About Father and Us
About Father and Us
This poem is in commemoration of my
father’s heart attack, which took place on the night of the 11th—12th
of October 1975
Mother is daubing rust on her lips,
and slowly she waves her fan to waft moonlight throughout the room so
she can remember better. I run quickly, quickly, from one side of the
room to the other, and I bang myself as hard as I can against the
walls in order to make them toll like a bell.
Every night Mother tells us the story
of how starkly the crosses are lined up in the army cemetery and how
your cross appears in front of the other rows since, after all, it’s
the cross of a colonel. And she tells us that you ordered your
soldiers to lie prone, and it goes without saying that they all obeyed
you at once.
I hear you’ll be granted leave during
the winter holiday and you’ll harness two or three flies to your soul
in order to bring you straightaway to our kitchen where you can inhale
the smell of stuffed cabbage and sausages.
How good it feels in these
photographs, beside you! I’d wholly enjoy myself and never leave, were
you not holding me in that photograph with your arm about my shoulder.
I tattooed your epaulets on my
shoulders, I tattooed your medals on my chest, and beneath them,
already, there are wrinkles in a row.
I watched, squinting, and saw that
every morning you come from very far away to the foreground of your
picture hanging on the wall. And you press your forehead to the shiny
image and stare helplessly until we wake up and you have to smile.
Last night Mother explained to us
that some people manage to die in one night what others have lived in
seventy years. She explained to us that since you lived fifty-four
years, you must be dead fifty-four years, and only then you’ll get
You were a colonel in the army. I am
at peace. My astrological sign has long been inscribed in the stars on
your epaulets. Summer nights, when the sky is clear, I stand at
The Local Council of District 7, the
Executive Committee, proclaims that by Decree No. 149 it hereby
confers this “Jubilee Death Certificate” family name Popescu, first
name Vasile, in order to celebrate the occasion of his fulfilling the
tenth anniversary of his passing away. Much esteemed Comrade Colonel,
I am overjoyed to be offering you all my heartfelt felicitations, on
behalf of both myself and my devoted family, upon the inexpressible
honor of your being awarded this jubilee title. Please accept, much
esteemed Comrade Colonel, my sincerest best wishes. Series D5, No.
034201. Date of birth: year 1985, month December, day 23. Place of
birth: the municipality of Bucharest. The unfortunate, much-lamented
demise was entered into the civil status register on the 23rd of
December 1985. Date of death: year 1985, month December, day 23 (use
letters and numbers). Place of death: the municipality of Bucharest.
Oh, what joy, what family enthusiasm,
what a lifelong thrill
Has been generated by District 7’s
Oh, that we might warmly grasp the
noble author’s hand,
But, alas, his signature’s impossible
In any event, under the letters on
Shines the glorious seal of the
I wish I had a balloon blown up with
your last breath. Every year on my own birthday, I could take a tiny
gulp of it.
On the night when you departed this
world, Mother’s breasts swelled: one with wine, the other with plum
brandy. And since then, she’s been giving us a shot of each daily, to
drink to your memory. Thus we grow strong and beautiful.
At the funeral, my little sister also
kissed you on the brow. That was her first timid, womanly kiss.
I’m so glad we could calibrate our
days to your last moment, when in the end you lay among the candles
and showed everybody the exact age.
In place of your picture on the cross
in the cemetery, I fixed a little mirror from Mother’s purse, so when
she comes to your grave to bring flowers, before she leaves she can
straighten her hair and put on her lipstick in that little mirror.
At the funeral, when we, the family,
bowed in turn to kiss Father’s cold brow for the final time, the
public, so many in number, felt greatly impressed by how tender and
sweet our kisses were and began to applaud.
You’ve been dead for ten years. Many
happy returns of the day, and that’s that. I run quickly, quickly,
from one side of the room to the other, and I bang myself hard against
the walls. To make them toll like a bell.
Adam J. Sorkin and Bogdan
The earliest literary efforts of the
poet Popescu date from the tender age of seven. He used to carve them
with a little penknife on the bathroom door of his family’s home.
Only a naïve lack of sensibility could explain the fact that his
parents would repaint the door twice a week. Nevertheless, even today
those very lines are in circulation on the doors of all the public
toilets of our capital city. Anyone can still read them.
Popescu used to stick flower and
butterfly decals on the shiny white tiles, he used to glue on playing
cards with kings. Daily, within these walls, he renewed the monastic
seclusion of his childhood. Our common anchorite’s cell of the
quotidian. Once in a while, from the silvering behind the mirror
glass, his pure face again laughs, the face of a saint transported
with the ecstasy of inspiration, the face of Popescu in his early
But most of the time he’d write and
weep there, in solitude. From the continual outpouring of so many
tears, just as some people develop kidney stones, he developed
diamonds at the corners of his eyes. He’d weep and write. They had
to install a miniature urinal to collect the precious stones.
Throughout his career, as a memorial
to the all-pervading silence of that period, lest his published
volumes be soundlessly eaten away from within by their own lines and
ideas, Popescu would administer electric shocks to them every four
In the poet’s honor, at every street
corner, flushing kiosks are going to be erected. A one-leu
coin for a minute of solitude. Constantly crowded, constantly
besieged by inspired citizens. And upon every commemoration, in all
the public places, the bars, the hotels, in the North Station and the
central Roman Square, urinals will spout high like fountains. Ah, it
will be spring. The sun will shine.
Adam J. Sorkin and Bogdan