Cristian Popescu


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 over it.


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 attention.


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 Local Council!

Oh, that we might warmly grasp the noble author’s hand,

But, alas, his signature’s impossible to understand!

In any event, under the letters on this proclamation

Shines the glorious seal of the Romanian nation!


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.



                                                translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Bogdan Ştefănescu






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 childhood.

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 years.

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.



                                                translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Bogdan Ştefănescu




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