Contents
 

 

 

Sketchbook 

Cristian Mocanu, RO

 

 

 
Trilogy 1

EMBEDDED

The Expert's CD

dedicated to Mr.Alexandru Mandy, the forgotten poet, in his old age

"You see", the Expert said, inserting his CD into the computer, "track 23 on this one is quite intriguing. It's been included in this compilation, 'All-time Greatest Romanian Hits' and you'd think this is honor enough. But I'm telling you, this is one of the finest pieces of love poetry ever written. Neruda would have wished he'd been the author. You never know how these things come your way. It's always in God's hands"

Why even start to speculate on who started the fire
Knowing he's nowhere to be found and vengeance never saves forests?
Just poets never ask where their sudden sparkle comes from

"You know", the Expert continued, "in this case, the composer was just sitting on a pretty crowded beach when he saw a young man, his hair in absolute disorder, fire-red cheeks, big, round eyes, running around, bumping into everyone and asking just this one question: "Excuse me, haven't you seen a girl?" No name, no features, no photo, nothing...

In one 'stupid' question how much emptiness, pain and sorrow!
Lost love's only redemption is to be turned to brilliant verse.
But of all the broken hearts, how many will find a poet?

"Just listen carefully to the last part of the song", the Expert whispered. "That's the part where Pablo Neruda would become jealous. One could even paraphrase it into a sijo; only the author said so much more and so much better":

Tear, Sea and Spring, Sugar and Salt; Truth, Lie and Hope, Dirt and
Spirit,
Limit, Boundlessness, Joy and Grief; Life and Death, Time, Eternity.
This plethora of names at once for one and the same lover.

As the last notes of the tune had vanished from the room, the Expert and his guests decided to stay on for a while. To all of them it felt like a moment of silence on a stadium; and all of them somehow sensed what the reason was, though no one seemed to be able to put his finger on it...

 

 

BURNING BRAZIL

-a haibun-

to Johanna Klemm-Silva

The translator asks for permission to insert his own CD. He is a quiet man, his deep, green eyes conveying a sense of mild sadness. All we actually know about him is that he has a disability of some sort, that he lives alone and that he traveled the world over on interpretation assignments. Not very much else, really… “I burned this myself” he says, almost shyly, "after my trip to Brazil. I’ll only play three tracks, which bring back memories”.

Suddenly, we’re on fire with anticipation. The memories of this man whose job it is to bridge gaps, reverse Babel, convey (somebody else’s) meanings, whom his clients tend to regard as a mere translating machine, always intent on his voice, never on his person…What memories does he have of the world he helps unite?

“This one is from the Northeast, from the Sertão: vast desert-like plains, where everybody and everything thirsts for rain. People often leave there, but the thirst never leaves them. It merely shifts its object. There was a man, Gonzaga, who put this thirst into notes. He died, but the thirst remained. And now, there’s this girl who adopted his songs and his name.”

Gonzaguinha sings:
the Sertão’s scorching summer
calling the whole world.

“Further north, of course, is the Amazonian rain forest. People went there in search for bounty and beauty; in search for life. Chico Buarque, the huge Brazilian singer from the late Sixties, tried to capture all the thrill”:

who will be faster?
hunter, game and singer race
against the rain season.

“And this is a love song from the deep south: Brazil’s most unsung
region; or rather, I should say, the one whose songs are most unplayed and ignored. The steamboat takes away the author’s love, but he duly places the blame on the hybris of his own selfishness. In some songs you can sense pain-or joy-without understanding the lyrics. These are the truly great songs. And this is one of them”:

Paraguay river
is swollen with tears and tunes:
winter approaches.

The translator says nothing more. In his green eyes there is something like a strange light. It comes from Brazil perhaps: a Brazil in which he sees far more than samba, soccer and slums. And most likely also from somewhere deep within...

 

 

MOVING ON

—a cinquain haibun—

MOTTO:

“A man is an indirect animal/his all too tender soul/is
unfathomable”

                      --Nichita Stanescu, Romanian poet, 1933-1983

About ten minutes after he started to listen to those oldies on the Internet he realized that the worst had happened. No, the worst was not remembering her whispers to him in his language and her hypercorrect use of it which brought both a smile to his face and the odd sweet tear to his eyes. It was these memories he wanted to drown in the music of his adolescence, along with the memories of himself speaking her language, so alien to him just years before, but which had since become the language his heart chimed in. Yes, he was a traitor, he thought. But he did not betray his own people, nor hers. He betrayed the language of those song, which used to be the language of his soul before everything happened.

And now he wanted this third language, and these tunes which had been his counsellors and his medicine in times perhaps harder than the present, wash it all away. The sound of her voice, of his voice and of their mingled whispers. He wanted this third language, neutral to the other two, and those songs, neutral in the war which was raging inside him, to carry him to no man’s land, over the border of grief…

But those memories he wanted to somehow disable were not the worst. The worst came from beyond the velvet of the music and the reassuring feel of finally listening to something SHE couldn’t understand, and therefore just his. It came from the sense hidden in the lyrics, a sense which hit him now, inadvertently, and then spread in all his system, like a poison…

soft songs
from way back then
sweet sounds become arrows.
they used to soothe, but now they bleed
your heart.

And then he was at the loneliest. No allies. No neutral Red Cross personnel to carry him on a stretcher to the house of a relative before he’d finally be able to go home…which home? So if he couldn’t deal with the sounds, how could he be expected to fight the haunting image of her; her distinctively Far Eastern looks, like those of a lady-in-waiting to the Empress of Japan. This, although her people was just as European as his or even—as her parents so often claimed—more European. How did she come to have such looks? This was yet another mystery which the Early Middle Ages buried with them in the dust of that tormented part of Europe where tribes of all origins met, tried to wipe each other off, failed, mingled and then drifted apart again.

Oh, had her name but matched her looks! Then she couldn’t have claimed her name was a passport to that non-geographical “West” or “Europe” everybody in their corner of the world seemed to crave. She couldn’t have perceived him as a liability. Their love would have eventually settled down like maturing wine. But, as things turned out, her name was as Western as his eyes. He WAS a liability. To her, at least. Could he ever have won? No, because he lost…

trying
to shut out pain
you avoid eyes like hers.
what if they hide the very light
you need?

But the songs still poured out of his computer speakers. Instinctively, almost against his will, he found himself dancing and clapping to a sailors’ song, born on a sea he always wanted to swim in, but never did. And suddenly, the tears still on his cheeks, as he was singing in a dialect of the “third language” (he still had to learn that one properly, he thought, as the meaning of some words still eluded him) he had one of those “eureka” moments which, as the Conventional Wisdom has it, are quite seldom in a guy’s life. He and his name, his language and his roots were just as innocent as those songs, rather supposed to prevent heart’s wounds from festering, than making things worse. He turned the speakers a bit louder:

embrace
songs old and new
and let them loose again
to turn your wounds into a spring
of life

Trilogy 1, 2, 3, Poems

 


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