November 13, 2009

Iustin Panta
—translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Mircea Ivanescu

HOW BEAUTIFULLY YOUR FIRE BURNS

                             After I put some more logs on the
                             fire in the fireplace
                             she said, “How beautifully your fire
                             burns.”
                             We sat for a while and talked about
                             simple things.
                             But those words, “How beautifully
                             your fire burns,” her tone of voice, the knowing and gentle
                             gesture of her head, especially that pronoun “your”—
                             all this lingered: the peace, the
                             profound simplicity of things;
                             again and again: only the simple
                             things never disappoint.
                             This is the scene that was given rise
                             to, after several weeks
                             it so happens that you live on the little square right where they set up
the playground for children. They installed the equipment—little electric cars,
the play-box with all its handles and gears, the merry-go-round—a beautiful
woman of metal, with upraised arms, and on her skirts little benches where
children sit to be turned round and round while being raised and lowered.
However the motor of the merry-go-round doesn’t work, the mechanical
woman is immobile, and her enormous face stares fixedly at your window.
One night, opening it, you were overcome, as if under a state of hypnosis, by
the immobility of her face and her eyes, and since then you no longer air your
rooms in the mornings, you no longer gaze out your window
in the evenings—you’re sure that she goes on staring at you all the time
                             these events took place one night, in
                             my quarter in the outskirts of the city
                             when the power failed and we were
                             left in the dark, all alone, in my
                             narrow room.
                             And all I had at hand was merely the
                             glow of my cigarette when I suddenly
                             felt the need to look at her face.
                             And then I traced the outline all
                             around her face with my cigarette—
                             her image, lost in the smoke and the
                             almost nonexistent glimmer of my
                             cigarette, was
                             only a halo, her face then envisaged
                             only her look.
                             “I think we’re friends now,” I told her
                             in that room in my quarter in the
                             outskirts of the city:
                             that was my reply to “How beautifully
                             your fire burns.”

 

*Iustin Panta died September 27, 2001 in a car accident, on his way to an award ceremony in Bucharest. He was 35 years old.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004
Tribute to Poets Writing Abroad

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