These poems have been drawn from a portfolio in Vol. 2 No. 1 of the American Reader, and they originally appeared in The Starry Womb, 2005. For Mihail Gălățanu’s full portfolio, purchase the print issue in our Shoppe.
I’ll No Longer Be Born Today
We’ve hung paintings everywhere inside her,
paintings of the world. We’ve hung them on red walls,
purple walls, hot walls, steamy walls,
pulsing walls, eternal walls,
walls of flesh and blood, in other words what generically we call tissues:
that’s how flesh holds itself together:
we sit at the loom, the flesh gets woven,
we sit at the loom, pull the shuttle, push the shuttle,
the flesh gets woven,
thread by thread—
as in sportscasts.
We wanted to make Mama’s insides beautiful,
to make her more beautiful,
to show slides—
so we installed an overhead projector there
(you can’t imagine how we managed)
and endeavored to project the world on her insides.
We had fun, laughing uproariously as at a cartoon,
jabbering till we couldn’t tell star from moon.
the world was much more beautiful.
the world was almost miraculous,
almost a paradise,
almost ready to open to our veins.
It was too close to hang yourself in there,
you hardly had room to take your life, of course
if this life were indeed yours.
It was almost good,
the world was almost breathable, through every pore,
just as in its every allure,
or the sky through its cloud mass.
Your heart could beat quietly there,
When you got old, death would shut your eyes as with a seal,
kissing them tenderly.
You would have slowly grown accustomed to your life.
Life would have tried to teach you properly.
Not extracted like a tooth that’s decayed,
not fired as from a job that’s
been retrenched, retired,
a product that’s too old, expired.
Not rebuked and spat through the clenched teeth of the uterus,
And then I opened my eyes wide, scared out of my wits, sweat-soaked.
“Mama, I’ll no longer be born today,” I croaked.
We can’t discover freedom twice,
usually it’s freedom that discovers us.
Freedom digs inside us, bores into us with desperation, has sharp talons,
and brings to the surface fragments from when we were younger.
She’s Naked and by Her Nakedness She Pays for the World’s Sins,
Beginning with Mine
1. Every Line Granted Us
Is a Postponement of Death
Every line granted us is a postponement of death
as a small odd reward for the fact that we’ll die.
That is to say, we’ll pay for it all,
all these extravagant lines.
We’ll pay for every wonderful line in our lives
the same way we’ll pay for every woman we’ve had,
for every coin-like nail of hers
that dug into our flesh,
and the nail itself will be the coin,
if mother-of-pearl nails can redeem life.
Sometimes I imagine every prominent mole
on her body as a brown coin,
as a small brown coin
with which she pays for all my sins.
2. About How She Redeems Me
She’s a good payer,
she’s a good payer for all my sins.
She turned a light on, vertical,
as the poet says, beside her knee, virginal.
But all my life, all my life, I’ve only groped in the dark
and tried at all costs to draw nearer to this light.
She’s naked now and above me. And by her nakedness she pays
for all the world’s sins, beginning with my own case.
The world’s sins, the most base…
—translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Petru Iamandi