Poems by Radu Vancu

[from the volume Flowered String, Max Blecher Publishing House, 2012]

translation from Romanian by Nigel Walker & Zenovia Popa [MTTLC student]
click pentru versiunea română


What is one of your dead people telling you

the dearest, the most beloved among the dead,

when your heart allows you to dream him:


’Do not get scared, it is extremely simple,

everything you were told during seven years

of good family upbringing is true:


there are people and people are good.

souls are alive and kicking,

sheltered in layers of meat


like the recidivists in bunks,

tender and embracive homicides.

And you shall be answered


unequivocally, just when you say “angel

my little angel who was given to me” the air

shall be pieced, pulled


from things like a shiny packaging

from a gift promised long ago,

and inside the air shall jump,


with the professional movements of a stripper

leaping from the cake, the little angel.

As long as you look flabbergasted at him, he’ll go



ups-a-daisy, afterwards it comes down

like a hang-glider towards you. But

almost always, as if unwillingly,


the little angel lands in a legion of pigs

and damned he seems of mercury,

this is how he enters and spreads through porky bodies.


You do not get to wonder much, an unseen

hand slaps raffishly two pokes

behind the ear, he lies you on your back,


with an unseen scalpel he opens

the chest cage, than puts

his unseen fingers full of blood


between the unseen lips full of blood

and whistles cutely like a swineherd.

And the pigs approach you somewhat tenderly


align their muzzle

on the sides of the small trough of ribs

and, happy to see fresh pig swill,


he munches the blood, gobbles up the heart.

Only then, lying on his back,

you see on the sky, flocked like pigs,


panoramic herds of little angels with red-red muzzles,

only incisors, canines and molars, laughing at you.

As I was saying, do not be afraid: this is how the answer

begins, and we all deserve it.

It is extremely simple, the little angel laughing from behind the lards

will explain everything in time.’


What is one of your dead people telling you

the dearest, the most beloved among dead,

when your heart allows you to dream him:


’Dear, on that day when November sun

was warmish like a fresh corpse

and I was dying in your arms


I could not imagine that here,

where everything is dreadfully good,

there is an air strong as vodka, you feel your knees give away.


and it scratches your stomach, that I am waiting for you

more ragged, more groggy,

more famished day by day.


Do not hurry, mind your own living,

I am on my feet here

until you come –


like pottage after sweet exhilaration,

like yoghurt over steatosis liver,

like glucose in macerated veins.


Even if the air here makes me hobnail,

do not hurry, there is no other place to die but here.

I think. So live your happiness,


I shall make eyes at you when you come,

you will not be next a drop in the ocean, it is right,

but you’ll hold me, like then, in the arms


under the warm sun from here,

and perhaps this time I shall recover,

your fresh dead man embrace


will penetrate like an injection with adrenalin

in the heart. Therefore be alive, be happy of your live life,

however ridiculous it may be.”


Here you wake up with your cheeks burning and your brains

steaming in the pannikin skull like a hot potato,

boiled for a long time for a poor meal.



[Here, where we all live the woeful hope of life, in fact there is nobody. The most alive do not know anything about life. The most beautiful did not see the beauty. The most unhappy do not know what misery is. The heart beats with the fanaticism of the little sparrow that goes on flying for minutes after her wings became enflamed all of a sudden.]









[What is really unbearable: not so much the dream as the awakening. And not so much the fear during minutes afterwards, as when you breath in dyspneally in the dark, trying not to wake them up; the fears goes away. The hard part comes in the morning, when small adorable routines refuse to be routines – each little thing, as small as possible, has barbaric reverberations. When you open up a bib, for example, you realize this is how you opened a garrote. Absolutely every gesture is hypersemantic, as if your eyelids were cut and you see, exceedingly clear, an adequate excess of senses. With every dream, another layer from the world of light & paranoia is excavated. After each dream, the universe is horribly sentimentalized.]




What is one of your dead people telling you

the dearest, the most beloved among dead,

when your heart allows you to dream him:


’Dear, each morning,

from 4-5 o’clock, in my chest

an old man with broken eyes


reads poems about us in Braille

with trembling fingers

like your voice then.


And as he reads, the earth enlightens

Like the sky in the east,

When the day is breaking


I see you bent over the coffin,

holding my head in your palms and yelling,

your face enlightened with joy, ’live, live!’,


I like so much watching him,

You are looking at me with eyes full of hope

Of an animal grown for sacrifice.


Then God makes his visit among coffins

as the doctor visits the wards.

And, while you are doing artificial breath,


waiting for the paramedics, He passes among the graves

full of hope, accompanied by archangels & seraphim

like a herd of residents & assistants.


And we, the dead, we bewail from the coffins

like a herd of ill people from the sickbed,

begging for a diagnosis as resonant as possible.


Even if the residents & assistants

rail against us and hurl, He is good

and patient and does not get upset.


He has, like any doctor, an oath to be respected.

And, as he bends over each one of us,

His breath passes through decayed brains


like spirit for bread, he covers the bones in air meat

and the dead is a mole fluttering its wings woozily

And when the paramedics tell you: ’he is dead’,


here a shining sun just arises

like the first fifty of vodka

after a night of dreadful happiness.


He goes further, with the herd gathered

Like a bright overall around his body,

bending over each coffin


as you bend over to through a mouldball.

When he finishes the visit it is almost evening,

the sick are silent as they might be after unexpected diagnoses


and silence covers my room then,

after the paramedics had gone out and you were watching over

near my poor body. Then it is dreaming time’.


You don’t even know how long you have been awake. Lurking

to find out where it floats around the room,

you suspect he sees how it arises


in the eyes of the sacrificial animal

a black sun like the first fifty of vodka

after a night of dreadful happiness.


[You don’t understand how these dreams can make you equally happy and unhappy. But happiness is for the unhappy. The happiness of happy people is a misery. So you think, and you keep feeling your happy heart, with the delicacy of a young elephant crushing calmly the skull with the trunk.]





What is one of your dead people telling you

the dearest, the most beloved among dead,

when your heart allows you to dream him:


’Dear, here it has already started.

It cannot last longer

until it starts there too.


The earth dice jump day and night

like champagne corks

on the dead they cover.


Those covered by a grass too dry

are emblazing and enlighting like indicators.

Mine at least this is how it lightened.


We, suicides, woke up each one of us

as we knocked us off.

One with the knife in the heart,


another with the bullet in his brains,

another with opened veins.

But they are working hard on the image.


I have received the same worn out undershirt

I was wearing when I hanged myself

and I am waiting for you garrote and all,


but raffia was told to blossom,

and God paints butterflies

on each petal from the flowers garrote,


careful as if he were

my best friend

shaving for the wedding.’


Here you wake up. Cami is sleeping peacefully,

Tweety’s pyjamas is raising and coming down slowly,

from the crib one can hear the snot little engine


from Sebastian’s little nose.

As usual, after the disaster

the world is perfect.


What is one of your dead people telling you

the dearest, the most beloved among dead,

when your heart allows you to dream him:


’Dear, there is not a day it does not appear

one you can see immediately

because he is a little dazed, he got here


like a refugee hacked by dogs

& ragged by rangers’ boots

& lighted. A guy who hurled to death


like a famished dog attacks

the ball in flayer’s hand.

Desolated and yet full of hope,


a child waiting every day

to see love in his abuser’s eyes.

I understand him like a brother.


It was love I was expecting too, because

the raffia string tightened full of love

around my neck until it re-absorbed under the skin,


full of love sniffed the mouldballs

over me, full of love the coffin fly

did her business. But I received only


calm & placation, cast over bones & carpentry

like the nard perfume from the alabaster vessel

over the sad tresses. And only then could I understand


love is a raffia string, love

is the ball in the flayer’s hand,

love is the bruises under child’s


full of hope eyes. And perhaps

love is only the terror I am looking at

every refugee hacked by wounds & hopes,


praying It was not you. Day by day, like the child

looking in his butcher’s eye, I am looking in the eyes of the one coming in

and pray not to be you. Stay where there is love,


dear, let the fear anoint my body

for another sepulcher with its nard perfume,

you mind your Paradise CamiSebastian & be love.”



You creep in, groping, outside the room,

the parquet is squeaking under your bare feet, you turn on

the computer, you have to get quickly to the Undenied.


And the moon arising slowly in the corner of the velux window,

and the cooler buzzing slowly, and the refugee heart

deep throat somewhere, and the roars restrained –


all shall repeat again and again, because you know

he is right, and because you know you can never

be love. Just no.


When your heart will be almost love, somebody

will hurl at it like the ball in the flayer’s hand.

You understand him like a brother.

Poems by Radu Vancu

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