Divided Heart: painting on slate, Jess Richards 2014.
Wellington, New Zealand
Stained light shines on breath-less angels
who occupy a stone heaven-on-earth without living for touch
without having felt another human enfolding them against soil.
Only the winged can lift themselves so high
but freeze half-way to the clouds
locked in cold bodies, solo-flight paused.
Spring Boulevard 50, in the heart of Bucharest’s former nomenklatura, currently bourgeois neighborhood, is where the former General Secretary’s one-story villa can be found. Împușcatu is what people sometimes call him around here, “the one who was shot,” or Ceașcă, “cup.” They were executed in winter: Nicolae Ceaușescu, and his wife Elena, who was also shot, but in people’s minds this was secondary to her being an insufferable pseudo-intellectual who loved fur coats. And their children, Nicu, Zoe and Valentin, spared during the 1989 Revolution.
She remembers a road that she walked along. Something about joy, maybe, something about light. It was her own lightness, or maybe it was the road’s. She walked it more than once, that week in September, a year past. There were rock walls fringed with pale asters. Tiny white butterflies hovered in sunlight, and the hills were green. That’s all that remained. A year ago, and it has faded.
Translation is home. Whenever I travel, I seek it either by reading translations, or by translating as a grounding exercise. Lately I have been translating into English poems from Jewish Latin American poets, specifically works by conversos or those written in Yiddish and Ladino by immigrants and their offspring. And—in a room of her own—Alejandra Pizarnik, whose life makes me think of Emily Dickinson. I recreated these two poems while visiting my mother, who has been suffering from Alzheimer’s. Pizarnik distills the fibers of existence so as to reveal the madness that palpitates underneath. Her poetry is contagious. The toughest part is to convey her silences. I wish I had met her.
Through mantle, earth, gender, air
through false stories and true
undistracted by pectin, pucker, time
scale, sugar, seed, dripped rainbow of
oil, prism, crushed berry residue, om of home, acid, oxygen song—
I grip jelly jars to my eyes
mock binocular my way to You—