Judith Barrington, Rachel Bennett, Magda Cārneci (Alina Cārāc & Adam J. Sorkin)

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Judith Barrington has three collections of poems in print, the most recent being "Horses and the Human Soul" published by Story Line Press. More information is available at her web site: http://www.judithbarrington.com

It's dark here except for the odd lampfish.
You wouldn't like it-walking's a chore:
trash twenty feet deep and more drifting down
from the oil rigs. Sometimes, although it's rash,
we float up to gaze at the flash of a propeller
or sunlight on green scum drifting far from the shore.

I trust them to run from me, necks arched in a full
swan's S
-wild ones destined for dog-food cans,

crammed together, nipping, humping up half-bucks,
too tightly packed to let fly with unshod hoofs.

I trust them to flee the corral on moonless nights
when I slide back the poles and whisper to them and wait:

the nearest spill out sideways, startled
to find the fence of their compound breached;

then muffled snorts and messages on the breath
huff through the tangled mass of horseflesh,

ears come forward, mud-caked heads lift high:
duns and greys, skewbalds and bays, mares

with tottering foals, a sway-backed roan,
surge like a tide and funnel through the strait,

bursting a couple of spans each side of the gap.
I trust them to scent the fragrant pastures of home.

I trust them to keep on looking for the open gate.

[First line from  ""Credo" by Maxine Kumin]
                             a word is elegy to what it signifies -
                                  Robert Hass

The thinking, old and new, is still about loss-
so many pages filled with decaying Edens:
places where poets, lovers, thoughtful people,
made the old mistake of going back:
Tintern Abbey, blousy with candy wrappers;
Fern Hill faded from carefree green to mud;
New Brunswick woods, crossed by nocturnal buses,
but never bringing forth from scratchy shadows
the perfect, ambling creature, high as a church-
the moose, that sad-faced harbinger of joy.

Yet even knowing this, I enter the gash
in the chalky hills, try to rekindle the past
with steps that slide on trampled, grubby grass
and search again for my body's imprint, stretched
deep in daisies, purple clover holding
the shape of someone young, someone flat
on her back, gazing past small brown bees,
the sky smudged with wavering vapor trails
of planes headed south where I always wanted to go.
The word is honeysuckle; the life was sweet.


Rachel Bennett was born in Rock Island, Illinois, in 1979, and moved to New York City in 2001, after participating in the Iowa Writers' Workshop Irish Writing Program in Dublin, working in a nursing home in Ecuador, and earning a B.A. in English from Grinnell College. Her poems have won two Whitcomb Prizes judged by Gerald Stern and James Galvin, respectively, and appeared in Buffalo Carp, Ascent Aspirations Magazine, Rhapsoidia, elimae, Alba, The Big Toe Review, zafusy, Adagio Quarterly Review, Laika Poetry Review, and Blood Lotus; two poems included in Rhapsoidia were 2006 Pushcart Prize nominees. In July 2007, Miss Bennett was invited back to Dublin to give a reading and talk to current students in the Irish Writing Program. She currently lives in Brooklyn, develops programs for the Medicare Rights Center, and teaches poetry in New York University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Somewhere sat a calendar man in a circus hat
who decided based on socks who would meet
whom and where, whether it be under a
bridge, in a gale, or even at the grease monkey.

If you followed pistachio shells to the
beach you'd find a shop that sold nothing
but gum, and little brothers giggling
over the sea at bubbles and starfish!

I dreamed of Siam and reverberations,
waking iced with fever and starving for a
$17,000 bicycle with sailboat capabilities
and retractable, remote-control wings.

Speaking of elephants, I heard she answered
the phone and it was someone pushing vacuum
cleaners for outdoor spaces too big for the
wind but suited, if scoured, for stained glass feet.

Wind chimes chimed like advance ghosts of
retribution while a young man stooped for
a fallen can and an old man strove against
palsy for a taste of whipped cream.


Magda Cārneci, born in 1955, is a widely acclaimed Romanian poet, as well as a prominent essayist and art historian and critic. She has become the leading voice among the gifted group of poets— self-consciously proclaimed postmodernists—who began their careers in Romania’s bleak 1980s, Communism’s final decade. Her first volume of poetry, Hypermateria (1980), was followed by A Deafening Silence (1985), Chaosmos (1992), Psaume (in French, 1997), Poeme/Poems (dual-language, the English versions translated with Adam J. Sorkin, 1999), and Political Poems (2000).  In 2004, she published an anthology of her work, Chaosmos and Other Poems, 1980-2000.  After serving in Paris as a visiting professor of modern Romanian literature, in 2006 she became deputy director of the Romanian Cultural Institute there; now she is Director. Cārneci has been honored with grants from the Fulbright Foundation, Getty Trust, Soros Foundation, European Union, French Government, and the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris. She has authored monographs on art and curated major exhibitions. Chaosmos appeared from White Pine Press in 2006 in our joint versions; forthcoming is a trilingual book with photos, A Bucharest of Smells, a long poetic essay, from the Romanian Cultural Institute.


Love Stories
(a poem in prose)


“The artist is neither man nor woman, not even human...”
 (Thomas Mann)

     Once there were an emperor and an empress. Of flesh. They lived in a miniature grotto. That grotto was in your heart. Of flesh. Of flesh? The emperor and the empress longed to have a child. Alas, in vain. Their embrace engendered merely sounds and sparks. Love granted them images, apparitions, nothing more.

     Nevertheless, a child of crystal came to them one day, very late. But how? He has a golden cradle in their heart. Of flesh. Of flesh? In their heart was you. You. But how? I don’t know. I no longer know.
     Are you sleeping, child, sleeping? Rock me, save me!
     Child, don’t sleep! Don’t fall!
     Wake up, wake me up!


     I press on. I enter the flesh. In confusion. It’s the world. A sort of detonated grenade. A full pomegranate, overripe, its core reddish and black, explosive. Slowly bursting into bloom. Huge, carnivorous bud. Slowly I enter y o u. You swallow me, I swallow you. You devour me, I devour you. Voluptuousness of the world. Slowly you possess me, consume me, disintegrate me. Slowly I take possession of you, digest you, save you. Drops of soft sweat hang from the leaves. Quartz glitters in hot, deep mountains. Rivers suspend their flow stopped between banks of flesh. I wait. I await you.


     Taste the shell, taste the shell! Ooh la la! Soft and bland is the taste of the alluring medusa. Bite, bite lips, pomegranate, pineapple. Suck in, swallow. Open clams line the shores. Enter the lukewarm water, allow yourself gradually to drown. You taste me, I savor you. You swallow me, I gulp you down greedily. Your knife thrusts into the waves.
     I am sea spume billowed on the shore. Ooh la la!


     He strides naked through the house, moving unself-consciously like a natural creature, indifferent, innocent of its own nakedness. He moves his long muscles through the air with the agility and shamelessness of a wild beast or of the first man, far away in virgin jungle. I look at the knot hanging limp and delicate between his thighs. Again and again I’m amazed at that contorted root, the taproot of a woody plant that left behind its spasmodic beginning, leafing out and flowering somewhere else, somewhere within.
     There’s something beautiful and horrible in it. Something organic yet anomalous, absurd, as if the none-too-happy contrivance of an inventor unable to round off the lower part of the abdomen gracefully. It seems tacked on – a cluster, a bunch of grapes, a putrid velvet pouch or perfidious grenade – appended as an afterthought to the otherwise perfect structure of the body.
     I never stop wondering when I see his limp and silky knot. Its sight gives me pause, I’m perplexed, fascinated. I try to understand – to understand what? My imagination is blocked by a sort of fearful amazement.
     As when I see something that, exactly like this world, is beautiful and horrible at the same time, beastly and holy, a tool and an instrument of sudden visionary exaltation, I perceive at last that what is created and creates is not only a limp piece of flesh but also a way.


     Nickel faucet, living spasmodic rope, corydalis root, flaming sword, rattlesnake, bejeweled pouch, nickel-pickle, goddess’s trombone, cuckoo eggs packed in sacks, Tom Thumb, spiky fig, soft dangerous jewel, John Thomas, little clapper, tassel, bulldozer, sweet tuber, ironsmith’s hammer, dibble, cosmic thruster. Uh huh!


     The yellow angel enters the blue angel. An azure flash! Oh, the froth of light, the starry lace!   He fills her crystal glass with hot, superhot dynamite and seals himself deeply inside. A red, burning filament slowly making room, downwards, pushing to the core, easily descending to the core.    Making room, room, room, then depositing himself in the sanctuary.    A drop.
     She awaits him behind a small golden door lined with moist purple. Reddish, bluish dewy purple! Oh, velvet fire, sweet abyss, undulating sea of plush fur, veiled devouring silk, smothering avalanche of cotton candy, corrugated fold to the other world, fleshy sky of the deep.
     He knocks and knocks softly, softly, then harder and harder.    Meanwhile he forgets his way.    He knocks, keeps on knocking.    Nobody replies, nothing.    He knocks, pounds.    He forgets everything, forgets.    Falls.     Collapses.     Is lost.    Blind, surrounded by terrifying magnetic darkness.    Feels just the scorching heat.    Fire.    Meltdown.    Disaster.     He gives up the ghost.    There on the threshold.
     It’s only then that the blue angel opens up her delicious and beautiful palate and explodes. What rainbows, flowery vibrations, spewing fountains! What a golden flash, what froth of light, what starry lace! She goes to the angel. The empress goes to her red and green emperor. To suck in the drop. The drop of gold. Redemption.



     You’re my instrument, you’re my tool, you were born for me. For me you were imagined, for me you were designed. Your body was conceived specially for my body, deep in the small double, triple, quadruple cell, and what was divided, torn, cut in two by a deep valley for me was united with you, added and drawn into a single machine of battle.
     You were molded for me, by now you know, you’ll discover this when you grow leaves, when you bloom for me like a cascade, like an explosion, as once long ago in the narrow cell, in the mother-of-pearl sphere, in beatific bliss. You’re in me, I’m there, I lose myself, I feel as if on the verge of dying, I fear I’m going to disappear, a small sphere of flames will take leave of me – a fall, an abyss, my life goes to you, a round, burning exhalation, and embers remain behind, repugnance, the sickness of a painful void in which the sweet-horrid remembrance of falling-soaring lingers.
     I’m your instrument, I’m made for you, I’m the exotic fruit of your teeth, the food for your mad craving, the drug that kills and revives you, the tombstone that crushes you and makes you eternal, the chisel that sculpts you inside into a starry cavern. I’m your instrument. I’m made for you.
     I want to annihilate you, to destroy you, to be you, that we be one. You want to annihilate me, to destroy me, to be me. I was born for this, I’m your instrument, that we may be ONE!


     Oh, no. Oh, yes. Come. Oh, no, no. Oh, yes, yes. Come. Come.
     Red pointed tongue. Warm, hot, hotter. Like so. Butterfly, pigeon, turtle dove.
     Deeper. Goat, dog, bull. Like so. Deeper. Deeper. Mole, snake, turtle, stingray.
     Red tongue, hot tidal wave. Good. Good. Like so.
     Burning pole, devastating waterfall, honey avalanche, you destroy me, you liquefy me.
     Oh, no, oh yes, come. Oh, no, oh yes, oh yes, come, come, red tongue, enter, hot vestibule, red-hot iron stairs, heated gems, doors, incandescent instruments, deep, deeper, on the purple, the carpet of the abyss.
Like so. The throne room. Red. Purple. Incandescent. Like so. I slide, slide, become liquefied. Oh. Yes, slowly, long, slow, sweet, lazy, moist, warm, fiery hot, hot.
     The throne. Oh, the throne. The golden throne, deep. Good. Good. I see it, see it! Golden. Golden!
     Come. Deep. I cannot touch it! Come. Golden. I cannot touch it! Incandescent.
     I cannot have it! Help me, help me, butterfly, pigeon, turtle dove.
     Mole, goat, snake, stingray, help me, help me!
     I cannot.


     They had been transfixed, staring in fascination at each other for a long time. As if their naked bodies, on the wide bed spread with white sheets, had been huge, dumbfounded diamonds. In the minuscule black pupil of her eye, he would have seen his true face for the first time. Radiant with bluish-yellow rays. Solar. She would have met her self for the first time, sacrificed goddess, forgotten by her own self, in perfect haloed silhouette in the pupil of his eye.
     Their naked bodies transfixed, staring, unable to move a muscle, drinking themselves in, as if an intense magnetic field had drawn them to an invisible vortex, as if they could thus have fallen into one another, their contours mixing halfway, like two reflections in a strip of sun caught inside a mirror – and then disappear, evaporate, at long last be one. Visible only in a sudden flash of lightning between them.
     When the elder sister opened the door by mistake, at first she saw two big spots of glaring brightness spread on the bed. When the elder sister opened the door, for a brief second she saw two twin children looking into a transparent mirror with a thin golden frame. And she recognized there, in the big white bed, the powerful image she had been seeking all her life.



     To undress you, wash you, dry your body with a coarse towel, kiss your body from the veins on the neck to your soles. To touch the fresh skin under the thin cloth, shuddering with a kind of sacred terror. To fall on my knees and for you to fall recumbent. You don’t understand how much purity dwells in this gesture. In my mind I already can see, gleaming in the light, a field thick with full ripened corn through which I run laughing-sobbing madly, the wide rough leaves whipping at me, slapping red marks on my arms, the sap of the stalks exalting my blood. I feel I must taste them, bite them, chew them, you are the perfumed date palm blossoming shyly between the thighs of a green oasis that has arisen out of the clear blue sky on the expanse of the desert. I see a soft mountain that crushes me gently. Beneath its cruel Sphinx, I become an empty Egyptian tomb awaiting its god rent into pieces. I see, I see you as a double cascade, heat and cold, that drowns and instantaneously elevates me.
     I’m far, far away, a devout pilgrim from India or Bengal, worshiping before the altar. I kiss the cold alabaster lingam, I make offerings of yellow saffron flowers and small colored wafers, I dye my lips purple, I’m ready to prostrate myself, to tear myself open before the traces of your pure soles, I’d burn myself voluptuously in a thurible, if I could waft incense inside your body.
     I caress your naked body under the thin cloth. I tear the white cloth with my teeth. To see you rise in all your splendor, corn stalk, double cascade, tall thin tree that crucifies me and blossoms wildly in me. Through me, your rough and burning flowers should explode into this world. That I might no longer be, but become only blind sweat on summer leaves.
     You don’t understand how much holiness flows into this nothingness. How much beatitude.


     The world, the whole world is a long and rich vestment.
     Feminine-masculine gown. I wove it for you, the work of my own hands.
     Dress yourself in it, robe yourself in rivers and deltas, in cities, hamlets, mountains, bedeck yourself in forests, deserts, highways, drape yourself in towers of cloud and colorful throngs of people on spring fields, cover yourself with the world, entire.
     That I may love you again, that you may see me again,
     that I may rise again above the earth, in divine breath
     and bright light, again, again, and be ONE!
     Ooh la la!


     I am on top of him. I kiss him. He kisses me. I caress him. He caresses me. I bite him. He bites me savagely. I am on top of him. I rock him. He rocks me. I cover him, press him, knead him. He kneads me.
     I taste him. Chew him. Eat him. Swallow him. Take him inside me. Sip him. That we be one.
     His hard flesh. His fine, fresh skin. His soft gestures, his overwhelmed abandon. Where’s the man gone? His toughness, his coarseness? Next to me I find only a boy, a whimpering little baby. I’ll take him inside me. Swallow him.
     God, no more than a remnant, a scrap of him is left, an infant. He’s my child, the son I longed for. In whom I am well pleased. To give him to the world. To give him back. That we be one. He fills me, fulfills me. The child satisfies his mother. Come into me, from me, return inside, satisfy me, destroy me, consummate me. My sacrifice is well received. The altar is fragrant with delicate flowers. This was your place. This is your end. The mother devours her child. The child fulfills his mother.


     To be in me, warm breath, hot
     whirlpool in a forgotten cavern,
     to know my inner form,
     to make me feel a circular vault, a holy cathedral.
     Scarified light in the dark,
     taking a leap into nothingness,
     this act into myself, this act into yourself –
     you make me cosmic.


     She’d been awaiting him for a long time. She had forgotten how much time she had waited. She knew he would come. He was hers alone. She had kept him in her wide and deep womb, fed him, rocked him, cast him forth into the world.
     He was hers. And he filled the world and then lost himself among the arid lands. From time to time, he would send a sign, a ship, a bottle thrown on the waves, which she devoured eagerly. Every day she tormented herself greatly, going to, returning from the foreknown spot, the seawall of yellow stone, sifted over with gray sand. She was awaiting him. For so long. Patiently. She knew he had to come.
     And he did come, tired. Carelessly, he undressed and stretched out on the white sheet to sleep. Under the powerful sun, he fell asleep. In the roar of the waves, all she had to do was to put out her arm. Take back what had always been hers, in the sharp smell of seashells, in the salty, bloody, loving sea spume.


     When the seas were vertical
     they too were like double fights of stairs, white,
     propped against the sky,
     and on them climbed and descended
     thrones, powers, seraphim, cherubim, turtle doves
     a cascade of sea spume falling upward
     raised in its ascent by the strength of its own ardor.


     The little female lies lazily on the sofa. Her crippled body, slight and schematic, has the bluish-red hue of sweet-rotten blackberry spume. She savors it in a dark green crystal goblet, silver drool and sweat dribbling down, pearls and champagne droplets. White.
     On the soft and vicious velvet of the drunken sour-cherry sofa, her black hair flows river-like in frothy ripples to the floor. Next to her, its tongue lolling, a small golden lion sits staring at her bluish-pink nipples, little and pointed, and at her negative sex, barely disclosed between her thighs. They are quiet.
     Wild animals pace around the sofa. A dialectical indigo snake peers with a cunning, lugubrious eye from amidst the lace. A green dog pokes its head from between purple curtains. A blue lizard scurries here and there, leaving an unstable mercury trail. Small golden tigers gently and insidiously invade the bookish welkin like royal lilies.
     Oh, but the sofa is suspended! High overhead, above a round, deserted plateau of yellow clay and stone. It is surrounded by evil, fierce waters. The wind’s color is leaden. From the dark waters emerge the small, desperate heads of systematic worshipers. They shriek at the goddess with little wet, red mouths. A green dog barks. An indigo snake hisses. The tigers snarl in redoubled jealousy.
     So be it. But what about the little female? She stretches out lazily on the sofa and strokes her nails. From time to time she sips from the green crystal goblet of silver drool, pearls, cinnamon nuts. All at once she looks up. And what can she see?
     At last she sees an anthracite-black sky, very abstract, full of the decapitated heads that are her former suitors and lovers. Color-coded and arranged in rows, as in a piece of writing now and then dotted with birds, insects, plants and other hieroglyphs.
     Finally, what does this all mean? What does the woman do over there? She waits. Waits. As always, waits. For an eternity. Forever. Since the sexual division of the angelic world from the organic world. Since the tearing away of the positive sex from the negative. Since the cleaving in two of the four-legged sphere. Since she set the universe in motion. She waits. And in the meantime she sips champagne, holy pearls and drool.
     And he shows up from far away, hurrying, hurrying, his naked, crippled body of the bluish-red hue of sweet-rotten blackberry spume, his tiny sex blossomed into a sturdy apple bough, hurrying, running with the Olympic torch in his right hand, running for an eternity, ever since he lost his drop in the magnetic abyss, running and creating in flight this story as well as the world.
     Ooh la la!


 translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and Alina Cārāc
Adam J. Sorkin's translations have appeared widely. Recent volumes of translation include Radu Andriescu’s The Catalan Within, translated with the poet, just out from Longleaf Press, and three 2006 books: Magda Cārneci’s Chaosmos, translated with Cārneci (White Pine), Mihai Ursachi’s The March to the Stars, mostly with the poet (Vinea Press), and Mariana Marin’s Paper Children, with various collaborators (Ugly Duckling). His 2004 book, Marin Sorescu’s The Bridge (Bloodaxe), won the 2005 European Poetry Translation Prize of The Poetry Society, London). Adam's other Bloodaxe books of Liliana Ursu (The Sky Behind the Forest, 1997) and Ioana Ieronim (The Triumph of the Water Witch, 2000) were both shortlisted for the Weidenfeld Prize, Oxford. He received an NEA Poetry Translation Fellowship for 2005-2006.


Alina Cārāc is an active translator of Romanian literature into English, including more than thirty volumes of drama, poetry, novels, short stories, essays, and film scripts, as well as numerous books from English into Romanian. Her first novel, Letters from Parallel Worlds, appeared in Romanian in 2002, and a second is awaiting publication.