In this month’s Corner, we’re pleased to present work from sublime Romanian poet Adrian Oproiu. Born in Curtea de Argeş, Romania, with an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Bucharest, he has been living in Croatia since 2009, where he began his poetry career, teaches Romanian Literature at university, and also translates from Romanian into Croatian and vice versa. His first volume of poetry, Căpcăunul ierbivor, was published in 2012 in Bucharest.
This level of inter-cultural living certainly exemplifies the spirit and promise of today’s Europe – and by the way, also of Trafika Europe. We’ll be bringing you a great set of Adrian Oproiu’s poems in the next issue of our online journal, Trafika Europe 4. Given the salient topic of living inter-culturally, we’re supplementing it here with a short essay-poem he’s written, expressing, as he puts it, the difficult relation he has with language and words.
Trafika Europe showcases new fiction and poetry from across Council of Europe: a swath of 47 countries comprising the continent of Europe, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caspian Sea. Check us out online and on Twitter and Facebook, and enjoy with us the amazing richness and variety of European literature!
by Adrian Oproiu
translated by Goran Čolakhodžić and the author
I have lost words twice. It was like a bag of flour seeping through my fingers and the rain pouring over my face like a colony of ants. My body got greener, I would become now more translucent – more like a leaf in which you can discern veins, ghostly and microscopically small hills, blood-red domes and towers – now full of organs swelling up, shrinking, changing their form like when you sometimes close your eyes and plasticine bubbles re-enact on the screen of your mind the steps of an unknown evolution; hopeless, the organs blend together like mud and lava, exiting the body and searching for their origins, blind earthen birds that have forgotten what place they ought to occupy in me, what function they were destined for and how to complete it. Due to the lack of magnetic fields that would guide them, they have begun an evolution of their own, without a specific code. Since then my fingers have often been spilling ashes as if I were a factory of soot in the suburbs of a town made of paper. At other times my fingers return back into my body, disappearing one by one as some word opens its fish-like mouth and takes me with it into the deep, into the void of its sonorous space. There, as well as in the body that has forgotten its word, there is no more time, just a black plain into which you sink, an ear in which something is ringing protractedly. Twice have I lost words and now the foreign ones are joining this dizzying dance: sometimes they are fragile beings under whose skin you can feel the flesh throbbing, rotten walnuts crumbling in your hands, a weedy garden that clings to your legs (and you’re an unskilled gardener); at other times they become monstrous birds that have to be domesticated, birds with wolf heads and lion heads that frighten you as hissing geese used to frighten you. I am now trying to write about all this but words are never enough to describe the loss of words. The words of my own language had become objects already then, the words of the other language are objects too, maybe even more gnarled and barbed. Every day they must be brought from a storage room under your house, where they lie dusty and crammed like appliances and bicycle wheels; then you must carry them up on your back and carefully arrange them, so that simultaneously with the text you also build the walls of the house, so that you have a bed to sleep in, a cup in which to pour the coffee. That’s why sometimes, when it’s winter, for example, you wake up feeling cold, and you go and seal a hole in the wall. Words you don’t have, they don’t belong to you, but you can at least keep them near you and you don’t have to walk like a dog on a frozen lake all the time. Twice have I lost words and, losing them, I split in two: my body and my words. Then someone else started to put on my shoes, to smoke my cigarettes, a witness, he himself being somewhere between body and word. Something that could be named me, he, or the other, the witness of this scission was moving from one part of me to the other. A dead end, because when he was with me in the body, he suffered in the body with me, and when he was with me inside the word he suffered inside the word, another witness in his own body or word suffering for him. Now sometimes when I wake up I try to make a habit of reading dictionaries. Little by little, I can see how my language, while getting estranged from me, is starting to come closer and out of the poverty of its original innocence the possibility of a final innocence takes shape: therefore a result, not a mere return into nostalgia. The glass is broken but the shards are assembling. The final innocence of words, though, is not the broken and then fixed glass (that one is lost forever), but another glass, entirely new, with its own laws. A land as much wasted as it is fertile. But the journey of my language towards me is long. I move somewhat motionless, like a wheel in a ghost town, I go out but I’m a nut shell that’s piercing its kernel. Alone then I start to rewrite myself. With every word that I bring nearer to me, a bit more flesh is given to me for my body, a few more channels are being dug out, new pores are spawning through which I can sense the seasons. After its long pilgrimage outside the blood, a cell comes back to its place and finally goes to the place where it must die. There is both good and evil in all this and, in fact, once words are lost, good and evil start to mix, and this is sometimes good, and at other times bad. You would like things to be easier, you would like to look at everything from a centre that has to be created starting right from here, from this hollow, this margin of yours, to look from a place where peace is madness people and things, birds in their true unreal light.