ISSUE 30
Fall 2005

Adam Sorkin

 

Adam J. Sorkin Adam J. Sorkin’s most recent books of translation include Daniela Crasnaru’s The Grand Prize and Other Stories (Northwestern UP, 2004) and Marin Sorescu’s The Bridge (Bloodaxe, 2004), which was shortlisted for the Corneliu M. Popescu Prize of The Poetry Society, London. His previous Bloodaxe books of Liliana Ursu and Ioana Ieronim were shortlisted for the Weidenfeld Prize, Oxford.
 
Adam J. Sorkin Tess Gallagher's new collection of poems, Dear Ghosts, will appear in May 2006 from Graywolf Press. A literary portrait of her ten years with Raymond Carver, Soul Barnacles, Ten More Years With Ray, appeared in paperback from University of Michigan in 2002. In May 2004. Her present work is a book of Irish oral stories with the Irish painter/storyteller Josie Gray.
In addition to presenting these excellent translations in English by Adam Sorkin and Tess Gallagher, TCR is pleased to offer the poems in both text and audio in the original Romanian, read by the poet Liliana Ursu. 

 

Winter Impressions    Click to hear in real audio


At the wall licked clean by the snow's assiduous tongue
the soldier's tall boots stand sentry.
He himself has retreated into the Radio Building to get warm.
An unremarkable winter scene,
not in the least worthy of some modern Breughel's eye.
Nevertheless, here at the boundary between the necessary
and the useless, a cat has had her kittens
in one of the soldier's boots.
The small shapes, their new eyes still blind to winter,
to the absence around them,
turn small pink mouths
toward the hot belly of the present.
The skein of life unwinds. Spatters of milk
flicked from their white whiskers melt the ice
drop by drop.

 

 

Impresii de iarnă    Click to hear in real audio


Līngă zidul lins de limba harnică a zăpezii
soldatul
şi-a lăsat uriaşii pīslari de veghe.
El a intrat īn Radio s
ă se īncălzească.
O scen
ă normală de iarnă
nedemn
ă de vreun Breugel modern.
Şi totuşi
la grani
ţa dintre necesar şi inutil
īn uria
şii pīslari a născut o pisică.
Micu
ţele forme cu ochi orbi la iarna din jur,
la absen
ţă,
ī
şi īndreaptă boturile roz
spre pīntecele fierbinte al prezentului.
Ghemul de via
ţă, stropii de lapte
topesc ghea
ţa
pu
ţin cīte puţin.


 

A Parrot Dreaming    Click to hear in real audio


A bright yellow parrot screams
in a black cage.
With each scream, he strikes the bars
as he flies. And keeps flying,
strumming until the bars run red,
staining the sunset. The exhausted bird
can hardly breathe, dreaming
of freedom, an exercise of flight
glimpsed between the bars.
Even the grass shrieks
as his feathers, suddenly gray,
fall to earth. In the same way,
any featherless heart
heaped under snow
may, in the brief freedom
of a prayer, be resurrected
breath by breath.


 

Un papagal visează    Click to hear in real audio

Un papagal galben ţipă
īntr-o colivie neagr
ă.
Se izbe
şte de gratii
şi zboară. Şi zboară.
Pīn
ă ce gratiile se īnroşesc.
O flacar
ă din sīnge
plutind
īn īnserare.
Pas
ărea ostenită
abia mai r
ăsuflă
visīnd libertatea,
un exerci
ţiu de zbor īntre gratii.
Pīn
ă şi iarbă ţipă
sub penele īnc
ărunţite brusc.
Inima gola
şă tot astfel
se pierde īn zapad
ă
şi īnvie in libertatea
unei rug
ăciuni.

 

Small Fires in the Dusk    Click to hear in real audio


Is it the whisper of wild strawberry leaves
that baptizes the earth with sweet-scented light?
I bow over the moon's contour, white on the page,
this eggless nest woven of words.

The hollow paw-print of a fox in the soft green moss—
a transitory, wild impression,
like their living absence, the departed
brushing my ankle.


 

Mici văpăi īn asfinţit    Click to hear in real audio

Ce foşnet al rugului cu fragi
boteaz
ă pămīntul cu o īnmiresmată lumină?
M-aplec peste conturul lunii albind pe pagin
ă,
cuibul cu cuvinte.

Urma vulpii īn muşchiul īncă verde
e o scurt
ă, sălbatică apăsare
asemeni atingerii de suflet

a dragilor pleca
ţi.

 

Dream in the River’s Mouth    Click to hear in real audio


Surrounded by an island of stones and grass,
I was dreaming in the river's mouth
when a horse, led by an old peasant,
lowered its head
to quench its thirst.

I was dreaming in the river's mouth
here at the foot of a blue mountain
stabbed high into the evening's last word.

Oh, the light of the old man's smile
when he asked me to hold his horse
so he too could drink the crystalline water!
I trembled at the life force
that surged in the young animal's body,
my hand at the bridle,
hardly daring to move next to
such poised beauty.

Bees encircled us with the balm of their buzzing,
small nuggets of gold embroidery glinting into
my solitude in the mountains.

Suddenly this landscape
slips to another:  narrow lanes, houses
peeking from behind other houses
cascading to the sea.
Ah, Lisbon,  city with a thousand lives.
Yellow trolleys climb steep hills.
The town fans out at my feet
and from high above, I see the brown despair
of the old cafe where Pessoa
used to sip espresso, or absinthe.

A wind like a gust of joy
envelops me
the moment I kneel
in the church of Saint Anthony
under the sky of his childhood,
where he dashed through streets rich with spices,
past palaces wreathed by orange groves
toward the Mar de palha, a sparkling bay
bright with spinnakers.

And how strong the Temptation
must have been, almost irresistible—
how great the boy's power
when, with his finger, young Anthony
dug the sign of the cross
into the stone of the church.

Dreaming in the river's mouth,
I return home to my island
of stones and grass, the sweet
spring grass of lambs.

 

Vis īn Gura Rīului    Click to hear in real audio

Eram īn vis, la Gura Rīului
īnconjurat
ă de pietre şi de iarbă,
līng
ă calul adus de batrīnul ţăran
s
ă-şi potolească setea,
līng
ă muntele albastru īnfipt
īn ultimul cuvīnt al verii.

Cītă lumină īn zīmbetul bătrīnului
cīnd m-a rugat s
ă-i ţin calul
pīn
ă ce bea şi el apă din rīu
iar eu, tem
ătoare de forţa vieţii
din trupul animalului tīn
ăr
abia īndr
ăzneam să mă mişc
pierdut
ă īn atīta calmă frumuseţe.
Albinele ne īnconjurau cu zumzetul lor,
pepite brod
īnd cu aur
singur
ătatea mea din munţi.

Şi deodată
peisajul acesta alunecat īn altul,
cu str
ăzi īnguste
şi case ascunse una īntr-alta
coborīnd vijelios spre mare.
Era Lisabona,
ora
şul cu o mie de vieţi.
Tramvaie galbene urcau strada abrupt
ă,
de sus aveam ora
şul la picioare
şi puteam zări disperarea
din vechea cafenea
unde Pessoa ī
şi sorbea vinul.

O boare uşoară ca o bucurie
m-a cuprins
cīnd am īngenuncheat
īn biserica Sfīntului Anton
sub cerul īn care copil
ărise
alergīind pe str
ăzile cu mirodenii
spre golful Marea de Pai cel cu sute de catarge,
apoi pe līng
ă palatele īnconjurate de portocali.

Şi cīt de puternică
trebuie s
ă fi fost Ispita
şi cīt de mare forţa tīnărului Anton
cīnd degetul s
ău a săpat semnul crucii
īn piatra bisericii pentru noi
cei cu solzi mul
ţi peste pleoape
pip
ăind cu mīini păcătoase Cerul,
marele semn al Mīntuirii.

M-am īntors
īn iarba mieilor, de acas
ă
īn Gura Rīului.

 


Adam J. Sorkin
Liliana Ursu has published eight books of poetry in Romanian, most recently Lift Up Your Hearts (2002).  Her first book in English, The Sky Behind the Forest (Bloodaxe, 1997), translated by Ursu, Sorkin, and Gallagher, became a British Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation and was shortlisted for Oxford’s Weidenfeld Prize. Ursu has twice been Fulbright Lecturer at Penn State’s University Park campus. In fall 2003, she was Poet-in-Residence at the Bucknell’s Stadler Center.

 

 

 

Adam Sorkin: Poetry
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