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Four Poems
Poetry by Carmen Firan

Line Up At The Gate

Each morning lining up at the gate
My temples explode from the tension.
I try to imagine what it’s like to die
In the uproar of the toy pistol
Which can’t kill anyone
But fills everyone with terror.

I crouch at the ready.
The women stare at me, curious to find out
Where I aim to go each time
With my syllables awkwardly paired
One with life, one with death
With that light about the eyes
Which, it is reported, is painless,
A kind of happiness invades you
To the last cell, the last word
Frozen on your lips.

Each morning
Lining up at the gate,
The uproar of the toy pistol
Which can’t kill anyone
But fills everyone with terror
With repetition’s perfection:
the race, the line up at the gate, the race
All the way to insanity.

Translated by Julian Semilian

The Last Story

The first time
I found out about America was
when a very tall lady
came to our house
waving her very long mantle
in which, more than likely,
she flew over the ocean
and placed upon our table a huge jar
of peanut butter.

Is this how it is there? I asked
sticking my little finger half way
into the immensity of the jar.
This is how it is, the adults assured me
though even they couldn’t imagine
how you can get so much butter
from the peanut, a strange animal
they had never laid eyes on.
And they brought the distinguished messenger
two chairs so she could sit comfortably
in our midst.

Translated by Julian Semilian

Up The Hudson

My poems were never
Poems of pleasantness
Nor verses born of boredom or despair.
I did write poems I thought I had to write
Fulfilling foolish mission, I made mine
Like posing elephants on shoulders of ballerinas.
Then I told myself,
“Who needs all these troubles,
Blank walls, and rocky unpaved pathways?”
Life’s tragi-comedies are truly found
In blood test or hidden under velvet.

Much better, I say, to watch the Hudson ferries
Whose fare I pay to draw me into one of Poe’s hallucinations
But whose commuters with ferry passes,
Having just escaped Mc Donald’s grease,
Only sleep, bobbing their heads
To the rhythm of the plastic waves.
Evenings I shed some happy tears
To the music of “The 70’s Top Hits”
And I remember my well-deserved hot dogs
After the May Day Parade under Lenin’s portrait
Now drunk with Coca-Cola.

I’m young and still write
With my arm scarred from the wall’s bricks.
Fellow-citizens float up the Hudson,
Unaware of how they have been spared.

Translated by Isaiah Sheffer

Bottle Readers

One day we’ll take things as they come.
We’ll see our coil of watery lines.
I’ll be up on a blue stone
Taking the earth’s measure with my palm.

Creation is only unbound pride.
Punishment comes from the ancients
And from seekers of solitude
With lizards on their shoulder.
I’ll pour my soul into bottles
And I will bury them
Though disbelieving the sea’s saving power
Or whether any bottle readers remain.
Subtle trace of truth
Will float like ads for Kodak
In the supersonic orange.

I’ll be up on a stone
Counting the disappeared
Like coins in a teacup storm.
One day we’ll pick up our things
From the place cursed by the ancients
So that we’ll breathe the air
With their molecules with –
Ash lines on a hot stone.

Translated by Andrei Codrescu

Copyright © Carmen Firan 2002

Carmen Firan, born in Romania, is a poet and fiction writer. She has published ten books of poetry, novels, essays and short stories, as well as several plays and film scripts. Her writings appear in translation in many literary magazines and in various anthologies in France, Israel, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Canada, U K, and the USA. She can be emailed at [email protected]

These poems may not be archived or distributed further without
the author’s express permission. Please read the license.

This electronic version of Four Poems is published by The Richmond Review
by arrangement with the author. For rights information, contact The Richmond Review in the first instance


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