Four Poems

Ion Monoran

Locus Periucundus (I)

becoming a village
this cluster of ruins
gently sloped beneath the trees, beneath bending
boughs, so that from place to place
fragments of wall peer out of the foliage,
a clutter of refuse
collapses into silence,
interrupted only by the murmur of countless
flowing streams
on winding narrow streets
and by the chatter of villagers
or the wide-eyed, ignorant
menacingly dangling their clubs
above the hill’s crest,
behind their herds,
and among the brambles and blackberries
that impede the ewes’ ascent.

It is essential
to venture up there
amid the vineyards dull and bright,
to admire the hills
bombarded with rural echoes,
and to roam the dung-speckled grasslands
to reach
these Loci Periucundi
as Pliny would say—
places infused with the mysterious
presence of spirits
which give you an unsettling feeling
even when they are spelled out on paper,
not to mention to encounter them here
frightening and cheerful,
in a slow affected ostentation
on the muddy footpaths shaded by thickets
from which curious news arrives
in light and shadow,
sweetened by bird song
or muffled by a profusion
of serpentine creeper vines
winding through trees.

this green daedal country
by the language of birds and flowers,
a country prepared to take back its fauns and satyrs
concealed in the rocks
overgrown with ferns and wild roses—
as if designed in mad disarray
by a frivolous gardener
and in chaotic succession,
as if especially intended for lovers
seeking a hidden place for love.

In these places,
ruling for millennia,
hawk, bat, or cuckoo
have fulfilled their roles as augurs,
as angels and archangels, but now
hang as simple decorations
or as red penalty cards,
torn apart by weather and neglect.

the urgency of this beautiful,
almost Rousseauian spontaneity,
churches still loom
in the oppressive religiosity
of the peasants
who, notwithstanding their kindness and courtesy,
are more renowned
for the quality of their wines and brandy
than any worship of saints
or their practice of the Mysteries
dedicated to Zamolxis or Dionysus.

The peasants are simple,
a living material
of farmers or miners or shepherds
and live their lives in these villages
built from these high walls and rubble—
rather more medieval than ancient.
And only my imagination
helps me see them
dissolve into the dream-light of an antiquity
that swarms everywhere,
reviving from these stones
with uncertain meaning,
the great towers of an almighty
Dacian stronghold,
which, in their long-lasting wanderings,
the Romans besieged.


Rain—not tears—
under the flood of curses and gnashes
that collapsed the moujiks’ plate of chow,
into the colors of one hundred lei,
what power, what pallor, what
treachery guarantees you a Balcescu.
You’re not forced to swallow swords,
to dwell beneath piles of lies.
A blister of a man, a blister, a zero.
That glittery paper swells within you.
A moujik like your old man (at twenty
you hope to repair yourself) and in those overalls
bespattered with the spittle and the belches of that seized engine,
in the munching noises of the building,
eating tins of vegetable stew, dozing in barracks
splattered in “we host girls” boy graffiti,
discharging wagons, digging foundations in December,
stripped to the waist.
Soldier, locksmith, lathe and bulldozer operator.
A blister of a man, a soiled fifteen-hundred man.
Your life runs on without these moldy lands.
The blue hailstones of the furnaces darken your vision.
Black smoke black gas blue-green or yellow gas
floats on the dais of the most absurd narratives.
Heroism, fanfare, tiny snapping flags—world of whirlpools
in a muddy future of bogs,
with its fresh and potent sugarcane.
O plebeian beauty—in these agitated mornings—
by Venus’ eternal birth, I belong to you.
O plebeian beauty, our youthful misery!


Toward evening,
I believed in your sunburnt pasture,
and like a vagrant in a red sweater,
I avoided the villages,
skipping back and forth over the Timis River,
crashing into
high-voltage power lines,
into tractors and ploughs.

I trusted you with our terrible love.

Reading the newspapers at random,
not suspecting that the tastes of the era might
completely change the tradition,
without knowing that for you destiny
is no chasm, even if it opens
a similar perspective;
as long as cities and factories will be built,
new generations will be forced to comprehend
that this will change no one.

I believed in you

like a big bad beast of burden
with gentle salt-lick eyes,
confused that there are no distances
between our villages, a lonely room
far up in the blue remoteness.


This Night that leans against sulfur skeletons
among trees

and Ion Monoran, rebuilt from metal sheeting
and old car wheels

is about town
and much more youthful and cantankerous,

carelessly rolling
he blows his nose at the traffic lights

and that fear of loneliness smears on the windshield.

Ion Monoran
in his tremendous desire to be young

is against
lyrical individuals

and is against
Ion Monoran as long as he deems it necessary.

translated from the Romanian by Marius Surleac and Marc Vincenz