Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Translations of Two Poems by Ion Muresan

The Alcoholics’ Poem


Alas, the poor, poor alcoholics,
nobody ever has a good word for them!
Especially in the morning, when they stagger along the walls
and sometimes fall to their knees, like the clumsy ABC’s
scrawled by a schoolboy’s hand.

God alone, in His great beneficence, causes a pub to manifest itself along their way,
for Him it’s a snap, the way a child
slides a matchbox along with a finger. So hardly
do they reach the end of the road when, around the corner,
where a moment before nothing was – slap-bang – like a rabbit,
a pub hops out in front of them and stops.
Then a bashful light dawns in their eyes.
They are drenched in sweat from so much happiness.

Before noon the city looks purple.
Before noon it’s autumn three times, it’s spring three times,
the birds fly to warmer climes and back three times.
And they gab on and on about life. About life
in general, even young alcoholics express a warm, responsible viewpoint.
If they stutter and stumble,
it’s not because they propose terribly profound ideas,
but because inspired by youth
they succeed in saying truly moving things.

But God, in His great beneficence, does not stop there!
Directly, He pokes a finger through the wall of Heaven
and invites the alcoholics to take a peek.
(Oh, where can such happiness be found for any human creature!)
And even though they have the shakes so bad that can’t manage to see more than a little patch of grass,
still, it’s something supernatural.
Until one of them awakens and spoils everything. He says:
“Soon, soon, night must fall,
then we’ll rest and find peace!”
They stand up from their tables one by one,
wipe their clammy lips with a handkerchief,
and feel very, very ashamed.


translated from Romanian
by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu




The Glass


It’s an enchanted night.
The moon trembles in my glass, round and yellow.
I stick my finger in the glass.
Next I stick my arm in the glass, as far as the elbow.
Then I stick my arm in the glass, as far as the shoulder.
The vodka is ice-cold.
On the bottom of the glass, there’s a large stone slab.
There are dead leaves and dark roots.
There’s a torn rubber boot, too.
On the bottom of the glass, there’s also a rusty stove.
I stick my head in the glass.
The vodka is ice-cold.
I open my eyes in the glass.
In the glass, I can see well even without eyeglasses.
I say out loud, “All is dream and harmony.”
The stone slab is white with thin red veins.
Now I notice the beast.
Now I hear it purring low, like a cat.
I see its blue legs.
I see its fearsome tail jutting out from under the stone slab.
A crystal-clear spring flows beside the stone slab.
It whispers over the gravel.
At its edges the grass is always green.
Delicate flowers grow in the grass.
In the spring pool swim children as small as dolls.
They swim with incredibly quick movements.
They swim in little dresses and shirts and trousers in jolly colours.
They are the little angels of the glass.
The little angels of the glass don’t bite or do harm to anyone.
I feel like vomiting from pity, I feel like vomiting from sadness.
I feel like vomiting when I realize I might swallow one of the little angels.
I feel like crying at the thought that he would suddenly be so lonely.
Crying at the thought that he would sob all night, just like me.
Crying at the thought that he could be singing nursery rhymes inside me.
He could sing in a high, shrill voice, “Spring is coming, sweet spring!”
With my nails dug into the beast’s back, I plunge toward the bottom of the glass.
A stone slab is there, with thin red veins.
Now I lie on the slab with thin red veins.
Far away, somewhere in the glass, a dog keeps barking.
It’s autumn.
It’s the day of the eclipse.
The round yellow moon trembles in the glass.
Through a piece of glass smoky from a candle flame, I see a big black fly buzzing around the bulb.
With my nails dug into the beast’s back, I drag its head out from under the stone.
Its terrifying back snakes like a train through mountains.
With my nails, I drag the beast’s locomotive out from under the stone slab.
The little angels of the glass hold hands and dance gently in a circle.
The little angels dance and sing all around us.
“All is dream and harmony.”
The beast has one eye of my mother’s and one eye of my father’s.
In the glass, I can see well even without my eyeglasses.
I read in my mother’s eye, “My son, when will you finally understand?”
I read in my father’s eye, “My son, when will you finally understand?”
The glass squeezes my forehead like an iron band.
It hurts.
My head bangs against the walls: this side and that, this side and that.
The little angel of the glass sobs with pain.
The little angel of the glass sings inside me in a high, shrill voice, “Spring is coming, sweet spring!”
“All is dream and harmony.”


translated from Romanian
by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu

Bios

The much-honored Romanian poet Ion Mureșan has published only three collections of poetry: The Book of Winter (Cartea de iarnă, 1981), The Poem That Cannot Be Understood (Poemul care nu poate fi înțeles, 1993), and The Alcohol Book (Cartea Alcool, 2010). In late 2011, The University of Plymouth Press (U.K.) will publish The Book of Winter and Other Poems, in translations by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu. Mureșan lives in the city of Cluj, where he works as a journalist and edits the cultural magazine Verso.

Adam J. Sorkin’s recent books include Ioan Flora’s Medea and Her War Machines, translated with Alina Cârâc (University of New Orleans Press), and A Path to the Sea by Liliana Ursu, translated by Ursu, Sorkin, and Tess Gallagher (Pleasure Boat Studios), both 2011. Mircea Ivănescu’s lines poems poetry (2009), translated with Lidia Vianu, has been shortlisted for the 2011 Poetry Society (U.K.) Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation. Sorkin is Distinguished Professor of English, Penn State Brandywine.

Lidia Vianu is Professor of Contemporary British Literature at the University of Bucharest, where she directs the online Contemporary Literature Press and the eZine Translation Café. Her literary criticism includes The AfterMode. Significant Choices in Contemporary British Fiction (2010), The Desperado Age: British Literature at the Start of the Third Millennium (2004); and Alan Brownjohn and the Desperado Age (2003). Vianu has also published three poetry collections, 1, 2, 3 (1997), Moderato 7 (1998), Very (2001), and 18 books of translation.

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