Three Poems

Mircea Dinescu


The visages of gods have long since withdrawn
to the labels on tins.
Only the hosts of elders still abide
to watch a made-up church through pouring rain
alongside the delicate sunflower machinery
left to whir on the mound for ever and ever.

We huddle next to cattle in the pastures
and elegant steamers
the nerves of the sea can no longer put up with
seem to be floating through green fields leaving
nothing but oil slicks and the flotsam of parties.

And thus like frightened fishes
beneath the gently rolling paradise
we keep watch for the rope
going to hoist us on deck by and by.

But never mind:
another world sails by
past yet another world
and they don't touch each other.

Token Ceremony at the Burial of a Submarine from between the Two Wars

From the day I was born
I've been putting my whimpers
in the service of artists destroyed through starvation.
Had I been preserved in an alcohol cylinder
I could have turned my back on you for evermore,
yet I don't know by what occult means
doubt has been limping right behind me
and here I am today like a fool in a ship
praying, "Lord, give me a ship,"
or like some extraordinary midwife
ready to deliver the porter out of the priest without pain.
The thread of Arianne's stocking in hand,
off I go dressed in a heavy army coat
watching the world through my top boots
as if they were two periscopes turned the other way round.

A Letter to Mother

You're telling me the rats have nibbled the church down to its roots,
oh my sad mother,
but even so our faith is more a matter
of bread and wine.
If only the oat plants wouldn't get
into the bed of my sister who's run to the fields,
if only the singer banished among bulrushes wouldn't run wild . . .
over the death combing your hair,
over the entrails of fire
storks are passing like a leukaemia of stars.

translated from the Romanian by Florin Bican

Mircea Dinescu (Slobozia, 1950) is a Romanian poet, journalist and editor. He has also been a strong critic of Communism and of Romanian political figures associated with Communism. In 1988, his book Moartea citeşte ziarul ("Death is reading the newspaper") was turned down by the Communist regime's censorship apparatus; it was later published in Amsterdam. In 1989, he was fired from the journal România Literară and held under house arrest after an interview of his appeared in the French newspaper Libération, in which he criticized President Nicolae Ceauşescu. Today, Dinescu is involved in a number of significant media outfits; he also hosts a political talk show on Realitatea TV. Both Dinescu's poems and his on-air persona bear the mark of his sarcastic, inventive, and often shocking style. The prominent philosopher Gabriel Liiceanu has dubbed Dinescu "the symbol and flag bearer of the Romanian suburbs," a compliment to his authenticity and his reputation as a cultural hero.

Florin Bican studied English at the University of Bucharest where he became a compulsive translator of Romanian literature. The resulting translations have been published in Britain, Ireland, the United States, Singapore, Germany, and Romania. His translations from English into Romanian include Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark and T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. When not translating, Florin Bican works on subversive children literature. His first volume of poetry, A Slob's Treasury of Verse (2007), is a collection of politically incorrect cautionary rhymes. A second volume in the same vein, The Recyclopedia of Nonsense Rhyming Tales, was published in 2013. Bican's work in progress, Torpid Tropics, is an attempt at cautionary prose and is just as politically incorrect. In 2009 he edited and contributed to The Cook-a-Book Pancyclopedia of Texts and Images, an anthology of Romanian children's literature. Between 2006 and 2012 Florin Bican was in charge of the Romanian Cultural Institute program, Translators in the Making, training foreign translators of Romanian literature.