from Europe. A Gypsy Epithalamium


II. Bucharest-Budapest. More at Home than Anywhere Else

Once in a while I still move my hands and feet.
But my penis, old twisted compass needle
still points towards Romania; I lie
in a twin bed in Buda floating flatly
in the AC draft sucked in off
the Danube and I feel like I'm drowning
in the dubbed languages of movies
while trying to read the lips of the original smacking
under the 14 channel fishbowl screen...
I never felt more at home in this world.
Hey, what's got into you to make you say that? I think
I heard it, but in fact I misheard something
said in the night, in Hungarian...
or maybe it's the walls' music in the dark.

The father of Josef
Attila was partly
Romanian: a full Magyar.

Andras Gerevich:        Heresy! Tiresias is getting married

          In the racing car
          A wasp's buzz —
          The body under its clothes.

We became regulars at Corvinus pub
          on Kiraly ucza —
                    our red wine companion would always
                              tease us, the Danube
yes, belongs to you (the name is Dacian and all that, blahblah!) but the shit
          is ours, floating down the stream to your place, so
                    enjoy! And then clicking
                              glasses sentimentally:
Now, is it clear? So we conspired
          for the daybreak... Said the Magyar:
                    we'll fill up on wine, words
                              and time, and thus slowly, light
will get pushed out
through our noses — that's how we'll get to smell the sun.

translated from the Romanian by Martin Woodside

Read the original in Romanian

Read translator’s note

MARGENTO (Chris Tanasescu) is a poet, academic, translator, and poetry performer whose pen-name is also the name of his poetry/action painting/jazz-rock band, winner of a number of significant national and international awards. He splits his time between Europe, South-East Asia, and North America, lecturing, performing, and assembling an international graph-poem, a communal work that poets from all over the world contribute to, following the principles of mathematical/internet graphs and the spirit of the jam session.

Martin Woodside is a writer, translator, and a founding member of Calypso Editions. He has published five books for children, a chapbook of poetry, Stationary Landscapes, and an anthology of Romanian poetry in translation, Of Gentle Wolves. He spent 2009-10 on a Fulbright Scholarship in Romania, studying contemporary Romanian poetry, and he is currently a David K. Sengstack Fellow at Rutgers-Camden.

In simplest terms, there is no one like Chris Tanasescu active in contemporary Romanian poetry—or, possibly anywhere. His poetics is fueled by notions of community at both the most immediate and most abstract level, and his poems, like their author, stay constantly in motion. Chris borrows equally from his vast familiarity with poetries east and west, channeling Jerome Rothenberg one minute and the surrealist master Gellu Naum the next. He infuses his poetry, in equal measure, with the manic energy of his performance-poetry band MARGENTO and his continuing fascination with complex mathematics. All of these intricacies plays out at the sentence level, where Chris toys relentlessly with language and context, bending words and sounds to refract the many dimensions of his poetry, from the personal and (or) political to the satiric or romantic. All of these things are present in the content of Chris's poems, but they come across even more vividly in the language he uses, which I've done my level best to convey here.

[Editor's note: The audio recording above consists of music composed and performed by Costin Dumitrache and Valentin Baicu, and vocals by Chris Tanasescu.]