Stella Vinitchi Radulescu

Translated from the French by Luke Hankins

alone under the shifting vault

and the mauve of a passing thought         am I
this body struggling with itself
next to me

the world at hand         the twitch of a mouth
about to speak
as one speaks in the fallen evening
with the angels

:  I’ve grown quiet         don’t want to sleep
at the price of a day and the one who carries
the lamp
his steps this violence in the throat the yes the no

I cover myself in sounds
and I walk

from  Journal with Closed Eyes

If I don’t describe things precisely, no one will read them.

The dogs barked the whole night. This is my distant childhood. We had to cross a river, someone took me in their arms. The yellow lampshade in the corner of the room and the barking dogs. When they stop barking I hear echoes. I stuff my head into the pillow, but I still hear them. The deserted streets of sleep.

Tonight my father gets up, totters around in his tomb, raises a sickly arm and closes the window.

As soon as I bought a notebook I was sure that I’d fill it. The first page was already the last.

Time hurries me onward. It speeds up. There are still a few minutes and I have to get to the station, cross the streets and the waiting room, the sleeping bodies with open mouths, the dirty benches and the breathing full of weariness and alcohol. It’s written in my destiny that I must pass this place, and the hours, without respite, without reason, shuffle past.

Remember, a certain month of that year,

a certain day of that month, on the quay . . . If I had at least left . . .

You can rearrange these pages. There is no order, no sequence. You can erase lines, add others, switch out the events.

It’s up to you. I won’t respond to you anymore. Too busy staying silent. I would have liked to have spoken to you about my life but I don’t feel up to it. What I say is what I want you to know, and you don’t want even that.

For some time everything’s been out of place, and things have never gone back where they belong.

I won’t respond to you anymore because I’ve forgotten the taste of snow. Each winter it snows less and less.

I live in an unknown village. You can smell salt and seaweed here, but you can’t see the sea. The more I look for it, the more elusive it becomes. A warm breeze blows and the men, in shirtsleeves, build dams. Some days pass more quickly than others, and there are few women. You can’t tell the color of their eyes. I want to plant trees—I bought a shovel—but they won’t let me do it. There are strict rules and streets with no address. Dogs eat one another. I seem to catch glimpses of someone signaling me with a motion of their hand.

To get here, I often take the six o’clock train. I rarely return.


I wake in my own body and then
in the other
waking beside me
jealous that I stirred first

wall of sounds  :

barricade the night crack language in half         the earth clutches
the void
what’s left of it . . .

I stretch out on the beach
no wave carries me away         as the day
we’re still talking about
approaches . . .

what life on earth is about

in the garden among the leaves
have the birds gone away?
where is this noise at the bottom of the ocean coming from
this avalanche of human forms?

enough? of course not, it’s starting again
the empire is drowning
they’re hanging innocents
and it’s up to the wind to listen to their cries
to soften their souls

Stella Vinitchi Radulescu was born in Romania and left the country in 1983, at the height of the communist regime. She holds a PhD in French Language & Literature, and she was a professor of French at Loyola University and Northwestern University for many years. Writing poetry in three languages, she has published numerous books in the United States, France, Belgium, and Romania. Radulescu’s French books have received several awards, including the Grand Prix de Poésie Noël-Henri Villard and the Prix Amélie Murat. Her latest book of original English-language poetry is I Scrape the Window of Nothingness: New & Selected Poems (Orison Books, USA, 2015). She lives in Chicago.

Luke Hankins is the author of a collection of poems, Weak Devotions, and a collection of essays, The Work of Creation: Selected Prose. He is also the editor of Poems of Devotion: An Anthology of Recent Poets. A collection of his translations from the French of Stella Vinitchi Radulescu, A Cry in the Snow & Other Poems, is forthcoming from Seagull Books.

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