from lines poems poetry

Mircea Ivănescu

pale stars

many years ago he wrote a short story about
a girl with unhurried gestures—he was walking her home
one night along a broad boulevard, so broad
that, although in the heart of the city, the stars could be seen overhead—(the
are spilling everywhere—he said, 'look there, at aldebaran'. and if she asked
which of the twinkles was aldebaran
he'd reply, 'any of them'. she must have been extraordinarily quiet.
several years later they told me the girl
in the short story was a real person—recently, she had
died of cancer. in fact, i must have known
his story was only a transcription. i believe
he'd have wanted very much to love her). a lot of time
has gone by since then. today, on a rainy, dirty
morning among these tall, gray houses—
i'm passing the entrance to a building where one night,
a lifetime ago, he kissed her hand. he died
soon after—she, many years later.
and now i'm walking down the same street.

scene from a french novel

a story with young existentialists. the enormous room,
music shredding the light under lampshades, tossing it aside
in corners. groups scattered here and there. by the heater throwing a lurid
crimson light upon her, the girl with hair over her eyes
and down on her shoulders, sheathing her moon-pale body
in dense black fog. at her feet, looking stern,
whispering from below, the men, bearded,
in turtleneck sweaters (as if passengers
on a windy sea voyage), and lining the shelves
of a bookcase, cactus plants waiting in ambush.
on the broad windowsill, a girl whose eyes
shine with a brilliant glow, drinking a bluish liquid
from a tall glass—like a revolver's gleam, like Aztecs
crying out with fear as the sun sets—with pinched looks,
young men bowing before her—and a frozen
melancholy keeping her at a distance from everything. in the far corner
solemn mumbling that existence now precedes essence,
and the girl with thin lips replying that in the game of the absence
of qualities, any of them can be a project
(but in a chorus they repeat to her—'or you!'). strange
waves of smoke wafting from the hoarse music
envelop them, sprouting from their chests like
weeds. later on, one of them draws her under the thick veil
of a dance around the room as a topsy-turvy blur
of alcohol, and he murmurs in her ear, his meaning
mostly fumes from his breath smoky with alcohol—
'i too have a project—to go insane'—and by a detour
leads her the long way out to the room next door.
she knows it's a quotation, however—laughs—firmly pushes him aside
that's another story. we might go on much further if we dare.

translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu