A form of listening/O formă de ascultare

by Andra Rotaru, translated by Anca Roncea

Andra Rotaru is a poet and the founder of the multimedial and multilingual journal Crevice. The collaborative dance performance Lemur has been performed in the US and across Europe by the choreographer Robert Tyree. Rotaru has worked extensively at the intersection of poetry, fiction, photography, video and performance. She is the author of Într-un pat sub cearșaful alb (In a Bed Under the White Sheet, 2005); En una cama bajo la sábana blanca (the Spanish translation of her debut volume, 2008); Ținuturile sudului (Southern Lands, 2010); and Lemur (2012), for which she was awarded The Best Young Poet of Year Award at The Writers’ Gala in Bucharest in 2013. A selection of her poems in Anca Roncea’s translation won Asymptote’s Close Approximations Prize in 2017 (judged by Sawako Nakayasu).

Anca Roncea is a poet and translator. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, currently in the University of Iowa’s MFA program in Literary Translation. In 2012 she was a Fulbright visiting scholar at UC Berkeley. She was born and raised in Romania and now lives in Iowa City where she is working on translations of Romanian poetry, an experimental translation of Tristan Tzara, as well as her first book of poetry.

These poems are part of Andra’s latest book of poetry in Romanian, Tribar. This new collection explores the possibilities for intertextuality to reveal and rework through old wounds that one form of discourse alone may not be able to hold. The title is derived from the geometrical concept of an impossible triangle whose three sides do not connect but still exist in the form of a triangle, creating a direction for movement. Her poems simultaneously mimic and track the body in motion while her “connections” become joints or articulated bones that work together to carry the body along. The speaker is exploring the space she occupies in the world by studying what happens to the body when death sets in to understand and in the process she becomes aware of the “precarious bond” between age and the body.

—Anca Roncea


“A form of listening” by Andra Rotaru
Translated from the Romanian by Anca Roncea

 

 

the ritual of incensing the dead for 40 days. a young girl, a child still, is appointed to
carry water, but most times the woman paid to incense the tomb for 40 days, each day, is
older. incensing is performed by circling the tomb three times, sometimes crossing the cup of
smoking frankincense above the tomb, sometimes saying prayers.

I don’t speak often, except for when I’m asking.

I look like myself, we sit in the same way, we speak. in church we cried the
same. on on sundays no one can tell us apart. the resin drips down. “An
unsettled feeling keeps the body front and center. The wrong words enter your
day like a bad egg in your mouth and puke runs down your blouse, a
dampness drawing your stomach in toward your cage.”[1]

walking through the cemetery grounds is better when everything is wet. when
the soil can be smelt. in time, I learned to stop touching nettle with my tongue.
the first memory of a tomb.

*

you put on your clothes, everything outside of them is inexplicable. elementary
conversion. you know you’re here, their care, their past. you haven’t shown
compassion. who is the person who matches the description. “the before isn’t
part of now”, instability, restlessness, reversibility return.

[…]
*

I kept forgetting. I decided not to forget a certain time in my life. it’s strongly
connected to sleep, air whistles, prolonging them.

at first I won’t remember recent events, then, those I learned of with great
difficulty. I was told you read time on a clock by looking in the direction you
stir mămăligă. as a child I preferred digital clocks that played music, usually
Love Story.

A berceuse is “a musical composition usually in 6/8 time that resembles
a lullaby (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Meriam Webster Online
Dictionary, 2010)

I associate sounds with smells. when she walks, her skins bash against each
other. I look behind her and the scent of stale life is strong.

(synesthesia – a principle according to which different sensations (color,
musical, olfactory etc.) correspond to each other in affects
– the illness of those who feel sounds have color or
smells or that colors make noise.

will not call the doctor. stopped bathing, has not brushed teeth in over 6
months.

*

space: the extremes of the body. when she moved here, there were neglected
fields all around.

told me how beautiful a woman’s body seemed in the chapel, sat on the wake
table. the white carnation of her skin emanates lavender. and the powder,
cotton balls in her nostrils.

when the heart stops, through gravity, blood descends to the lower body, livor
mortis. unoxygenated cells die one by one. in about a year, of the body there
will be only bones.
we extend the body’s presence for a while. formaldehyde is inserted through a
pump. straight into the circulatory system. the body is completely emptied of
its content. after death hair and nails stop growing.

I’ve been carrying my fear with me since I was a child – all of the ways I could
feel sick, sores in my mouth, restrictions then requirements to be excessive. I
chewed on my lunch meat until I filled up my cheeks. I’d run to the bathroom
to remove the round bits in my mouth. daily, I threw out something of my
connection to it. the air let out hissed.

[1] Claudia Rankine, Citizen


“O formă de ascultare” by Andra Rotaru

 

Obiceiul tămâierii celui mort timp de 40 de zile. Dacă pentru dusul apei este
angajată de regulă o fată tânără, copilă încă, de cele mai multe ori, femeia care este plătită
pentru a tămâia mormântul timp de 40 de zile, zi de zi, este o bătrână. Tămâierea se face
înconjurând mormântul de trei ori, uneori mişcând vasul cu tămâie fumegând deasupra
mormântului în semnul crucii, uneori spunând rugăciuni.

Nu vorbesc des, cu excepția momentelor în care cer.

Semăn cu mine, stăm în aceeași poziție, vorbim. La biserică am plâns la fel.
Duminica nu ne deosebește nimeni. Rășina se scurge. „An unsettled feeling
keeps the body front and center. The wrong words enter your day like a bad
egg in your mouth and puke runs down your blouse, a dampness drawing
your stomach in toward your rib cage.” (Caludia Rankine, Citizen)

Plimbarea prin curtea cimitirului este mai bună când totul e ud. Când
pământul poate fi mirosit. În timp, am învățat să nu îmi mai lipesc limba de
frunzele de urzică. Prima amintire despre un mormânt.

*

îți pui hainele pe tine, ce e în afara lor e inexplicabil. Conversie elementară.
Știi că ești aici, grija lor, trecutul lor. Nu ai arătat compasiune. Cine e
persoana care se potrivește descrierii. “the before isn`t part of now”,
instabilitatea, nestatornicia, reversibilitatea revin.

uităm mereu. mi-am propus să nu uit o perioadă anume din viața mea. e
strâns legată de somn, de șuierul aerului și prelungirea lui.

prima dată nu-mi voi mai aminti întâmplările recente, apoi pe cele pe care le-
am învățat foarte greu. mi se spunea că ceasul se citește în ordinea în care
învârți cu lingura în mămăligă. în copilărie preferam ceasurile electronice cu
muzicuță: cântau Love Story.

A berceuse is “a musical composition usually in 6/8 time that resembles a
lullaby” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Online
Dictionary, 2010)

asociez sunetele cu mirosul. când ea se plimbă, pieile se izbesc unele de altele.
mă uit în urma ei și damful de viață stătută e puternic.

(sinestezie: – principiu potrivit căruia senzațiile diverse (coloristice, muzicale,
olfactive etc.) își corespund în plan afectiv
– boala celor cărora li se pare că sunetele au și coloare ori miros ori
că culorile fac zgomot.

nu va chema doctorul, nu a mai făcut baie, iar pe dinți nu s-a spălat de peste 6 luni.

*

spațiul: extremele trupului. când s-a mutat aici, erau câmpuri neîngrijite de jur
împrejur.

mi-a povestit cât de frumos i se păruse corpul unei femei în capelă, așezat pe
masa de priveghi. carnația albă, emanând miros de lavandă. și pudra, vata din
nări.

când inima se oprește, din cauza gravitației, sângele ajunge în partea de jos a
corpului, livor mortis. celulele neoxigenate mor rând pe rând. în aproximativ un
an, dintr-un corp vor rămâne doar oasele.
prelungim un timp prezența trupului. formaldehida e introdusă în corp cu
ajutorul unei pompe, direct în sistemul circulator. apoi conţinutul stomacului
este complet golit. după moarte părul şi unghiile nu continuă să crească.

port teama din copilărie – toate senzațiile de rău, aftele din gură, restricțiile și
obligațiile de a face lucrurile în exces. mestecam carnea dată la prânz până
reușeam să îmi umflu obrajii. mergeam în baie și scoteam bucățile rotunde din
cavitatea bucală. aruncam zilnic câte ceva din legătura mea cu ea. aerul scos
șuiera.


Andra Rotaru is a poet and the founder of the multimedial and multilingual journal Crevice. The collaborative dance performance Lemur has been performed in the US and across Europe by the choreographer Robert Tyree. Rotaru has worked extensively at the intersection of poetry, fiction, photography, video and performance. She is the author of Într-un pat sub cearșaful alb (In a Bed Under the White Sheet, 2005); En una cama bajo la sábana blanca (the Spanish translation of her debut volume, 2008); Ținuturile sudului (Southern Lands, 2010); and Lemur (2012), for which she was awarded The Best Young Poet of Year Award at The Writers’ Gala in Bucharest in 2013. A selection of her poems in Anca Roncea’s translation won Asymptote’s Close Approximations Prize in 2017 (judged by Sawako Nakayasu).

Anca Roncea is a poet and translator. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, currently in the University of Iowa’s MFA program in Literary Translation. In 2012 she was a Fulbright visiting scholar at UC Berkeley. She was born and raised in Romania and now lives in Iowa City where she is working on translations of Romanian poetry, an experimental translation of Tristan Tzara, as well as her first book of poetry.

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