© Cezar Gheorghe

Alina Purcaru (b.1982) is a writer, critic and literary journalist. She has contributed to the collective, experimental novel Rubik (Polirom Publishing House, 2007) and published  a volume of poetry, resistance (Cartea Românească Publishing House, 2016). She has also edited an anthology of personal essays on writing and motherhood called Women writers and children. Collected stories (2014).

She is currently working as coordinating editor  of the weekly cultural magazine Cultural Observer, based in Bucharest.



we recognize each other


small signs of masochisms.

we have inhaled them, shoulder to shoulder,

until they’ve given us a common, chic air.

we don’t need to ask any questions.

we know everything that can be hidden.


fine slag has pervaded our skin,

we feel it as an extravagant make-up


– how our face burns.


it’s as if we got ready for the supreme


every moment,

in the ruined camouflage cabins.

when time comes, it will spring

through all our pores.


we have acquired our gestures and tone

through daily exercises of

getting accustomed.


we slip through tighter and tighter corridors,

take right expertly,

we have known how to read thoughts for long

and we don’t need their words at all now,

they’re good for nothing.


we gather ourselves from the walls in the evening

in our small kitchens.

we boil teas,

preserving our youth and slenderness,

fill in copybooks with recipes for immortality,

cutting on each other in conversations.


we look up to our daily performances,

changing mugs for concoctions,

we ease our laces,

take a deep breath

and just before we start,

we sing the old covers to each other,

climbed on prefabricated worktops.


we know everything we must do

to get to the next stage,


when we become invisible

they will say we have achieved perfection.

for our old bodies

will bring shroud and priceless diadems.

delicate clothes, earned at the price of


and finally, grace.

liberty, they will cry,

the force with which they’ve disappeared.


fat chronicles will fill the shelves to the top

but we know all the fractures,

vital and invisible,

like air.


(Translated by Paula Erizanu)







like luna-betiluna and dora-minodora

we keep going,

day after day,

we cut leaves for all the bugs of the earth.


we put all our strength in the scissors:

our effective chelicerae,

our eastern-girl

frowned eyebrows.


we’ve got used to rust,

in the mellow chilly hollow,

set on a black background.


we don’t give up on our anger.


(Translated by Alexandra Turcu)






we sat the first time at a table laid by strangers:

we didn’t pick the food that was laid in front of us,

and the seats,

like in that game where somebody’s always left in the basket,

we took them by fits and starts.


some crowded at the edge,

others took chairs from the other tables,

some moved away with empty plates,

others laughed and ate and talked

with our unknown neighbours,

several continued the old game of presumptions

by displacing calcified shards

– of amphorae

or who knows –


in the neon light,

they recognized each other.


we stood up in different directions

– it’t embarrassing not to look for anything, not even the smoking area –

we walked around, one on one side,

one on the other,

and unknown people

were making room for us at the corner of the tables.


were pretending we weren’t hungry



were misfits already.


(Translated by Alexandra Turcu)






Let me

tell you

about the evening when I carried

two umbrellas,

on my way home.


I had corrected a text about a man

who uses  two pens:

one to write about himself,

the second one to write about others.


I could not change anything about the number.


my umbrellas bother me,

only one of them is of help,

the other just hangs in my bag

among personal belongings

and other objects

with little



none of them remind me of you,

maybe just this spare umbrella,

the second one – a knob stick

made of new, raw wood

so finely polished,

so that we could keep

our dignity

around the clock.


without a word,

I carried my fatigue, another man’s pens

a useless umbrella

in my old bag,


like a new skin.

(Translated by Alina Purcaru)



Les Très Riches Heures


Most discrete traces:

the windowsill on which you lay your

elbow, fractional changes, the routine

of light, say

every four hours;

a pile of paper sheets, all thinly, equally lined,  I see

the precision of staves, the preparation of  fugues ‒,

fine scratches on the surface of the table,

the shades of vellum still caress the walls.


from here on, we will begin to imagine all the details,

everything that can’t happen

we complete,

we couldn’t be more inventive: we measure


by remnant.


I could check our objects

in detail,

to see how exactly and

what continued

to decay.


I washed the dresses, one at a time,

had my boots mended,

and my pockets filled with countless, crumpled lists,

all new,


you might say.


My lipstick is the same, but slightly blunt by now,

my hair, like you remember it.

the old lamp, though, the first one to be broken.


I sit beside it, still,

I’m trying to recap:


the rarest shade of red in medieval tapestries, extract of grain de kernes,

the colour of power and great prestige

‒ an illusory flame, an optical fault ‒

blue was for fidelity,

as you were explaining

old chronicles to me, with archers and ribboned letters;

the brightly coloured codes,

the seal of rich hours. (Translated by Alina Purcaru)






Seasonal affective disorder


I stand still

in my court yard

and there are days when I do not move


from that point

I describe you again and again

to close

the circle of cruelty.


there are no other accomplices but me.


I spend my siesta hours with the rustle of poplar leaves in my head

I make amulets out of cherry stones

I estimate, I cumber

I lose track


I live with the impression that everything happens at the tree level.


I recognize the hands burrowing in the leafage,

The fingers looking for

the new fruit

the retina attacked by light.


(Translated by Alina Purcaru)