“Circles and Circles” by Liliana Ursu

Liliana Ursu


The circle of roses in the park
hidden deep in the shadow of apartment towers
is nothing like the moon-cool circle of milk
carried in the pitcher by the nun’s hands,
splashing its slow light on the grassy path—or
the sweet circle of honey that swerves before dawn
inside the bear stalked by hunters
while dew and mist beat the forest’s staccato call to prayer
on the toaca.

The circle of wild strawberries I offered,
incapable of healing
the dark circles under my mother’s eyes
during her last summer.

Or the mirror of the iron band
girdling the old oak tree,
attracting clouds, hours, seconds—
that steady, gentle flow of the day’s tide.

A streak of lightning
and all the circles break open.
Thunder, and they contract,
then merge into one, burning
on the surrendered hand
like a ring of fire around fire.

translated by the poet, Adam J. Sorkin & Tess Gallagher

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007


Adam J. Sorkin: “I fell into translation by chance some 25 years ago and never got over it. John Dryden called translation a ‘disease,’ and it might well be seen as an addiction for which (fortunately) there is no Translators Anonymous—although that’s what translators usually are, invisible, at the bottom of the page and often missing from the book cover.”

Liliana Ursu was born in Sibiu, Romania, which figures prominently in many of her eight books of poetry in Romanian. Her first book in English, The Sky Behind the Forest (Bloodaxe, 1997), translated by Ursu, Sorkin, and Gallagher, became a British Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation and was shortlisted for Oxford’s Weidenfeld Prize.

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