Radu Andriescu


A Carpenter’s Work

In the Steps of Amadís de Gaula



A Carpenter’s Work


I think about happiness

as though it were a piece of lumber,

a dry old board,

godforsaken, left behind in some hidden recess of the world.

This happiness no longer smells of resin

but of dust, beetles, and age.

Rugged, desiccated like the heart,

this is how I feel it—

and I get goose bumps.

I sit on the edge and look through the funnel of a window

at the pear tree in the old crone’s yard:

it seems unreal, so beautiful;

nearly transparent, smeared with fresh green,

as for renewal.

The carpenters in blue overalls looked at my boards: dry.

Fresh lumber? Have you got planks, too?

No, I don’t have planks. Only boards. Dry old boards, that’s what I have.

No planks.

The carpenters went away. Buy yourself planks, if you want a bed.


I sit on the bed built by the workmen: this large expanse

with brush hairs stuck in the varnish,

in a white room, almost empty, and I think of the unpainted wrought-iron

winding stairs.

The staircase leads to the attic.

I’m far too inert to climb to the attic and see

what happened to that old lumber,

whether it mildewed or suffered dry rot.

What’s left of it. After the carpenters built me a bed, so I should have an edge,

an edge to sit on and stare at the pear tree in the biddy’s yard,

to think about happiness.

The last time I climbed to the attic, everything was white with loneliness.

I was taking old furniture there, to have a place to take it down from. The light

of all evenings I spent standing in the attic left no traces

on that furniture. What I could see was dust, dust and solitude’s stark white,

more striking and ancient than the famous blue of the Voroneþ Monastery.

My bones are too brittle for such an affliction of white:

I sit on the edge of the bed and stare at the old witch’s garden.


The carpenters told me to get corner brackets for the bed.

Have you got corner brackets ? No, I don’t have brackets.

Buy corner brackets and some planks, if you want a bed.

Night overtakes me sitting here on the edge, gazing at God:

blind drunk, He barfed stars across the sky.

I sit and look at the old crone’s yard, completely invisible in the dark.

And my bed is black with blinding white.

I fall into an ever more insidious white.

I don’t know what happened to those dry boards, what happiness

they might bring me.

I plunge into this white, scraping my days on its rough corners.

The bed remains, the room. I hate crowded places. The room

is almost empty, white.

translated by Adam J. Sorkin and the poet


In the Steps of Amadís de Gaula


It’s said that the most beautiful poems are those

that derive from the poet’s own personal experience.

I sincerely miss the days when an art other than literature

kept me busy,

namely, chemistry.

I used to make poisons and potions to clean furniture

of stains and hands of moles and warts,

to the great misfortune of one of my friends.

I’d torture ants in the laboratory and scrape chestnuts on cement walls,

prick insects with pine needles to test

my poisons,

and we’d run away whenever our hiding place, my friend’s and mine,

was discovered—my friend, it happened, managed to concoct

better poisons than mine.

Out of puppy love for I can’t recall which classmate,

I was once on the verge of making myself the guinea pig for one of my fabrications,

but I chickened out.

That was also the time when, on the altar of chemistry,

I lost the clarity of my eyesight—

I lost nearly half of a good and gorgeous eye!

But today it’s harder than ever for me to see clearly,

almost impossible,

so many things get said, so many things I can’t figure out . . .

translated by Adam J. Sorkin and the poet



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