“How Beautifully Your Fire Burns” by Iustin Panta

Iustin Panta


After I put some more logs on the
fire in the fireplace
she said, “How beautifully your fire
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.”

—translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Mircea Ivanescu

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


Iustin Panta was trained as an electrical engineer. A Romanian poet, he produced five books in the last decade, largely prose poetry. He was a poet of reverie and anxiety, retrospection and obsession. He once asked translator Adam Sorkin which he liked best, knowing or desiring, and himself answered with the latter. Iustin died September 27, 2001 in a car accident, on his way to an award ceremony in Bucharest. He was 35 years old.

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