which
I no longer knew
whose was the humming, whose the light.
There I sat, exactly at its center.

Perhaps I was also a bit of a poseur, as becomes
a bookish young man,
a would-be scholar intended, as my folks—peasants—had vowed,
for a great and glorious future.
                                                                    The past
remained close by—I could still see
the boy sent to graze the cow,
a rope in one hand, a book in the other,
on grassy plots and footpaths, between cornfields and thrushes, near the graves—
all this in gold and forever.
(It’s a pity—I think now—that Signac,
and his confrčre Seurat,
never got to live this day
nor learned about
the Someş River or about me—

what a subject they’d have had for a painting).

Now, though the apple tree has long ago been burned to ashes
and, instead of
bees and pollen grains,
only corpuscles hum around me,
poor sparks leaping
out of my own poor blood,
I’m still at the center and open to all kinds of hearing.

Even though I know for a while it’s not been
poetically correct
to hearken to musics, fancying
red circumferences pulsing ahead
through sons and daughters,
with my old-fashioned hearing
I nevertheless dare to say
it’s to these I attend.

As an ever calmer snowfall, the perpetuation
of soft rustlings into future summers—

in small part also to be mine—some of them
will perhaps sense
a breeze stirring their blind blood,
a kind of breath, a kind of shade,
will perhaps fall into a deep reverie, become,
for a moment at least, and with no outward reason,
pensive, remembering
something that has no face, a fog
of musics turned to smoke
among corpuscles and the water of lymph.

As a center rippling outward in the dust
of light, hardly a glimmer, then at the end,
with luminous exhaustion,
forgetting slowly, slowly forgetting itself in everything,
all gold and forever.

                                                                                                                   Translated by

                                                                                                                   Adam J. Sorkin and Ioana Ieronim


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Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas

Dialogue and The Mare Danube by Ioan Flora, Translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Alina Cârâc, and Letters and Bees by Ion Pop, Translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Ioana Ieronim.