translated from the Romanian

by Adam J. Sorkin and Daniel Mangu






women are fascinating

under twenty and over thirty—yeah

five years or so earlier, five or so later

what kid, when he doesn’t yet know what the objective looks like,

wouldn’t want a woman in her thirties?

what balding guy at thirty-five to forty wouldn’t care for a young thing?

when you have a fat one, you want a thin one—because women are fascinating

a little below the waist and a little above—

when you’ve had a lusty wench, it’s as if you immediately want, I don’t know why,

a bashful maiden who’d ask you to turn out the light . . .

Maresh and Dinu (may he rest in peace)

over a drink in the kitchen at Dinu’s one night

at one of our generation’s parties: “Look here,

the finest thing in the world is to put it to a woman, so forth and so on, this way and that”—for two hours they kept on talking like this, with all the details, the tomcats . . .


women are actually just like us

they’re as curious as we are

you know, you watch one on the street or on a tram

and wonder: man, what would it be like . . . ?

that’s how they think, too.

and the same as you find men as shy as little girls

you’ll find girls quick at the zipper

when they’re alone with a guy.

Radu (at Rahova one cold night

over a mug of beer, even colder):


“Twenty-four? Seriously? By the time I was twenty-four

I’d had my fill of broads, I’d had legions . . .”

and then, playing with his lighter: “Look here,

you can be what you like, but a real woman won’t stick with you

unless she feels you can tame her

you can be the biggest big shot, you can be a genius,

but fuck ’em and to hell with em’ . . .”


women aren’t human beings

you can’t understand them

you’ll find that out after marriage

you’ll see how the little dove will take wing

how she’ll yell at you

how she’ll boss you around . . .

it’s true that then

it won’t be the same thing.

after five years of wedded life, when you lay your hand

on her bottom, it’s like putting your hand on your own.


Mr. Nichi, in Berlin (Traian and me

listening to him over a shot of vodka):

“It’s the same with women: when you see one in the street,

the seam of her stocking a little cockeyed,

you’ll know there must be something loose about her,

she’s approachable.

Perfect correctness is inhibiting, both in a woman

and in a work of art.”

And we: “Excellent!

Excellent, mr. professor!”


both gorgeous women and ugly women

are OK.

beware, however,

the ordinary girl in blue jeans and a t-shirt

who stands, neither ugly nor beautiful,

waiting at the tram stop.

she’s like you and she’s waiting for you.





Sabato Would Have Taken It for an Omen

a cold bright april morning

we’re in the year of our lord 1989

the trolley-bus 66 barely crawls through the traffic

in my seat, I’m reading the black spider

now and again I glance out the window at the colorful crowd

and feel irritation growing in me;

it’s going to take half an hour to get to kog?lniceanu square

I’m on my way to see the cover of my book of prose

and I’ve imagined every sort of possibility.


c. a. rossetti’s statue also has its own seat

and it’s reading something too

part of the traffic of this entire earth unto “eternity” . . .


and then I noticed the creature—a girl

like any other girl, you could say

neither very beautiful nor very ugly

a tartan dress, patterned knee socks—a familiar style—

walking slowly in the opposite direction to the 66 I was on

she was some seven months pregnant

maybe that’s why her face looked rather pale but with only a few faint blotches


the melodrama comes at the end, but can the real,

that which I saw with my own eyes, be melodramatic?

life is one thing, literature another

nevertheless, here goes:

this girl had no arms, only two stunted little hands

like a child’s attached to her shoulders

like two little small wings of reddish flesh.


likely in my adolescence this would have made me look away

but now, in my corrupt maturity

I began to think anew about stanciu’s cover

about my book’s coming out

while tying to see whose exhibit was hung in the lobby of the very small theater.



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