Alex Văsieș (1993, Romania) is a poet and a translator, as well as a PhD candidate with a thesis on the maximalist novels from the second half of the twentieth century. For his debut poetry collection, he received the Young Poet of the Year Award. Recently, he has translated several novels (written by authors such as Chuck Palahniuk, Tom Hanks, Neil Gaiman or Graeme Macrae Burnet) and poetry by Alice Notley. In addition, he coordinates an American poetry translations column in the monthly Steaua Magazine, where he introduces some of the most important American voices of the present to the Romanian readers.
Why are you sad on the 2nd of May?
We’ve been traveling for who knows how many hours through a yellow, impossible fog and all you say is “If you love me you have to do something.”
You thought I’d want to fly over the lake, forgetting how much I hate airplanes, although I told you this even when Grimes gave birth.
I hate planes to the sky and back.
Your friend’s uncle is afraid to take off in the fog and invites us to his place out of shame.
He shows us scale models and serves us an aged wine under the vine.
You wouldn’t drink because nobody’s allowed to drive your car.
You’re so cute when you don’t get what you want, especially how the yellow t-shirt changes you: an angry little boy with narrow shoulders.
We’re toasting to me.
This is an Archangel, and she’s a Tiger Wasp.
His wife, from Piatra Neamț, bought it, and the memory makes him bite his lips in pain.
Here we are still together and we love each other; then why do you suddenly have a tear on your cheek?
You look at the sky, it’s from the vine.
It’s crying, the pilot tells us, his mind empty and inconsolable.
He says it a few more times, as if we don’t understand.
For three years now, left alone with the planes, he repeats things until the world abandons him.
You stop at the farm with solar panels and start crying for real.
The desires once inside your body are now moving around us.
Here you are still a teenager and you don’t think too much about the future, although you think with great care about the past.
I see the moon in the rearview mirrors, over houses with lights on.
Some shine, even though the family went out to look at the stars.
Tonight, the fog holds them together.
You fall in love with the parents of the one you love, with their house, with their animals, with their set of topics, without which they would die in a conversation.
And this holds you closer to him than love.
At night, I sleep very little and sleep away from you.
The sound of you peeing soothes me, almost putting me back to sleep.
I feel the sadness in my cunt, but love is more subtle than the body.
In the morning, I see you in the garden watering three rows of strawberries; you call them Anger, Abandonment and Dedication.
I give you money, lots of money, so you don’t use this kind of words anymore.
You tell a story, but only the bees bumping your cheek can hear it.
You always want people to think you’re happy, like when sparkling water tickles your throat and nose.
The leaves tremble under the sprinkler, thanking you for the care.
Do you remember how you cried at the farm with solar panels?
The easiest way out of the story is to be absorbed in its tragic formula, in the universal myths of animals.
If water moves left and right, white light decomposes into its spectrum.
And I don’t care how you behave in this world, I care about you, about the way the climate suits you or not.
Only when the electricity in the air makes you tremble, you realise it got cloudy.
Seriously, so I watered in vain.
But the silence you speak in, the resignation that the sun will not rise today, that it warmed you exactly as much as you needed.
You don’t even say it to me, and that’s why I find it unforgettable.
It’s the moment when I like you the most and I feel my heart melting.
I am saddened by loneliness as a form of criticism,
I am saddened by your cherry red windbreaker on the basalt sky,
by dreams with many people, my attention span unable to contain you.
It saddens me that I could live all of this again and that I can’t want it anymore.
We’re smoking weed in front of the library, among scooters.
Roberto is friends with Marco who is friends with Mauro who is friends with me.
I don’t even like weed; I no longer feel any sadness from it, just space.
But they left me alone with Roberto, who was drinking beer yesterday morning at 9:00, in the reading room.
It smells of garlic and Moschino.
Where is Mauro? Did he go for coffee?
It’s the end of autumn, but the light of spring tricks the seasons.
A hundred meters further, the carabinieri smoke and jump their machine guns on their shoulders.
With olive-green eyes, with olive-oiled chins.
It’s that moment after lunch when all the communication breaks.
The cold, dry air makes us feel good. We want to be better
and right now I like the passage of time because I like time.
Andrea takes me by car and we go to the Ukrainian girl, Karolina or Karola.
Her boyfriend owns a house in Polignano and we sit in the sun like green parrots.
It’s an invasion. They break the bark with their strong beaks, leaving the fruit shell on the branches.
Like us, they are crazy about almonds, but can be satisfied by any kind of fruit.
In November, orange leaves float on the pool water.
Those who know how to swim swim among them and falter.
I fall asleep under long, expressionist shadows.
So where’s the boyfriend? I get up from the lounger and still can’t see him anywhere.
I love girls who were born with the sadness gene.
I play games with them on the PlayStation, and I go down. Down. Down. Down.
Daniele played water polo, but did not want to be an Olympic medalist.
Everyone is trying to be seen, but there in the water I wanted no one to see me.
I cried like never before.
Then I broke away and retired.
At 16, I said this was the end of my sports career.
Depression is very difficult… Do you want cocaine?
Imagine that you are the sun that fills the sky and everything around you melts.
I want to think a little before answering you.
Claudia is moving – a heat wave in December.
The explosion of the ultraviolet lamp terrifies me.
She knows what she’s doing.
She opens her mouth, speaks in a low voice, but remains motionless, close to her pronunciation.
It’s the only way she knows how to talk about it. She is aware of her lips moving and she likes it, she likes how her lips move, just like a dog left without water.
It hurts to look at her.
She kept a story in her chest, but the sea of forgiveness in which a complicated being swims blurs her, silences her.
Soon there will be no more movies, no radio drama, no clever cars, no clever people.
What nonsense, who makes you talk like that?
Nobody, but I heard you crying and I couldn’t stand aside.
In the first scenes I had a shaved face; but here I wear a beard and I try to speak Italian.
And what about all those people who live in the dark and don’t even realize it?
It is no longer a novel or a story, a hermetically sealed villaggio in the center of a fire, in the wall of the house across the street.
It is evening in the month of our adoration.
It was only about you, from day one.
When I hear someone who knows how to speak, I free myself from my senses; like when I was at the drive-in and a guy suddenly appeared whispering in my ear.
And his voice sounded asleep, from afar, from a wet car.
A gesture without consequence, a little star on the sand.
They’re not aphrodisiacs, they’re a good night’s sleep, i.e. awesome.
What I forgot to draw from her or his answer: the ocean.
Nothing about the darkness. Almost nothing about the darkness. Not a word about the darkness. About darkness itself.
You are silent and calm, more like a constellation.
My mind is filled with things I can’t come to terms with.
And the cheetah still scratches the planet. Someone is singing St. Augustine in the blue bedroom.
Where do you eat the best focaccia barese in the world?
On this beautiful stadium, where Răducioiu once smiled and no one plays anymore.
Nothing is really great when you receive it at once. On the boy’s face and around his ankle.
And they all just look at the sky, at the twins’ rainbow.
The government will give them the bad news.
Port workers got used to them.
Soon, this place will be the same as before.
A painful party.
Andrea holds Clara in his arms, I would give anything to be one of them.
The terrace only holds their eyes.
From the sea, the smell of frittura mista.
I could move here, dedicate myself to the climate, to the octopuses.
I’m as good as the things I replace.
But the stars are gone, the air is cold and hard as mud.
The air is dangerous. Nobody wears warm clothes.
After working together for a few days, the men realize they are the same.
First they look around, their desires pierce the walls like drills,
then they choose two young women infiltrated by the sun and follow them full of hope,
until the street forces them to turn back, losing another chance
to regain their lives, to lie jaded and relaxed on private beaches
as the girls laugh at the bonus after boner pun, as the night latches the sea.
And waves, waves of warm oblivion, over the fingers clenched in remorse.
One of them remembers: his son was stuttering nervously trying to explain
that you can no longer use the viper metaphor when speaking about unknown women,
in 2020, at a crossroad, or to drool thoroughly, disgustingly after them,
and that it all comes from a deep, unshakable hatred for the woman who dumped him at 40.
Well, how do you tell me what I can and can’t do, lad, when I work my ass off
for you to drive the car you drive and not sleep like the poor under the bare sky?
Everything, every vibration from the youth of others burns his skin, and most of all their cruelty.
Before falling asleep, the other one imagines how his sons would fuck the girls on his account
opened in the nineties at the Bank of Sex and Silent Charisma.
First the little one, heir to the broad, hairy chest, often pierced with pain.
Then the big one, with an unbearably thin voice of pleasure, about which
years in a row he heard his neighbors whispering that his son was full of tricks and fads.
Now he says: Dad, I think you have some problems that should be solved,
but I can’t help you, because I’ve escaped the web of desires.
In reality, one really likes to let himself be hypnotized by the concrete mixer machine.
Five parts of sand to one of cement, water and a handful of fiberglass
floating like a fine powder in the centripetal darkness.
Then he leaves the full wheelbarrow at the door and at the end of the day, stepping into the room
he feels the fever running down his legs and his eyes fill with tears,
as if he saw the crooked walls for the first time, the ceiling lowered by 50 mm.
He read the future in stone, and how much he’ll have to endure, how many women far from him.
He looks away to calculate what is left for them to spend together
before being absorbed back into their families, under a sky like an empty esplanade.
One of them with an extra thousand euros and his overalls smelling of wild mint,
the other one dumped, with a summer house to return to every weekend.
And he remembers that they were eating in silence on the oilcloth with roses in bloom
and the radio was muttering discreetly about Nicoliță’s return to Steaua,
when the other man touched his neck with his hand, stretched out to a fruit fly.
The first impulse was to cling to his fingers, bring them close to his face and press,
because they were cold and clenched like a tendril trembling from a night of regress.
Only beyond the plasterboard, beyond the reinforced, insulated walls, from the air cushion
that didn’t let the heat escape, the men of the house were still looking at him with burning eyes,
as he had seen them years ago, manly and transparent, in a dream he had never left.
And all he did was look at the crescent moon above the pond and wait for the desire to dissolve.
In the dirty water, the vipers bite and fight – that’s all he felt night after night after night.
To me, their eyes lost their brightness
There are three bumblebees and the girls are chasing them with willows in their hands.
Evelyn and Daria run their fingers through their honey-blonde, wavy hair.
Roxana, younger and brunette, wears a white T-shirt with minions
and struggles to break nuts with a brick as big as her rickety chest.
Where did she find it and what kind of engine swirls inside her when she picks it up?
The sisters, although they quarrel a little in Hungarian, matched their pink T-shirts.
Be-Benidorm 23 and the TikTok logo reflecting the silver sunset.
They hit the willows through the air, advancing towards the end of the asphalt road,
from where you can fly over the rocks directly in the Someș,
walls of dark water to swallow all the noise.
Through the lowered car window, Roxana’s voice asks us:
Do you believe I can kill them with the power of my mind?
If you don’t believe me, girls, we won’t meet again tomorrow. I mean, I’m not coming anymore.
Next to the olive gate covered with a carpet like a dry rose,
a man smokes and calls their names one by one. Roxana, Eve, Daria.
Daria peeks into my car right before entering the yard,
thinking I don’t see her, that she’s invisible, just like moments before.
But we look into each other’s eyes and realize that something is taken away from me,
something yellow, maybe a bike leaned on the fence in contrast,
a flicker on the rusty metal. After it warmed me up without knowing it.
And maybe I don’t even want to be happy, but to rely on sadness,
when the autumn wind chaotically pushes sounds towards me.
When I was their age, bumblebees used to appear right after the May eclipse,
and maybe you don’t believe me, girls, but they only lived with us for a few days, in the evening.
Translated by Cătălina Stanislav