Robert Șerban (b.1970, Turnu Severin) is writer, journalist, producer and moderator of the television show “Pepper on tongue” (TVR Timişoara).

His debut volume of poetry was called Of course I’m exaggerating (1994, awarded with the Romanian Writers Union Prize for Debut). It was followed by Odyssex (poetry, 1996), Pepper on tongue (interviews, 1999, The Prize of the Romanian Writers Union, Timişoara branch), On the trail of the Great River/ Auf den Spuren des grossen Stroms (co-author, poetry and prose, 2002), Timişoara in Three Friends (co-author, poetry, 2003), The Pink Book of Communism (co-author, memoirs, 2004), The Fifth Wheel (interviews, 2004; The Prize of the Romanian Writers Union, Timişoara), Feathertales/ Annusdazumal (prose, 2005), Home Cinema (poetry, 2006, The Prize of The Observator cultural Magazine for poetry, The Prize of the Romanian Writers Union, Timişoara branch), Athenee Palace Hotel (coauthor, theatre, 2007), The Eye with Eaves (press articles, 2007)¸ A carriage loaded with nothing/ EinKarren beladen mit nichts (coauthor, poetry, 2008),The para-fine death (poetry, 2010, The Prize of The Luceafărul de dimineaţă Magazine for poetry, The Prize of the Romanian Writers Union, Timişoara branch), Below the line (poetry, 2015, The Prize of the Romanian Radio Culture, The Prize of  the Ateneu Magazine, The Prize of the Romanian Writers Union, Timişoara branch) etc.

In 2009 the German translation of Home Cinema (Heimkino, beimir) was issued in Germany by Pop Verlag, in 2010 the bilingual volume Биоскоп у мојојкуђи/ Home Cinema appeared in Serbia (at Meridijani Publishing House), in 2012, published in Hungary, at L’Harmattan,the book  Illatos koporsó (A fragrant coffin), and in 2015, in the French translation, La mort parafinne (The para-fine death), at Vinea Editions.

He won a scholarship offered by the Soros Foundation (1995) and literary residencies in Krems (Austria, 2005), Thusis (2007, Switzerland), Winterthur (2009, Switzerland) and Wiena (2013, Austria).

His poems have been translated into several languages (Polish, Czech, English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Yiddish, Norwegian, Swedish, Arabic, Ukrainian, Macedonian, Hebrew etc.) and published in numerous anthologies and literary publications in Romania and abroad.

Robert Șerban is president of the International Festival of  Literature at Timișoara (FILTM).

What is left of life

people are convinced

that in poems nothing ever happens

that they should be read

after death

when it is better to stop having desires



people don’t open slim volumes

and if they do

they notice immediately that inside there are

just a few words on the line

just a few words on the page

and otherwise

white a lot of white

and they close them quickly


but without anyone telling them

people know that

poetry is all that is left of life

after you have lived it



God talks to no one


for some time now

I’ve been hearing the same stories about me

most of them ugly most of them sad

and I’m glad

this means that everything I have been doing lately



good and beautiful

in other words boring

and who would waste their time on things like that

but I’ve no knives out  for them

because I hear God talks to no one

about any of us



It seems that I know


it seems that I know all the time what I’m doing

when I stick the car key in the ignition

and when I take the knife to clean the fish

and when I press the buttons of the remote control

and when I throw stones at the pack of dogs

and when I place the tip of my pen on the sheet of paper

and when I do magic tricks for my children or other people’s

and when I caress my woman’s cheeks

at all times it seems that I am very sure of myself

and no one would contest this

not even if they were to find out

that there isn’t any drop of gas in the tank

that my fingers have cuts

that the TV blew out a half a year ago

that the pack amounts to two skinny and faint-hearted dogs

that dozens of scrunched up pages fill my garbage can

that the kids figure out fast up which sleeve my coins disappear

that from my woman’s cheeks I dry tear after tear




mother has made cakes for Tudor and Crina

I watch as my children bite happily out of them

as the sugar powder draws whiskers on their faces

as their cheeks puff up like a frog’s

and I start crying

my mother strokes my head

and whispers to me:

God tests us

the same way you try the cakes in the oven

to see if they are

or not

baked enough



Family tradition

all the men in my family

cleaned their shoes with shoe polish

my great grandfather whom I didn’t catch alive

my grandfathers

my uncles

my cousin

my father

all of them


and not only did they use shoe polish

but made them shine

shoe after shoe

pair after pair

day after day

long meticulously thoughtful even

because a man first looks at another man’s shoes

and after that in his eyes


I have a silicone sponge

with which I polish

from time to time

and in a hurry

on the toe caps of the shoes



Knowing the ropes about death


how well you know the ropes about death

you whispered

after you read a few of my poems

not at all

not at all


I’m just an impostor

everything I have written in there

is seen or heard from others



Here and here

so she would fall in love with me

I told a girl I had two hearts

she looked at me astounded and stepped back slowly

you don’t believe me?

put your hand

here and here

do you see

it beats on the left

and on the right

there are two

I remember how

due to wonder

the girl’s lips parted from one another

and her mouth opened

I hesitated for a few moments

then I kissed her

when she felt quite herself again

she murmured:

how can you live like this?

fine just fine

because the heart on the right is smaller

than the one on the left

but just a little




A new life


I’m getting ready to start a new life

it has happened before

it is not the first time

it’s worth telling you a few things about it



you start crying so hard


I’m not joking

you lift yourself from the ground for days on end

maybe even weeks



when you are back on your feet

they don’t hold you anymore

as if they were cut from your hips

you lie flat

you can’t see anything


but you can hear how beneath you a hole is being dug

you don’t get scared

it’s not a grave being born beneath you

graves have a different murmur when they get going


after a while you start seeing the sky

and then you repeat to yourself

in your head or out loud

help me God help me


God immediately helps

other  times

he is late


he takes the shape of your feet your haunches your knees



he lifts you up

if you cross yourself


if not

it is forgiven

you have all the time in the world for a cross


you look all around you

you sigh smile wipe your eyes

take your hand to your heart

scratch your head


blink frequently

you stare again

you are a little crazy

but a lot closer to who you are


even though you never had a waiter’s memory

you start remembering all sorts of things

and that’s not good

not good at all

you clench your teeth make a wry mouth and throw a vicious curse

like a protective screen

like those you saw in SF movies

then another one and another

you throw

just like that

you throw

may the force be with you!



it is better now

you take an orange and peel it with a knife

to look like a flower

you transform the peel in petals

which you then open up with your fingers


one after another

you might not eat it

the beauty of the world is all in there

but you are very thirsty

and you sink your teeth into it

a poor man that is getting ready to start a new life



a happy one


Translated into English by Ana-Maria Albu