Marta Petreu: Poetry in Translation


September 21, 2010 by The Citron Review

originally by Marta Petreu
translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Liviu Bleoca


Sunday Auction (click here for Romanian original)

We keep bidding on bungled schemes:
betrothal and childhood, I offer
birth against nature, I cry
a woman still young and venomous, I hope

And you: young mortal and venomous:
slough off appearance and hope
like a nun’s habit
rewrite the sacred books (the lost tomes) in a new vernacular
relearn metaphysics (patchwork and carnal)
invent a word as definitive as anguish
found an innocent religion for the world’s slums

So: young mortal and venomous:
from my skull as from a clandestine bordello
long rows of women slowly snake into the night;
I’m cloistered in my memory as in a maternity ward
So much for memory: Mole! (I insult it.) Fatso!
Blind. Velvety like wickedness: you graze on the roots of the grass,
nibble the nerves under the skin. Tub of Lard! Save what you can!
Namely leftovers flea-market scraps, namely nothingness

We bid on bungled schemes:
betrothal and childhood, I offer
birth against nature, I cry
a brain with no pain centers, I whimper


The Babylon Lottery (click here for Romanian original)

This is my Sunday dress
my more or less intact body underneath
my joyless soul gone to the devil
And this is you
head over heels in love with me
that is, with a reality that only can be fictive
up in the air and indeterminate

What role should I play among these odds and ends
mere chance happened to have set
side by side
with the commandment: be fruitful and multiply like the sand of the sea
by the sweat of thy brows thou shalt earn thy sleep
Or: love thy neighbor a great deal more
than thyself

What am I supposed to make of all the narcissistic lives?

This is you
shooting craps on a Sunday


The Head of John the Baptist (click here for Romanian original)

Here I am. In the waters of insomnia I swim
Oho. Its bottomless milk this vast uterus
in which I live
in which I thrash about from which I struggle to be born
Its dazzling sun explodes in my brain

Here I swim. Night after night. Hour after hour. In the milky fluid
I swim
You—distant unseen untasted—you take form as a tongue of land
toward which clenched and slow
I swim
Captive in sleeplessness like a star lost in light
I swim. And never arrive there. Never arrive

I know I am made of words muscles sparking nerves:
night and day your image gradually annihilates me
You are the utopia toward which I am swimming
about which I shilly-shally where I never arrive
Sleeplessness slowly obliterates me
the way an inward tide undermines the breached shoreline

Deep incandescent milk

I swim in insomnia I force my way through it
from its bottomless milk I offer myself
to no one
according to a scenario from the New Testament (all of us know it well)
like the head of Saint John
on a salver


Red Shift (click here for Romanian original)

Writers die. And poets die. Oho

Oho. Now their flesh is cannon fodder
for the perpetual silent war
Feast your eyes upon their luminous tresses

This we know: like anyone else they’re no more than human
They step out of line by writing. On their shoulders
they bear their uncorrupted brain their mortal brain
This I know:
like my father Augustin’s brain
their brain decomposes. Yes
like a library in flames
their body putrefies in the earth

Still they come forth. And still they die. Their flesh is cannon fodder
they go on scribbling they write the chronicle
of how the earth grows old:
just as galaxies recede with the red shift
Beneath the earth upon the earth libraries burn their nerves burn
twitching. Yes

Still they come forth. And still they die


Adam J. Sorkin recently published Memory Glyphs: Three Prose Poets from Romania (Twisted Spoon Press, 2009) Mircea Ivănescu’s lines poems poetry (University of Plymouth Press , UK, translated with Lidia Vianu), and Rock and Dew, poems by Carmen Firan (The Sheep Meadow Press, translated mostly with the poet). Marin Sorescu’s The Bridge (Bloodaxe Books, 2004), translated with Vianu, won The Poetry Society’s [U.K.] Poetry Translation Prize. Ioan Es. Pop’s No Way Out of Hadesburg (also from Plymouth Press, with Vianu) is forthcoming in late 2010.

Liviu Bleoca is a novelist, essayist, editor and translator who now works as a diplomat. He is co-translator with Adam J. Sorkin of Transylvanian Voices: An Anthology of Poetry of Cluj-Napoca.

One thought on “Marta Petreu: Poetry in Translation

  1. […] The Citron Review Micro-Fiction, Flash-Fiction, Poetry, Art « Translation Poetry […]

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