Liliana Ursu
The Sand of Olimp


I am translating the poems of George Szirtes
on a skittish afternoon in early May.
Near my feet, a kitten, its eyes just opened,
wobbles its first steps.
The shadow of the flowering raspberry canes
creeps slowly along my leg
while somebody strides triumphantly
across my shadow,
somebody from the past.
 
On the white table in the garden, my eyeglasses,
a dictionary, Cavafy, The Bestiary of Helen Dunmore,
The Lives and Works of the Great Saints.
 
I open the big, brightly colored umbrella.
At the moment I translate the last lines,
about the accordion player and the blind intellectual,
with the closing phrase, “Be wise, be good.”
Evening falls. I shut the umbrella.
 
Suddenly, everything is salted with fine sand,
touched by the beach and by the sea, wintered together
there in the folds of my umbrella.
Now they sift onto this May freshness,
over the finale of my day—ethereal, beatific,
as if an angel unfurled its wings.




A Path to the Sea, or the Letter A


In the morning all things in their place:
first the heart, next the coffee
steaming in its white cup, the roses
baptized with dew from the May sky—
and now the shadow of a fleeting thought
which, for such a long time,
has been circling me.
 
Without a whisper it alights
on my welcoming page, like sand
to a shore scrubbed by the sea—one moment
enriched, the next
impoverished.
 
Freed of my life,
the poem takes my place
in the garden
near a small secret door
opening onto the sea.
 
All things in their place. Yet nothing
what it was.




- Translated from Romanian by the poet, Adam J. Sorkin and Tess Gallagher