Three Poems

Ileana Mǎlǎncioiu


The spider in the corner of this ward
Where somebody dies every single day
Tenaciously weaves his grey web
Next to the one who tomorrow will be gone.

And curiously the patient watches him,
How he produces that fine thread from his body—
Suddenly the viscous stuff stops drying in the air,
Now it flows gently in his final gaze.

Now the thread is roughly broken off
And the spider without willing it rouses and runs
Out of the corner where he quietly wove his web
And he dims the eye that sucks him in.

A lovely garden

Such a lovely garden, the country graveyard
On that calm day
And how its smile shone out
Drenched in light.

I stepped between the crosses and the living,
I was half defeated,
I was ashamed to carry a bunch of flowers
And a lighted candle.

I prayed to the wind to extinguish my torch,
Not a breath,
I looked at the people smiling from the crosses,
No rebirth.

It seemed they were there by their own will,
All the yard of the church was full
Of nuts freshly fallen on the grass,
But who is going to come

And quickly gather the green nuts,
These will have no more need of food,
They are so orderly, only from habit,
Or only by chance.


I had come to a place accursed,
Not a flash from the sky, not a ray
Of any kind of hope, only wicked spirits
Guarded by a guardian angel.

He seemed to be a fallen angel,
He'd come out of the dark in front of me,
He was the guardian of a world of ruins
And even he did not know what he was guarding.

I looked for you and could not find you,
Only your shadow humbly bowed before
The guardian angel of the wicked spirits
I gazed upon with sacred disgust.

translated from the Romanian by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Read the original in Romanian

Ileana Mǎlǎncioiu (b. 1940) originally trained as an accountant, but later began to write poetry. She has degrees in philosophy and has also worked in journalism and films. From Pǎsǎrea Tǎiatǎ (The Slaughtered Fowl, 1967) onward, her poems draw on rural life and folklore, on religious and literary icons; but their true focus has been on the trauma of history. Her tenth collection, Urcarea Muntelui (Climbing the mountain), was heavily censored on its first appearance in 1985, and reappeared in its full form only after the change of regime. Mǎlǎncioiu's writing is valued in Romania as a moral force. A courageous critic of the former political masters of her country, she has also been forthright in her responses to the new order.

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin (b. 1942) is a poet and Emeritus Professor of English, Trinity College, Dublin, where she has taught since 1966. With Macdara Woods, Leland Bardwell and Pearse Hutchinson, she is the co-founder of literary magazine Cyphers. Her Selected Poems was published by Gallery Press and Faber in 2008; her latest book, The Sun-Fish, was awarded the Griffin International Prize for poetry in 2010. She has translated poetry from several languages, in particular The Water Horse from the Irish of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, with Medbh McGuckian, and After the Raising of Lazarus and Legend of the walled-up wife from the Romanian of Ileana Mălăncioiu. She is currently working on translations from Italian.