Radu Vancu (Sibiu, Romania, 1978) is a Romanian poet, scholar and translator. He works as an associate professor at the Faculty of Letters and Arts at the „Lucian Blaga” University from Sibiu and as an editor of the Poesis International magazine. He is also the coordinating editor of the literary section of the Timpul magazine. He is the national editor of the Romanian section for the Poetry International website. Starting with 2002, he has published seven books of poems, for which he was awarded several prizes, both national and international. He has also published a children novella. His scholarly publications include two book-length essays on Mihai Eminescu and Mircea Ivănescu, as well as a study on the anti-humanist poetics of modernity. Together with Claudiu Komartin, he is the co-editor of the anthologies Best Romanian Poems of the Year (2010, 2011, and 2012). He has translated novels and poetry, mainly from the works of John Berryman and W.B. Yeats; he is also the translator of the on-going four-volume Ezra Pound edition published under the cure of Horia-Roman Patapievici. He is an organizer of the International Poetry Festival in Sibiu.


[from the volume 4 A.M. Domestic Cantos, Casa de editură Max Blecher, 2015]




Canto I


There will be people and they will push the world further.

Today it is evening, we are building a Lego police station

and we are watching Cars.

Today the world does not deserve to be pushed further than that.


Today we have not seen the sun struggling tetanized

in the sky. It seemed it never existed.

Today God was not the concept with which

we measure our pain, as John sings.

Maybe it measured the convulsions and torture of the sun,

what do I know. For us there existed

only the slow growth of the police station

and no sun to ruin any plans

above it.


We need a Lego sun shining without alternative

above a Lego abyss. Young Lego peasants

from a Lego Galilee

taking upon them all the Lego sins and dejections.

We need Lego children singing:

“in the shadow of the Lego cross we sat down and wept.”

A Lego John Lennon singing about

Lego gods and concepts and pains.

Only then will the sun struggle happily

in convulsions. Only then will the world deserve

to be pushed on.


Today it is evening, we are building a Lego police station

and we are watching Cars. The milk

gets warm in the white tin cup.

Nothing, and this is no big talk – nothing

can push us further.













Canto XIII


How strange it seemed to me when

Mircea Ivănescu told me that he

shaved without looking in the

mirror. The small cuts on

his face seemed to me

an absurd poem each. I counted them

as an anthology.


Today I shave and brush my teeth without

looking in the mirror. Avoiding to

see my eyes. The eyes are the only

part of the brain that can be seen,

isn’t it. But I’m not contemporary

with my brain. Which is a

privilege. I prefer


to keep my eyes stuck on the

small bathroom window. The blade

works on my cheeks and

throat. I’ll count

later the cuts as a



Meanwhile, those arrived a few

centuries ago in my brain

smite him with thick crowbars

of light.  Good for them. They torture

him as a traitor and apostate.

So it is.


And if from time to

time it groans almost

humanly, do not be im-

pressed. I am not. His groans

are not contemporary

with me. Mashed under the

crowbars of light, this brain

who had the air of a

perfect victim

really was one.


He will sometime count

his disasters as an

anthology. This will  also be

a privilege.




Canto XIV


Someday this day will also be as blinding

as a madhouse

and I am broken by all this living.


I was 17 and I was a porter

at a wholesale on Siretului street

and unloaded ten tons of sugar

all alone in two hours

and I was not half as

broken as I am now, five minutes

after I left Sebastian at the

kindergarten. I was 19 and daddy had

hanged himself for nearly a month and I was

all Kierkegaard and vodka

and I was not a quarter so

broken as now. I was hell

knows how old and I kept deviating

from poetry and I was all

broken and blinding as after

ten tons of sugar.


As after ten days of

Kierkegaard and vodka.


We were three porters on Siretului,

me the youngest and the only one hired

under the table. We carried tons daily

and the wood crates were full of

nails and our bloodied shoulders

were sweet as sugar. As Søren.

As vodka. One of those perverse

worlds which give you the

illusion that poetry really

exists and matters. In which the neck

knows it is hangable and sings

with happiness. In which the mind

is filled with sugar and evil

and knows that someday

this blinding day

will be real and will be

the same madhouse.


You hangable neck, you heart

of vodka and sugar – I know, you carry

tons daily and keep deviating

from poetry. Calm down, however,

I swear on the hanger on which

I put every morning the small clothes of

Sebastian at the kindergarten:

one day, vodka and Kierkegaard

will no longer exist. We will be

old caterpillars. I will no longer suffer.


Canto XV


For several months now

I’m again afraid of the dark, when

I go to bed to sleep

or to make love

I cling to Cami as a drowning man

to his stump and try not

to fall there.

Like in the months after his death,

when I could only sleep

with the light on. And when

I fell asleep, I also arrived

in a place with the lights on

and from there fear was only a



The light is always on since

then, especially in the dark

once can see that best,

what’s most pathetic is that I still

believe that beauty exists, to still

believe that when your brain lies

for 17 years now in the middle

of a crude light is endless

and unexcusable stupidity.

You can believe in virgins who give birth

and in people who rise from the dead,

but to still believe in beauty

after seeing that the erection

of the hanged is no myth

is worse than a crime.

It’s horror.


I realize that I write for 12

minutes and I have already come to

say stuff more intimate

than masturbation.

Ugly habit this poetry, though.







Canto XXV


White picket fence: a small kid

satchel illuminating all the



White picket fence: a child holding

tight the doll to his chest and jumping

into sleep as from a



White picket fence wood: children’s eyes

moving in sleep on the rhythm

of a rope which is



Oh yes, Anne Sexton, surely we can

build white picket fences

which to keep

nightmares away. One can build

whole worlds in which thought

does not tear the brain. In which

innocence is not only for

the children and the devastated;


and our mutilation

will tenderly subtitle

how the mother calls her child

at the table;


and somwhere at the edge of the fairyland

we, the “perifairyal”, we’ll write

elegant domestic cantos

about mutilation.


But for








Dad, you talked to me too much,

enough, for now I’ll talk to you.

Not in dreams, but for real.


And I say it plain from the outset:

no matter how much I love your suicide,

I will not commit suicide.


However technicolor death is,

however beautiful we would both look

in the film with our suicides directed


by we know who, however much

pure poetry is in suicidology textbooks –

I will not commit suicide.


I’ve also cut my arms with a razor blade,

I’ve got on them more scars

then pictures with us, or with you only.


I’ve drunk canfuls of methyl alcohol,

hoping terrified to die directly,

not to wake up blind the next day.


You think I do not know how sweet

the blade deepens in the flesh

of the forearm, going ever deeper


in the cuts juicy with blood

through  which will all-splashingly move

the gilded-wheels chariot of God?


You think I do not see how the scars turn

irradiant as spoiled children

whenever I think of you?


I envied, I still almost faintingly envy

the dead so immersed in their silence

like roses quitely smelling themselves.


But, dad, roses are without why,

they blossom as people commit suicide.

They have no other choice. As I also don’t:


After I cut the rope around your neck,

you only had to meet my eye.

I have to meet Sebastian’s eyes.


And now, alone among your roses,

you only have to meet God’s eye.

While I have to meet Sebastian’s eyes.


So understand and forgive, father –

I will not commit suicide.

(And only this is, actually, a suicide.)































The night sky was gently lit, it was such a peace

that I had to remember

my cousin Radu, how he pulled away

the crows’ heads with his teeth. And then he laughed

with the crows’ little eyes looking at me imploringly

from between his indifferent teeth.


And I remembered how my friends in Cisnădie,

generous kids who would have died

for each other (and, by association,

also for me), hanged cats upside down

on the carpet-beater frame

and turned them into meat paste

with the baseball bats. How they drowned dogs,

laughing like crystalline angels at the

horror in their faithful eyes.


Stars looked at me with the eyes of a faithful dog

while you laughingly push

his head underwater.


If I still drank, this was a good time

for vodka. If I smoked, for

a nail. To defend my brain

from the metastasized brain in the sky.

I closed my eyes, like a cat

hanging on a carpet-beater frame,

and I waited happily.










I had found with my brother Iuli

behind the block

a she-hedgehog with cubs.

Look what this is about:


I took them in my arms,

I was scared, but the hedgehog and the cubs

were so scared that

one could see the God of the hedgehogs

hovering over them.


I took them in the laundry room,

at the fourth floor, near our door.

And when I put them in the carton box,

with a thick coverlet beneath them

and grass on the coverlet,

with our little tea cups

filled with water for them –

they were so scared that one could see

even the Holy Spirit of hedgehogs

wrapping them like a coverlet

of thick light

with grass and little tin cups on it.


And we were so scared

and happy, that our hearts

were floating and twitching

somewhere in front of our bodies,

as only after I had cut

the noose around dad’s neck

and I thought he was still breathing

and God floated like

a coverlet of breathing

above him

I have also seen.


I covered the carton box

with a thin plywood. I closed the window

of the laundry room so that

they could not jump. I closed the door

of the laundry room with the key.

The next morning they were gone. The door

closed, also closed the window, the plywood

untouched. I was not too surprised,

as I was also not too surprised

when my father disappeared.


And my brother Iuli, in Kutna Hora,

40 km from Prague, makes computer keyboards –

and that does not surprise me

too much. Not as much as the

coverlet of light wrapping his

every gesture, leaving the rest of him untouched,



This was what it was actually about.











Canto XL


Last time we have drunk together

five quarts of Floris. They were prepared

for mother’s day. It was after

I had hit you, you were not talking to me

and I waited for mommy to leave,

I took the bottles from the fridge,

I called you at the kitchen table


and we went on a bender. It rained

with Floris in our hearts and we

embraced and fraternized within them.

Everything was once again to be destroyed

after that. You were so alive

and I think I was already remembering

how you will die in my arms.


I admit: I am a cloth. I cry with happiness

when I remember how

you died in my arms. The orphan air

also cried blue with happiness

above you. There began a new

world: there was nothing to be destroyed

after that.


How happy the man when he thinks he’s drinking

Floris and he actually sings Requiescat in Pace.

When he thinks he clinks glasses

and actually their clinking is the Holy Father

translated into the language of the tumblers.

I am ashamed knowing that, while reading this,

you suffer and I do not. I’m


ashamed to know that the Floris

has elegantly fucked us. Chapeau,

brother Floris, your trick worked. When we

got sober, you told me: “hey, cubbie,

I’m proud of you because you haven’t puked “.

When we wake up again, I am curious

if you still think so.









Canto XLII


All day there leaked out on the sky

a sun made of the softest bacon

and it was all greasy. We quarreled

all day and he did not speak to me

and my brain was greasy

with fear. No difference

between the brain and the sky, just as



My bench colleague

in high school, the schizophrenic

painter Silviu V. I was,

I’m sure now, very

in love with him. He told me

in the tenth grade, looking at me

with his hallucinated eyes, that

he will not live much longer. And I

saw then that he was indeed

very old. His eyes

of a teenager eaten by

schizophrenia and old age.

My brain was

greasy with fear and I think

it was only then that I became

a teenager. He did not die.

He painted divinely and wrote poetry

execrably. Like me, just that

I did not paint.


The cat plays patiently

with the mouse, waits

for the neurochemistry of terror

to sweeten its

flesh. With our brains

greased in fear as in honey

who is playing patiently,

who licks from the honeycombs

of soft bacon

their schizophrenia and adolescence.


Something tells me I should

pray that Silviu V.

has died by now.


And I pray, with my brain all

adolescence and fear and honey.

And I admire my moral clarity

as a bodyguard admires his


As the cat admires its clean

fur, while patiently


Stop watching me.

Canto XLV


I worked as a painter back then,

dozens after dozens of pipes painted

yellow day after day. I was standing 12

meters above the ground, moving

the brush and writing incessantly in

my mind metaphysical poems. I found

them great, but I lacked the courage

to transcribe them.


Writing metaphysical poems when there were

so many pipes to paint seemed

cowardly to me. So it was.

Writing metaphysical poems is

cowardly anyway. For all

poems keep quiet about pipes and

calluses. And about the guy with 5

little children who crushed himself against

the floor of the sports hall. When they all write

about tumors and heart attacks, I write about

calluses and crushes. The cantos of the calluses.

The revelations of the crushed.

In them there is all aesthetic boldness and

moral clarity.


Well, what I mean: I was painting the pipes

in the roof of the sports hall and there came

the foreman and told me, “Put your

safety belt”. And after I tied it he

hit me badly: “you fuck, don’t be

a poet, put your belt, don’t strike down the others

’cause you dream about shit.” It was after the first

crush. I found this quite justly, so I

stayed for a while with the belt on. And even after

I gave up the belt,

my foreman and the critic Lucian Raicu seemed to me

my contemporaries who thought

most justly

about poetry.


It did not last, though. I had the courage to give up

the belt, but I lacked the courage

not to write. The summer passed, I returned

to college, literature ate me.

When I go with Sebastian to basketball

matches, I always tell him: “You know, daddy

painted those pipes up”. “Why”, he

asked me at the beginning. Now

he does not ask. He just nods

boredly, asks me to take him on

my shoulders, then screams while watching

the match. I hold his legs tight

as a belt.


Canto XLVI



4 A.M. The hour when

several billion neurons

are just as lonely

as 7 billion

people. And helpless,

and ferocious. Nothing

prepares you to overcome

this hour. And, in fact,

you never overcome

this hour.


It was about then that

all the poems in

this book came. It’s always

4 A.M. in them. Do not

get fooled by their

demented happiness.

They are helpless and alone

and ferocious. And hardly wait

to self-destruct.


What the hell, who am I fooling

here. They are written around

4 A.M., right, but they are mild

and good like some nuns

with Alzheimer’s. And just as

alone and helpless.

Praying and forgetting that

they prayed and praying again

until they enter into coma.

Who am I fooling












[from the volume Rope in Bloom, Max Blecher Publishing House, 2012]

translation from Romanian by Nigel Walker & Zenovia Popa


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”.

































[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 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.







[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


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 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.






[from the volume The Happy Monster, Cartier Publishing House, 2009]

translation from Romanian by Martin Woodside




Fourteen beers is bad, fourteen beers plus a pint of vodka is better.

Clearly, Marx was right:

500 ml makes for an ideal demonstration

that, after a point,

quantity transforms into quality.

The souses had Marx in their soul,


whether they know it or not.

That’s why discussions in the pubs of Romania

so closely resemble those in Dostoevsky’s “The Possessed,”

and for the same reason true drunkards are anti-communist –

any socialist atheist who drinks with purpose

becomes, after a certain threshold, a mystic anarchist.


When you find the guts to stop drinking, it’s over.

You’ve reached the end, the landmark where quantity

can no longer transform into quality.

Your are already, in all likelihood, a perfect mystic

with the appropriate set of regrets at hand.

It’s bad not to have the guts. And much better, after the first shot of vodka.










Reasons for survival
Happy the monster who can view his memories

without hatred and disgust.

Why would he be sentimental like that serial killer

who smiles tenderly watching the news

as his victims flash by?

To not hate & not love your memories –
As you realize that one of them can approach

the lukewarm light in your mind, crush it

like a viper. Without hate, only for the sake

of survival. Like  pressing DELETE

to remove a typo.

Immediately after, run to the kitchen,
to the refrigerator, remove the bottle, go to the cupboard

for the glass, for quick, short shots

all for the sake of survival

and still deleting all with one click,

then admire yourself at your leisure: glory to thee,

you are about to become happy.







Summa ethilica


Once I wished with all my heart, almost religiously,

to become a committed vodka drinker.

I would have given even my soul for this.


My alcoholism reared from the most respectable cultural sources:

each glass of vodka made me think,

above all, of Thomas Aquinas:

40 percent liquid hell in iridiscent light

forced me to see the meaning of

integritas, consonantia, claritas.


Then suddenly you appeared before me,

Cami, you painful teetotaler.

Your missionary ways converted me to the monotheism of hops.

Alcohol would now cap off at five percent;

I resigned myself to this ethylene ice age

because our love prefers proletarian sand in the urethra,

cultivating in its place class hatred for the artistocratic cirrhosis.

The only Marxist accent of a mystic love.


I remember more of Thomas Aquinas

having only my ever expansive belly

to seriously rival the Angelic Doctor.

But I accept this in good graces,

because I have gone far enough to desire

to be a good man, not an interesting one.

For that, now, I would surely give my soul.








The royal path



When dawn breaks and, shy, the Scheherazade

of ethyl falls quiet, hepatic cells clang with alarums & excursions,

like rural noblemen hearing

that the crown prince is making his annual visit

in the countryside domain.

Only now the true journey begins


on the royal path between the esophagus and the liver.

The body waddles towards the sleep, but the inner

to-and-fro wakens. The body is sound asleep,

but the liver is almost incandescent,

his gehennas liquify & disintegrate

& purify everything in the eternal fire,


so that the viscid body is immaculate

on the inside like the angels’. Who watches

the souse gasp has no idea that within him

is being perfected the Great Askesis of redemption through liver,

who demands to incessantly listen to your Scheherazade

with eyes round like the edge of the tsuika tumblers.











Cami Kaze



Our love is an old alcoholic:


Effusion & huff.

Ecstasy & depression.

Repentance & dipsomania.

Absolute dependence.


On the other hand, even if anti-alcoholic and abstinent

like a new Protestant pilot from the NATO troops,

it would still be a demented love in a demented world.


The patiently prepared looping attack

would still be part of the world which enters a loop

when the phone rings, the display reads Cami

and the cohorts of bottles complicate the yearning,


as another déja-vu is my kami kaze urge

to lower the plane’s nose

and to stick the world in its point

like a Death’s-head hawkmoth.


Hell knows. Our love

entertains herself by imitating an old alcoholic.

So it goes. 4 missed calls, reads the Philips enemy.

I take a hopeful sip from the bottle:

it’s time to start walking, professional Cami Kaze,

towards you.










The mystical drosophila


What a bad bargain this bottle of gin,

what a bad bargain all this night.

In vain does the light unfold elegiac fringes

on the table cloth, passing with the dawn through

the transparent Wembley remains.

Real inebriation has not come.

Bitter alcohol hasn’t done anything for me this time.


A little fruit fly has been standing still for some minutes

near the glass, waiting probably

for the one trapped beneath the glass.

I drank all night so that two drosophilae

may play Tristram and Isolde.

That’s all the love alcohol may still procure me now.


But as a sexy drosophila Cami also waits

for someone to free her fat dumb drosophila-guy

from beneath the glass, so that they can fly together far away,

in the country of repentant anti-alcoholic fruit flies.

Cami knows that at the end of all glasses

someone will lift the glass

and her souse will be free.


It’s a good day start, though.




















The new world

But, for the time being, this world only:
the world which began that November morning
sometime between five to eleven
and five after eleven, with your small yelp
announcing the definitive separation of the vertebrae
and the mechanical erection of the hanged.

Your world ended with the great wooden animal,
and its cold rough skin, in whose belly
you were enclosed. Skilled people
carefully set the beige animal in the ground,
its pup still in its marsupium
and drew earth above it like a curtain.

And then the air was drawn like a curtain
and I saw the new world: you rested on your seventh day,
with a tankard of cheap brandy in front of you, happy as a king,
a second one poured and set out for me.
My bones melted with bliss and dread and I remained forever grateful
to the animal who had brought you there to be born.

(translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Radu Vancu)






Life of proximity. Morning

It’s excellent, in general, not to live,
not to open the eyes, to hunker down under the blanket
as if in a textile coffin, comfy, just a touch too small.
But then come the filter’s borborygma, and Elite’s flavour,
and the world which mustn’t exist
finally incarnates from her voice.

With dead sleepy eyes, you slowly-slowly get it together:
yes, it’s the world in which he killed himself when you were 19
& in which mom is suspected with breast cancer.
Bring the theodiceans, to kick their asses.
Sitting up on the bed, you strain and plunge
like a frogman among wobbegong dorsal fins.

And surprise – the air is not liquid, is not a sea
jam-packed with ravenous sharks. The air hits your head
like an invisible cast iron plaque, and she asks:
“Why do you groan?” Hair stood up for fear,
you stumble to the bathroom, close the door and listen your heart:

Translated by Radu Vancu


























[from the volume Biographia litteraria, Vinea Publishing House, 2006]




When you watch the rain through the window at the faculty office
and memories and raindrops make your flat soul tremble,
so your mind spreads outward in wider and wider circles.
When long-forgotten harpies unfurl invisible wings and in your flesh soon
a flight deeper than flesh itself struggles. When with cracked lips
your soul softly whistles a wistful bittersweet tune.


When the rain has stopped and the vodka is but a memory,
as much memory as my father, also manacled to vodka by handcuffs
probably always a reminder to him, with the same evil disposition
with which it serves as a reminder to me, that being Vancu is hard labour, and
with a subtle wickedness taut about the soul’s wrist, more tightly
clasped with every drunken spree, ever more regrettable handcuffs.
When he hanged himself, before the paramedics arrived
I gave him artificial respiration – the last gasp of air wheezed from his lungs
and life soared all around and death soared all around and rather absurdly
I thought he still kept breathing, I came near to a romp,
his air was my air and I’m not dead yet, and with deaf ears
I heard the paramedics say: he’s dead. Memories make you happy


Translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Radu Vancu





















Oh, father . . .

She is the grass, as the poet said, she covers everything, Waterloo, Austerlitz then you, one of
my weary soul’s greatest battles, still exhausted, with broken thighs;
she ceaselessly invaded the place where they laid you, after the asinine burial speech,
dug with her chloformed being deep in the dead earth
methodically she tore down the green pyramid like a vegetal tent
in which you sleep, the last Pharoah, the wooden sarcophagus masking your absence.

We were grass, we stretched out like some grass animal, giggling amorously
over your body, when you came home drunk sprawling on the rough carpet,
saying: hey, little chicken, love your daddy. Life floated around you, misting
reeking of vodka though I didn’t understand then
how obscenely cheap it was, and you slept, snoring as I snore now. Mama
crying on occasion when she found you on the floor.

The grass is, es ist so, as the great man would say, you are not, and am I truly
here, with Camelia beside me, the violent gusts cutting more and more
like stone, asking myself who lives us and who lives the grass,
what lives us so differently? Cold. November is the cruelest month. Night grows.
We creep silently among the tall grass. What lives us kills us.

translation from Romanian by Martin Woodside























The genesis of metaphor and the sense of memory

This girl, whom Blaga describes tasting the plums from the cemetery
to see whether the dead who nourished them were good or bad—
just like her my soul searches restlessly, striking powerfully
against walls of flesh with memories, chimes of remembrance
sounding sometimes sweet, sometimes putrid and bitter, like the juices which,
oozing from the corpse of the time when you were living, are their placentary food.

The analogy with the „Genesis of metaphor” goes even further:
the peasants in Lancram boiled the plums grown from the flesh of the dead
until they were transformed into the brandy which macerates life and death.
Similarily, memories ferment their dead time in me as in a narcissist hogshead
until their squashing inconsistency oozes a spirt
from which I can’t sober up, gliding back and forth between heaven and sheol.

Not deep enough in my soul, squashed and compact like the earth,
memories germinate relentlessly, always more, always more fertile,
their branches reaching ever higher with each passing moment
and the fruit of memories, with their contained spirits, never cease to abound.
So only that, when the plum brandy sends a burning chill through me,
they fall, rot and nourish the beloved germinations. The memories are about the future.


translation from Romanian by Martin Woodside