Translation Tuesday: Poems by Andra Rotaru

Searing poems by Romanian poet Andra Rotaru, translated by Florin Bican

36 days


less than 36 days since we haven’t talked to each other.

by less

than 360 degrees can the body rotate still.

and, there –

when we no longer know.


I had before my eyes the heavy skin.

it had uncovered itself thoroughly,

like some sort of shock-proof wood.

it had developed a sheen and enamel.

it had sunk deep into the earth


since the earth patch I’m standing on

has the hue of a man’s flesh

since my skin’s ever whiter


do not wake up. a man’s body is attaining perfection.

green wood turns to black wood,

the texture gets rougher.


I’d stir my hands and they’d uncover themselves

I’d press them till neither the blood nor the lymph.


then, after a lengthy detour from my own body,

they’d fill up my tissues, they’d pile up,

no induration, nor rubber wood,

but soft wood we can keep banging on.


you tell me take care what you dream.

since the earth patch I am standing on

has the hue of a man’s flesh

since my skin’s ever whiter.




there are no animals here; nor are there any men

with names one can utter just once.

whenever the bad ones occur when words do get uttered

obstructed by further bad ones


winds overflow into the swarms of wasps

scatter them all the way to the mud-squelching ditches;

during their last instants of life

wings sizably thickened with a coating of dirt


prior to any defense.

a body in delay


foretelling a body delayed




he casts the blood into the river; bathes

his calves, the skin thereof swells like a sail.

in order to escape it he dumps earth all over,

he dries it all up.


as he rises, he is wearing the sail round his neck, water

babbling behind:

earth upon earth, life form upon life form,

out of a body lacking symmetry


The Voice


we both have our legs way too long:

when you are coiling them around your body,

I am doing the same.

(my position is better than yours –

It is all taking place on the left,

I can observe you.)

hands as long as your body, and thin,

trunk swathed in a strip of clean cloth.


I’m twiddling my toes without you seeing me.

the screens are replaying the same endless frame,

the wide-open mouth of a child

twisted by atrocious language.

the gaping jaws and the whites of the eyes.

I’ve only just felt the devouring is not starting

from there.


today I’ll pretend:

every touch is voluntarily guided. we’re leaving behind

the abandoned territories

I cannot walk

straight. we are getting into each other’s way,

you laugh and your jaws then lock back.

we’re seemingly serene, I’ve got to walk straight:

you can walk.


each of our inclinations,

the most crooked and cleanest of them,

the wide-open mouth of a child

twisted by atrocious language.


when you’re resting your hand on my shoulder,

when you draw me to you, and my body

is shrinking towards yours.


then the other way round: I can feel the devouring starting

right there.




we were in a cage where we practiced new moves:

we were watching our organs in mirrors

while unveiling by turns

further pieces of meat.


we’d be saying thank you! whenever his members

whenever the shards whenever my members

displayed muddled pictures


we’d be waiting

for those moments – exclusively –


we could look at each other.

thus it was. hours on end when nothing

did happen: he’d lift up his arms


then wrap them around the trunk,

swaying on, touching it.

I kept repeating,

knees would be knocking against the bars of a cage




the one wearing a red scarf was he,

he walked down the street, from among all the ones walking by I just knew

he’d come over to us for the first time.

hands clasped I was standing

behind the rows of long-haired men,

I would squeeze in my fingers a diminutive bell,

I would shake it at each of his steps.


when he came close enough he squeezed both of my palms,

I’ve recognized you, he said.


this odorless city,

with flowers and trees shining bright

with the odorless children and old folks,

with the figurines hid under the Christmas tree.


you are rotating the bell all above us,

walking switches too fast

my eyes follow the flagstones, the inaccurate marks

breeding confusion. I just follow the noise.

I am kneeling before every animal.


the beggars around us,

they wrap us in wool,

the children

scatter all over our heads colored candy,

drape over our shoulders felidae kept on a leash, we are singing to them,


while the noise, the aseptic-city odor

compel us to go begging from strangers.


urge them to come closer

and tell us of the breaths

of far-away cities.


Andra Rotaru is currently a fellow at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Her published books include Într-un pat sub cearşaful alb (Vinea, 2005), which was awarded The National Prize Mihai Eminescu, Opera Prima; The National Prize Tudor Arghezi; Sibiu Writers’ Union Prize Iustin Panţa; Bucharest Writers’ Association Prize; and was nominated by the Writers’ Union in Romania. Rotaru was included in 22 Magazine’s list of best contemporary poets, and she has been a resident of ArtistNe(s)t, Tescani, Romania, 2010; CEC Arts Link in the U.S. (Portland, OR, and NY, 2011); and “Absolute Modern” through TRADUKI and Goten Publishing House in Skopje, Macedonia. 

Florin Bican studied English at the University of Bucharest, Romania, where he became a compulsive translator of Romanian literature. 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 writes articles for British and American magazines and works on subversive children’s literature. His first volume of poetry, A Slob’s Treasury of Verse (Bucharest, 2007), is a collection of politically incorrect cautionary rhymes. In May 2013, he published his second volume of unorthodox children’s poetry, The Recyclopedia of Rhyming Nonsense