Apollodorus the Loose-tongued and the Priests

Ofelia Prodan

               to Günter Grass

Apollodorus' voice is divine
he barely utters two, three fractions
of a word and wonders come to pass

the only thing is, Apollodorus is loose-tongued
and, at the rate he is talking,
wonders occur on a permanent basis

in the land Apollodorus comes from
people got used to those wonders to such an extent
they can't tell apart any more
wonders from everyday things.

the priests are at the end of their tethers
they convene non-stop councils
and hold heated debates on the matter
until they reach the conclusion
that the best they can do
is cut off
Apollodorus' tongue from the root

they take along a butcher's knife
and in the dead of the night tiptoe
into the house of Apollodorus who sleeps like a babe

they tie his hands behind his back
Apollodorus wakes up and struggles to scream
as if on cue, a priest grabs up his tongue
lops it off, drops it into a small sack

the tongue writhes and wriggles in pain
it essays to speak, speak it does
from inside the small sack and wonders occur all over again

without a moment's hesitation the priests light up a pyre
they take out the tongue from the sack, cast it into the flames
and then watch contently as the tongue turns to ashes

now the priests and the rest of the people all wait
for a wonder no matter how small
but in vain—Apollodorus is as mute as a fish

translated from the Romanian by Florin Bican