Dan Coman was born in 1975 in Gersa (Romania). He published three books of poetry, anul cârtiței galbene (The year of the yellow mole, Timpul Publishing House, Iaşi, 2003), Ghinga (Vinea Publishing House, Bucharest, 2005), Dicţionarul Mara, ghidul tatălui 0-2 ani (Mara Dictionary, father guide: 0-2 years, Cartier Publishing House, Chişinau, 2009) and two anthologies of his own poetry: d great coman (Vinea Publishing House, Bucharest, 2007) and erg (Charmides Publishing House, Bistrita, 2012). He also published three novels: (Irezistibil (Irresistible, Cartea Românească Publishing House, 2010), Parohia (The Parish, Cartea Românească Publishing House 2012), Căsnicie (Polirom Publishing House, 2015). He won the following prizes: The Writers Union Prize Award, 2004, Mihai Eminescu Award, Opera Prima, 2004, Radio Romania Cultural Award 2010, Crystal Vilenica Prize, Slovenia, 2011. He is present in the following anthologies: Om jag inte får tala med någon nu: 27 poeter från Rumänien, Bokförlaget Tranan, Sweden, 2011, Of Gentle Wolves, An Anthology of Romanian Poetry edited by Martin Woodside, Calypso Editions (2011), The Vanishing Point that whistles, Talisman House Publishers, Massachusetts, 2011, Anthologie de la poésie roumaine contemporaine, (Paris), 2008, Iz Novije Rumunske Poezije, Serbia, 2009, Pesniki, Cakajoci na angela, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2010, Szabadulas a gettobol, Hungary. In 2012, the anthology Ghinga was published in Edition Solitude, Stuttgart, translated into German by Georg Aescht. His poems have been translated into German, Swedish, French, English, Slovenian, Serbian, Hungarian and published in several literary magazines.
several times a week there are new mornings
mornings that seem as good as any other
if they don’t quite reach a meter’s height
some educational cubes for children under one
coffee no longer fits in
tobacco no longer leaves the mouth and
our love sits close between us like a cow
shedding its hair
mara walks here
walks all sorts of small bodies
for whom the air is just a toy
to push quickly-quickly in the nose
these are new mornings
powdered milk rolls all over the length of them
a Chicco sun ticks endlessy over their width
these are new mornings
a meter above them
our large bodies float already belly-up.
biscuits with apple sauce
I stay with mara at the window.
a beautiful winter’s day
it snows as we eat biscuits with apple sauce
not saying a thing.
each with the whole winter morning before us.
sometimes we stop eating and
press our noses to the glass
we stay that way without saying a thing
breath warms my face slowly
and slowly-slowly mara’s breath
spreads warmth throughout the park.
I wake up every morning before five
and like this, unwashed without tobacco
like this, in the dark and cold
I get out of bed on all fours
feeling for it.
before five he’s no more than a glass bead
when I touch him whoosh
leaping to some other part of the room.
I pick him up quickly, using only two fingers
roll him only on the carpet
lest he make noise and
wake the girls.
so it’s this way at five on all fours with this sun
this sun in the room rolled for hours on end
until like a snowball it grows quite large
until it begins to brighten begins to warm
though it’s only after growing so large
brighter and warmer
it’s only then that the sweat pours out
the Chicco sun sweating likes a grown man
and at eight when the girls wake up
they must open the window
needing nearly an hour to air out the room.
all day it couldn’t get any better as all day
we are stuffed little men,
and mara comes between clothing us combing us
gently palming our bottoms
mara comes and mounted on some plastic ducks
floats us out in coffee
all day it couldn’t get any better as all day
we are snow white with the seven dwarves
mara comes among us and
unscrews our hans
unscrews our feet and cleans off our stomachs
pulling out all the oakum and wool
all day it couldn’t get any better
only at night do we become full of flesh
only at night when mara finally sleeps
when we squeeze quickly under the blanket
and in silence slap against one another
like two chicken legs.
the ninth ward, maternity
I enter the ninth ward a sheep hung at the neck.
the security guards take me for a priest
keep following after me
keep lifting the sheep like on a cross
kissing it on the muzzle.
and this scared sheep hidden-in my clothing as in the grass
causes Tlinda to burst out laughing.
before she rises from bed
I see how slyly she arranges her beating heart as though
arranging a peasant skirt under the table.
birthing-birthing, stale fragment of air over a kitchen sink
as the nurse pushes in with her needle, zzzt,
the sheep at my neck sleeps now, like some bats
the other women hang there heads down,
careful not to unsettle the milk.
birthing-birthing, from this fragment of air comes nothing.
I sit on the edge of the bed and from the compote I open
first trickles of coffee.
like a small field of weeds
the powdered milk has invaded the shelves
casting shadows in the room and in these shadows
Tlinda seduces, massages the other milk.
I see all too well: her sad and confused
signaling me to help
and then I slip my head under the blanket
slip my head into the gown to the height of the breast
I press my ear close but hear nothing
perhaps, I say, mother’s milk makes no sound
and then summoning courage I squeeze the breast a few times
and the nipples snap like fingers
but apart from a burst of fresh air in my eyes
nothing, not a drop.
don’t worry Tlinda, I whisper, don’t worry
my comforting words stain her gown like cabbage rolls.
it’s late now, better you go
and I know from her blushing
that it’s time to nurse I start to go
but suddenly, in the ninth ward, life begins
row after row of women beginning to breathe to whimper
and rising now the way coffee rises an umph ah oy
slapping stomachs with both hands
the sound of milk in the breast like a jet of espresso
row after row rising up to form a perfect Indian chain
they begin to rock begin to chant
praise for natural breast milk
one after another laying hand to shoulder
then making little circles with their feet
and hop-hop one by one hop-hop out of the ward
and here goes Tlinda well behind the rest
red-red in the face and
without that hop-hop in her step
there she goes leaving with a bottle of formula in her arms
as if she went with a sack of potatoes
as if she went out directly her breasts exposed
making no sign for me to wait
and so I wake the sheep at my throat
we walk like the women, those who’ve just given birth
and sneak into the ward bathroom
for a smoke.
Translated by Martin Woodside and Ioana Ieronim
not for a moment did I stop talking to myself as if to a woman
but today my shamelessness exceeds my fancy.
it’s past midnight and for an hour I’ve been turning round and round myself
with dizzying speed and kissing my hands.
I have no power to abstain. it’s beyond my power.
just knowing I’m there inside him and my body reacts
like ten cats in heat all together like no one else.
I’ve tried everything. complete silence total rest. it’s in vain.
every time I spoke my mouth was ready to devour itself
because of such sonorous splendor such mastery.
for months on end I tried to humiliate myself. utterly in vain.
in truth: I never stopped talking to myself as if I were a woman
but today when I’d scarcely managed to put my body to sleep
then the tension between him and me had nearly dissipated.
though nothing was more powerful and nothing could stop me:
I raised myself in all my splendor above my body I pinned him between the pillows
and as if he were a woman a few strong and precise movements were enough
for his stifled screams to cover my screams.
impossible to move
I’m impossible to move, there is nothing inside me
still I’m impossible to move with the force of only one man.
like a massive piece of living-room furniture.
like anything that means nothing in itself.
but I talk. I talk until the skin of my cheeks bursts.
I never stop talking.
all my force gathers like a spring inside my mouth
and mercilessly beats out sound after sound. phrase after phrase.
nobody ever seems to get tired of understanding nothing of what I say.
nobody seems annoyed because there’s nobody left.
that’s how I was born. straight out of the ground impossible to move
directly with words outside mine. exactly like this.
like anything else that means nothing in itself.
Translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Paul Doru Mugur.