sâmbătă, 1 iulie 2017

Dumitru CRUDU

I set some water to boil
didn’t have anything to put in it
I was all alone in the house
the water slowly evaporating

five-bit coins had gone out of circulation
they used to be really nice those coins
the water was still boiling
outside raindrops were falling

I wanted to get up and go out
it was growing dark outside
I sat on three-legged stools
the water evaporating beside me

I lay down to sleep night had fallen
the water still boiling now unheard

empty bottles of vodka of kefir empty lots of them I’m drinking beer seeking you among them last night it was dark my mouth grips the rim of the beer mug the bottom of the glass is cold it’s dry I open a tin of spam
crawl in

During the Soviet Union, like Marcel Tolcea, I had a bicycle, except that mine didn’t have any brakes. It wasn’t that I liked it very much, but I didn’t have any other.
When I straddled the saddle I knew what to expect. I knew that eventually the brakes would give out, but I couldn’t have cared less, the main thing was that I had a bicycle and I could ride it anywhere I liked.
Usually, I was level-headed and only rode down straight, flat, level roads, precluding any surprises, and it was then that I’d press on the pedals as hard as I could, until the wind whistling in my ears reminded me of the national anthem.
I never forgot that the bicycle I was riding didn’t have any brakes, and that’s why I chose only the empty roads by the pond or down in the parched valley.
But once a month I had to go and inspect the wheat field on top of the hill and on the way back I would hurtle downhill from Cantea, shouting at anybody up ahead to get out of my way.
Once a herd of cows got in my way and I avoided a violent collision only by jumping off the bicycle toward the branch of a tree, which I grabbed onto at the last moment, and the riderless bicycle hit a Frisian cow and fell to the ground.
Once a month, and not because I liked to take risks, but because I didn’t have any choice.
Once a month my hair stood on end and my eyes bulged out of their sockets.
Once a month I returned home covered in cuts and scrapes.
Once a month I returned home in tears, bawling.
After that I would ride only along roads as smooth as a mirror.
On that bicycle without brakes I took my first girlfriend for a ride.
On that bicycle without brakes I rode when she left me.
On that bicycle without brakes I rode the whole night long after my grandmother Anica died.
On that bicycle without brakes I celebrated my sixteenth birthday.
On that bicycle without brakes I fled conscription. In the Soviet Army.
On that bicycle without brakes I celebrated the fall of the Soviet Union. And the first hours of freedom.

I mounted it every day. I rode down that slope, with the trees grimly whizzing past.
With my heart quailing. Down a road that wound now right, now left, like fate itself.
With my damp shirt plastered to my back. Beads of sweat trickled into my eyes and I didn’t dare take my hands off the handlebars to wipe them away. A car overtook me, the same as so many other things overtake you in this life. When I rode it, I thought of my cat back home, willy-nilly I thought of what the future would bring.
The Soviet Union was long gone, but I was still riding the same bicycle.

But I don’t ride it any more.
Because now even when I walk
It’s as if I’m riding a bicycle without brakes.

The last time I saw him he was lying with his face to the wall and the tears were streaming down his cheeks those tears of his are still streaming
down that wall even now

There was a time when I used to open my eyes and see my father there in front of me I used to close my eyes and not see him but now I close my eyes and I see him I open them and he’s
not there

the people who knew my father knew a strong and courageous man. I don’t resemble him one little bit. I’ve come to realise this with every passing day since he died. today I saw the lad who once came to my house to beat me up and my father went out of the gate and belted him one and after that I didn’t see him for two decades, but today I saw him again. I saw him in the graveyard, at his father’s grave. he didn’t dare come up to me
because behind me was my father’s

When I really want to talk to my mother I take the bus and get off in the little town on the border And walk around the bus station Through which I used to pass every time I came home. I’d have been able to meet her there Even now If my mother were still Alive Dozens of old women in the waiting room Talking among themselves With their hands on their knees I look from one old woman to another Even though I know my mother couldn’t possibly be Among them Or that any of them could ever have met her, I’d have gone up to her And started talking to her. But she’s not that one either. I open the door and go inside the house Now empty And I touch all the things That my mother touched Raising a cloud of dust around me A cloud of dust so big That nobody would be able to see me from outside If he looked through the window With that cloud of dust around me I go from one room to the next And go into my own room, where I climb into bed And wait impatiently to fall asleep. At least in my sleep maybe I’ll meet My mother.

Back when she was still alive one day my mother Lost her Beret, which she was very attached to. Her favourite beret, A wee one, Like a cactus. A green one, like a parrot. When she visited relatives She put it on her head. When she went shopping, She wore that beret, Whether it was winter or summer, whether It was raining or snowing, she invariably left The house wearing that beret. But which she lost Three years before she died and suffered Hugely because of it. She suffered so greatly that She couldn’t sleep at night. A few times I even caught her Crying. That beret which she bought In her youth. Probably it was the first thing she bought After she got married to dad. Now I have found it. Now that my mother is no longer alive. I found it behind the sofa. I can’t even imagine how it got there. I picked it up and turned it on every side. I shook the dust off it and I looked at it carefully. But my mother is no longer alive for me to give it to her. How overjoyed she would have been if she had seen it. That wee beret as big as a cactus and green as a parrot. But I didn’t throw it away. I put it in a bag, Ready to give it to her at any moment should she ask for it, Even though I know there’s no way that will ever happen Unless one day I lose my mind.


After her daughter got married, Mrs Moraru wanted to divorce Mr Moraru. But she didn’t divorce him, even though She dreamed of it her whole life. All the love between them drained away like an egg yolk. Then they started to get old And they started developing ailments. And she couldn’t live without love. Mr Moraru became very selfish. And he had only one thing on his mind: How to save his skin and live as long as possible. And all day long he hung around on polyclinic corridors Like in a forest, forgetting all about Mrs Moraru And not doing anything around the house anymore and abandoning Mrs Moraru To manage on her own. When Mr Moraru died I went with her To the office of the director of the Doina Cemetery And he asked her obliquely: Would you like to reserve a burial plot next to your husband’s? and Mrs Moraru declined. At the time I thought that she’d been offended by the blunt, cynical question put by the cemetery director, a man who, all the while he talked to us, kept making a chomping sound with his teeth, although he didn’t happen to be eating. Then, a year later, when Mrs Moraru died and was buried at the other end of the cemetery about a kilometre away from Mr Moraru I understood why she had refused to buy a burial plot next to her husband’s. Finally, they were divorced.


Tomorrow I’m going to the oncological institute with my sister, where she’s been going for a check-up every three months ever since she got pregnant, even though she wasn’t supposed to, and the doctors are afraid she is going to die, because they told her not to get pregnant, but she chose to give birth, even if it costs her her life, she’s going to have twins, although she might die, she’s seventeen years younger than me, and she already has four children, and I don’t have any, for a while I thought she wasn’t as clever as me when we were children I used to give her piggybacks, but now I go to the doctor’s with her, not long after mother died, about a month afterward, when mother died my sister didn’t know she was pregnant yet, she called me over to her house, without telling me why, without telling me mother had died, telling me it was something urgent, I was in Jassy, where I’d gone to see a play, which for that reason I still haven’t seen
the taxi driver talked to me the whole way, he said that you shouldn’t get attached to anybody that way you won’t suffer, that’s what he believed in, and he used himself as an example he told me

that he would never suffer if anybody pinched his car, because he wasn’t attached to it, just as he wasn’t attached to anything in the world, because he couldn’t care less about anything, nothing affected him, that’s why he didn’t even suffer when his wife left him, and his kids slammed the door in his face, the car was hurtling along at top speed, he didn’t care that he might crash into a tree at the side of the road or maybe he was trying to prove to me
that he didn’t care, that’s why he was going so fast, the only thing he felt sorry about in his life was that there were things he had felt sorry about, as he spoke I was wondering why my sister had told me to come home, what could have happened that was so urgent, but she didn’t want to tell me over the phone, by the time we reached Flutura the driver was still telling me
about how he didn’t care about anything in this life, he was still telling me when he dropped me off by the gate, where my sister met me, her face bathed in tears

it was raining, the taxi driver swallowed his words when he realised where he had brought me, I gave him a hundred dollars, ten times more than the fare, and told him to go, but he didn’t want to and he stayed to help us with one thing and another, that afternoon he forgot not to care and he smoked cigarette after cigarette, crying into his hands next to me, a stranger who had never met my mother, it was only then that he realised where he had been going, I didn’t tell him to stay, but he stayed, without realising that it was blatantly at odds with his philosophy of life, and he left only when we all went to bed, he wouldn’t accept a single cent from me, he gave me back the hundred dollars, I never saw him again after that, there are people we never see again, after I was left on my own a swarm of mosquitoes attacked me
in the morning I went with my sister to the oncological institute, for another check-up and the doctors told her that if she wanted to live she would have to have an abortion, but my sister didn’t want to, she would rather die than kill the child in her belly, and she gave birth to twins, but she didn’t die, she left the doctors open-mouthed in amazement, I think that wherever she is now my mother is proud of my sister

when I left Flutura on the way I met the taxi driver walking up the hill somebody had stolen his car just as somebody had stolen the tears from my cheeks

© Translation: Alistair Iain Blyth
First published on Poetry International, 2017


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