The Tension of Detail

George Vulturescu

You cannot be "visited" by lightning

only death moves with letters of fire
like moles through clay
tunneling through your brain night after night

Like fires on graves
above the ashes of the letter
your eye stirs the poem's embers

On the bones of letters the poem lies
trembling like flesh

each reading a wound

What more can you see high on the Mountain
when beneath your feet the stones tumble
like dice?

Like the bulbs of plants, the blind eye
can winter over in the brain's clay; it can
live on in the core of the eye that sees
like an unshed tear through which angels flee

A secondary verse
like a second knife hidden
in the tunic:

you are armed

It was an unknown word
perhaps I invented it
perhaps I saw it on
a coin worn smooth

I could give it to the earth
of the page
for a grave

When the painter begins a painting
the apples are red. Beneath the crust
of the impasto nothing rots:
painting is a method
of embalming reality.

We master only vision.
The blind eye masters us.
Whoever knows how to breathe life into ashes
will find me

Beyond the horizon, no
there the peace of the patriarchs begins

When I was a young child near Achim's door,
a sharp stake stabbed my eye.
Now the void flows through the one
the grass of the North through the other:

two tunnels I go through, straight to you

The tavern is a forest where the deer
are petrified with fear:

the silence of those who gaze into themselves

Her skin was like oyster shell
where the sea took its rest.

I did not awaken her:
I plunged into her.

Mirrors keep our image
Only woman's eyes give you back,
tenfold, to yourself

To sleep in the letter and awaken
in the letter,
do not complete the word
that names you

In the wood of trees is the panic
of cowbells
that enter your skin and nest
in your heart.

Lightning is lonelier than
the beasts in the thick copse

Lightning accompanies our life
in the North.
We bear it on the knife's edge
as well as in holy coffins

The poem's words
are steps, slabs of the temple
where your soul has knelt

I tear a grass blade between my teeth:
I taste its juices

as a wolf's tongue licks blood
from the knife's edge

translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and Olimpia Iacob

Read the original in Romanian

George Vulturescu is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, among them The North and Beyond the North (2001), Monograms on the Stones of the North (2005), Other Poems from the North (2007), The Blind Man from the North (2009), and Gold and Ivy (2011). In 2011, the dual-language Alte Poeme din Nord / Other Poems from the North, with English translations by Adam J. Sorkin with Olimpia Iacob, appeared in Iași, Romania, from Editura Fundației Culturale Poezia. Not surprisingly, Vulturescu was born, and lives, in the north of Romania—the province of Satu Mare, where he works for the cultural administration. Among his many prizes is the Romanian Cultural Order of Merit for Literature granting him the title of "Cavaler" ("Knight"). His poems have previously appeared or are forthcoming in Parthenon West Review, Literary Chaos, UCity Review, Connotation Press, Inventory, and Poetry Wales.

Adam J. Sorkin is a translator of contemporary Romanian literature whose work has won the Poetry Society (U.K.) Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation for 2005, as well as the Kenneth Rexroth Memorial Translation Prize and the Ioan Flora Prize for Poetry Translation. Recent books include Mircea Ivănescu's lines poems poetry (2009), Ioan Es. Pop's No Way Out of Hadesburg (2010), and Ion Mureșan's The Book of Winter and Other Poems (2011), all translated with Lidia Vianu and published by University of Plymouth; the Ivănescu selection was shortlisted for the Poetry Society Popescu Prize for 2011. In 2011, he published A Path to the Sea by Liliana Ursu, translated with Ursu and Tess Gallagher (Pleasure Boat Studios—Silver Award Winner of ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award in poetry); Ioan Flora's Medea and Her War Machines, translated with Alina Cârâc (University of New Orleans Press); and The Vanishing Point That Whistles: An Anthology of Contemporary Romanian Poetry (Talisman House).

Olimpia Iacob is Associate Professor in the Department of Modern Languages at "Vasile Goldiș" West University of Arad, Romania. She graduated from the Faculty of Letters of the "Al. I.Cuza" University (Iași), from which she earned a Ph.D. in 2000 with a dissertation entitled Translation Theory Applied to the Poetry of Nichita Stănescu. Her research interests include poetics and translation, linguistics, stylistics, and translation studies. Recently she has become a member of the Writers' Union of Romania. Her book-length translations include works in prose and poetry by Cassian Maria Spiridon, Gabriel Stănescu, Gheorghe Grigurcu, Petre Got, Mircea Petean, and Magdalena Dorina Suciu, as well as George Vulturescu's Nord și dincolo de Nord / The North and Beyond the North, translated with Adam J. Sorkin.