Mircea Cărtărescu poems

From nothing: poems (1988-1992)


Translated by Andrew K. Davidson


Clouds Over the Block Opposite


I can’t make the compass needle move through concentration.

I tried. I can’t do it.

I can’t channel a playing card’s image. I tried.

I wanted to levitate and concentrated for half an hour

and I felt insane, lying on my back in an unmade bed, in a sweat.

I tried to make a woman look at me on the metro,

of course, she didn’t look.

Lord, I am not your chosen one!


The world doesn’t change for my mind.

I don’t love enough, don’t have enough faith.

I don’t have an aura around my head

and you haven’t shown yourself to me, haven’t given a sign.


I hold the tablecloth between my fingers:

not giving in, not rising in red steam.

I touch my little girl’s hair, the curls:

dark, golden, soft.

Nothing confounds my senses. There’s no illusion.

My mind is a smooth mirror of the world.


Smooth and flat.

There’s no scratch.

There’s no past life, no ectoplasmic creature.

There’s no Agartha, no Shambala

there’s no Maya, what comes in dreams

is only the maquillage of nothing.


I stare into the flame on the stove, hypnotized,

knowing I came in a uterus,

knowing I will go in a coffin or sully the earth with my blood.

It will not be me who finds the crack.

It will not be me with my head turned in the group photo.




My Dream Is a Tape Recorder


it only takes very little to be happy—

when I finished my meditations on infinity

when my delusions of grandeur dissolved

when the brand on my bones and necklace faded

when I suddenly stopped thinking of myself as

Jesus, Bob Dylan, Gauss and Vonnegut

(jr.) at the same time when

the word soon made sense to me


and I’ll say it again: when it seems

that clouds never take the shape of a guitar, lathe, carousel, coffee tin

slide ruler, collar bone or wisdom teeth,

when I realize I have no choice but to roam

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++hands in my pockets

among colors in ruins,

when I knew that I don’t think with my brain, and nothing depends on me


and I won’t stop there:

when I was forced to have an apartment and a job

but thought this life too meager for me

when I was stuffed with moles, benign tumors boring into me

when I read Dostoevsky without wincing

when I, the wondrous spectacle, stood in line at the store,


I thought I’d buy a reel-to-reel tape recorder,

Kashtan, two thousand dollars,

because I like listening to music the most

and I would so love to have such a nice thing

listening to me



leaving from school, I’d stop in the electronics stores

on Strada Doamna Ghica

and I saw the beautiful tape recorder I was promised

her cute, boxy figure

her gentle, smart reels

her flickering, green LEDs—

there, on display

between two delicate, black speakers

and now she is my dream, when all other dreams are gone.


ah her plexiglas, hypnotic reels

their uneven, lazy turns…




The Smell of Dry Leaves


the smell of dry leaves…

one time I had a gir-girlfriend…

I was in high school and for the sake of being weird

(I was a poet), I told her: you know what,

I see more colors than most other people,” and she,

M., would say: “well, you should

go see an ophthalmologist”, but truly,

not joking… the smell of

dried leaves being burnt in the Barbu Văcărescu’s yard

next to the police general inspectorate…


I decorated the autumn season with diamonds then: it seems

diamond, the girl with braided hair (or gloves?).

everything was diamond then

and if people were defecating

it’d be a diamond knocking around in the toilet or

if the trees keeping their leaves, they were necessarily



I was writing poems and crying at the typewriter

but the women were inv-invented

and I didn’t know how to make love, I’d tried

and failed as a boy,

a jealous, angry boy… a member of the Monday literary circle…

a student…


it’s so nice to rub a girl between the thighs

bare and so, very human

not “woman”

and if you open the window when it’s autumn outside

its scent would enter: the lea-

the courtyards

of dry leaves and red fire tongues…

sex is completely ridiculous in books and movies—plotted




in real life, though, it’s sweet and sad

the bodies are behaved

there’s the fucking and it’s sucking, also

but for most

and most of the time

it’s different, it’s:


her calling me Meer-Meer

or, Mrr-Mrr when I’m cheap

in the elevator, after going out

when I grab her butt and snarl: “this is it,

you’re not getting away: I’m going to rape you!”, but she plays along:

“unhand me, sir, or I’ll knock you out!”

standing at the door


discovering ourselves in a silly, little home

and everyone, everything else can go to hell…


and now, for the great maestro of finales

to offer the poem

the perfect, poetic finale:


“ah, the smell of burning leaves,

of the leaf burning in the courtyards,

of diamond leaf from the air with diamonds…”




from Air with Diamonds


Amor Poem


There was a lunar eclipse on tv, really stammering

the Sunday we were together, in a fluorescent bulb prison commiserating

commiserating, grinning, whining wrapped in Chinese Cherry wine, I was

burning gas and biting your neck, biting your jewelry, biting your reflection in the glass

and if you remember, we went to make crepes where coins clanked

on the kitchen window of the Dîmboviţa Mill for the ghosts of exterminated rats

and its silo was made of real brick, there was nothing metaphysical which excited you

and your breasts were emanating from you in the winter twilight

like they were vibrations in a children’s classroom over stationary and light bulb casings

there was nothing metaphysical, just tempered anxiety, a little screech of purple cellophane

in the sublingual hallways

there was a tap of two fingers on two poorly insulated wires

and in that lunatic kitchen you showed your clear, transparent self, like a two hundred

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++thousand carat gem

and I saw through to the digestive system



I saw her leaning against the iron fence of the pulmonology clinic next to the general military


stopping a kid on the sidewalk, sending them for a newspaper or bread rolls

I saw death sending for a newspaper and bread rolls in the pinkest, most incomparable dusk

I saw her on the trolleybus dismal and decrepit, her paws in dirty, white-knit gloves

reaching for the crossbar at the front door

begging in a voice that squeaked past black skin, grabbing at skirts and braving the glassy

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++looks of fox lives

biting the driver, and yogurt generations reigned in her stomach among the sweets, Turkish

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++delights and cookies

I saw her stomach galloping the plains of sequined bikini bottoms on a pillow of air

and her lungs inhaling oneiric, silvery liquids and gold-thread representations

in the oriental, mystical hole of a bar and, lo, it was the season of assassins

and she danced in your heart, cartilage and bones, giving the effect of blue light

I saw her talking over a cognac, talking into a microphone, talking with her mouth full

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++and playing guitar in bed

and the talking glacier caps, glacial hemispheres

talking on and on about Marcuse, talking about Antonioni, Stratan, dyes and grammar, talking

in certitudes about the same labyrinth in hypertrophy

and I saw death unnatural, death made in a lab

and death that ignites like an oil well

and her unconscious rolls out through earwigs and bisulfite in hordes

over universities and statues and athenaeums and chains of lakes

and in front of the opera, reduces Enescu’s statue into a giant rattrap

and hides it under the chairs at the Tosca confectionary

I saw her black, flabby body eating the north-south metro line, razing earth

and hanging there like a sin spider from the web of sewerage

I saw death as a monkey dressed like a sailor

staring at me from the third deck through sad, red eyes

weighing on the chimpanzee encephalon, undeveloped, pedunculated

I saw her delousing for rubies around the pancreas and liver

I saw her carrying refrigerators, licking stamps and clipping together written-on pages

yawning without covering her mouth at sublime sunrises stinking of bromide and aphrodisiac

they peeled back my conscience, hidden under polyps and tonsils, with methylene blue

and I recognized her in the dimwit drawings on matchbooks…

paralogue of beauty, you used to know so many jokes.

and mother lined my pockets with memories from before war and marriage

and I let her hands, both dulled and sharpened, do a complicated operation on my brain

and a more complicated extraction of my heart.

long before the passage to downtown was built, winter came

and people were still swarming there underground, as if guided by the anticipation of a scent

and there the foreigners would pay on the terrace where the intercontinental hotel is now,

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++cigarettes lit

where embryonic kittens were groping down streets next to pastry shop steam

was I complicated? oh, bacteria came to me like to a shop or museum

the skin covering my skull was cooing the tired usurper’s semantic aura

and my ears were listening to the internal rapture gurgling

and joining the apocalyptic calamity of the boulevards with cinemas

pouting beauty, the garter belt of night unbinds orchestral fetish in sleepwalkers

the child I was, right now, ducking into a bosom,

his bangs make a brilliant slipcover draped over chairs and floor lamps

without a body, going into the bathroom barefoot

to cover blemishes in the mirror with the pinkish foam of after shave

and squeezing toothpaste out in the w/c of tile

looking directly into my eyes as the cerebral hemisphere flaps them quiet

and kind.


love, amor, erotic… Bauhaus architecture hooched up like daiquiri in champagne glasses

blood red tracings of all the lipstick ruj

she would be called a legacy and should give us the heraldic dementia of Mateiu Caragiale

and the universality of the Pişcu commune. But I think you prefer rather clonic motions

and the great, hysterical crisis

you prefer countless dresses and feelings fitting to your breasts

prefer the person never losing sight of your hypnotic figure, in his old, watery eyes

never in the aldehyde of twilight, never broken

in whose arms you’re brought to orgasm like a jelly fish of flowing humor and reflexes

who calms you, and keeps you,

and before your beautiful face, holds a mirror

to see yourself, moonstruck, smiling…

to see the little girl and young woman and whore and mother and electra and old biddy and

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++matron and virgin

lymphatic, sanguine, heartbroken and choleric and unchanged




the lunar eclipse stammered so badly the screen shattered, burying us in a rainbow of broken


and the bricks at the Dîmboviţa mill were like an Atlantic fortress submerged

and we received desperate calls from the winter twilight outside in fists beating greatcoats on

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++our backs

directing us to the first cherub, first star, first vegetable…

there was nothing metaphysical: the coo of dump trucks, our intestines

decorating the winter tree with electric stars

oh, if the eyes of the tablecloth could speak to your bra

you, yourself, could throw purple cellophane balls down my sublingual hallways

we can love each other, we can praise each other, we make love, we can sleep together

we can touch each other in the cold of conscience, we can bite our cheeks

with lace molars

we can replace a spongy death, in fluorescent nothing, for a diamond

two hundred thousand carat death.



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