Cyber Corpse 2
Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
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Mirror Against the Wall
by Radu Andriescu

from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin with the poet


"This is the first time I've written at five in the morning"
is a sentence with which I feel tempted to perpetrate a
literary fraud
but everyone who knows me would realize I'm far too lazy for
"Blindfold the mirror and stand it against the wall":
another magic formula to hide petty matters.
Here's the way things shaped up:
having a teenage acne of colossal proportions
which I never liked to mention
let alone write of
so that I ask myself now, what about poetry's soothing
therapeutic effect?
in short I was monstrously ugly
and it seems obvious to me now, purely out of spite, I'd fall
all the bimbos my best friend was in love with,
who went gaga over him-
and tah-dah! my phobia about mirrors . . .
I don't really know what got into me to write all this
stupid stuff but anyway, since I've taken the plunge:
thus ensued my phobia about mirrors and all the world's
that register the image
except words, which are more forgiving, as it's widely known
you can do with them what you want.


It wouldn't be right to conclude that writing became a salve
for the wounds of my feelings:
in my entire life, I've written only two love poems-
or maybe three, all of them steeped in Brumaru's spicy style-
the worst among them, worst because most poorly
brought me the master's blessings; here's what he told me
in a long-distance call
when I was at the seaside
(something more or less like this): go to Vasile, the manager
of the House of the Writers
or, wait, the Writer's House, whatever, and tell him that I
sent you.
I'm digressing. I'm drifting away from the subject:
the mirror against the wall.
In Cluj, in the apartment of a friend of mine,
one of the most off-the-wall personages in the entire city,
who would leap from the Arizona Café holding an umbrella,
with a finale that might be called
a successful landing, and who appeared a perfect replica of a
Transylvanian minstrel, as I imagine one,
I broke a mirror that had cost over two hundred lei,
or so the story goes,
after a day unlike any day I'd ever had in my own
hilly town,
a day I'll remember all my life because


that day I lost my drooping French beret, in which I looked
the consummate bohemian with picture-book tresses,
forgotten in a impeccably furnished villa, at the foot
of the Belvedere Hill,
where I was mistaken for what I wasn't and had no intention
of ever being, I'm sure you'd like me to tell you,
but it's not hard to guess,
though who knows? Such polymorphous monsters
do the merciful heavens shelter
with all their bounties.
And all this because of an irresistible planetary passion,
of Slavic derivation, as we know it.
There was a joy and happiness from which I couldn't abstain
and which would bring me nothing but trouble.
It used to show itself the very moment I forgot about
the mirror and about myself.
Now it bothers me only when real faces
melt into malleable paste, like in Miro's paintings.


This artless and confessional tone is risky as hell
for it lures you to confide more and more
to digress in every line
so that I feel I'm almost committing a kind of literary hara-
dangerous, my friend, far too dangerous,
it's hard to discriminate among any number of disparate
issues here . . .
and what of minimalist poetry?
I'll try to get on with the beheading but forego the customary

V (Harpsichord with Multiple Keyboards)

I'm seeking a "poetic voice"
although I believe I'll never realize this ancient and wise
sometimes in fact I hope I won't
meanwhile I'll likely find myself mistaken, as I usually am
about people
for they one and all seem innocent and good to me
even those whom in secret I hate like poison
until I come to realize they're right
and I get used to the idea.
I don't know, I guess I'm really enough of an ignoramus
never to know
what's for the best in this world
(what'll it be, the gondola or the kayak, the canoe or the
the river or the murmuring stream, the crystal, the swamp,
man or swine,
hedgehog or dove . . . )


I promised I'd be brief and I'm terrified to the quick:
I've undoubtedly reached
the central part
of this sequence of poems,
the capstone,
and I have no idea what to write about
because in my life I've never had a particularly
supercharged moment
that somehow leaves the others in the dust,
and as for the mirrors, I'm sure I've already said all I had
to say
I've even told about that winter in Cluj, what more can I
Whenever I stepped into the bathroom, instead of turning
the light on
I'd turn it off,
because of the mirrors, and also when I telephoned
someone, since
behind the phone there was a mirror
as big as day,
and in the stores, I used to slip quickly through those
where there were mirrors,
except for the shoe stores, and even there,
sometimes it was sufficient for me just to catch a flicker
of reflected shoes to . . .
forget it! I'd rather end this section on a
note of candor,
I'll copy below the very first poem I care-ful-ly re-cit-ed,
the first one I com-mu-ni-cat-ed
when I was nine years old and still had no idea
what lit-er-a-ture was all about,
and for whoever doesn't know French it will be an even more
exquisite, a purer poetry,
as the Palazzo della Ragione is in this tourist booklet of
likewise in a Romance
tongue, but freer in language
than this bouquet of stanzas
in their literary complexity.
My baroque side, which as yet won't give me a moment's
had elicited,
while I was playing badminton in the yard with my father,
in some other country,
the strange story
of the war between the Daises and the Roses,
a story which turned into a catastrophe when I was prompted
to retell it
in front of a microphone,
itself a sort of mirror, too, like paper.
So I quote
and here goes:
No, it's terrible not to be able to see those words with the
of a child
I'll simply keep them to myself.


Now I'll be riding off along the trail,
having regaled you with my tale
without its being stale, but without flourishes,
in a sweet new style
a citadel without women
or with, if you will, and all the delights and the freshness of
at the seaside
when the skin burns and you dance
and end up sleeping it off in a cell,
you, oh loathsome fellow creature.


The Romanian poet Radu Andriescu is the author of three books of poetry, Mirror Against the Wall in 1992, The Back Door two years later in 1994, and most recently, The End of the Road, the Beginning of the Journey (1998). Andriescu is a lecturer in the Faculty of Letters of the Alexandru I. Cuza University of Iasia. Other poems by Andriescu have previously appeared in English in City of Dreams and Whispers, edited by Adam Sorkin, and are forthcoming in Cider Press Review.

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