:: Article

Three Poems

By Elena Vladareanu.

recent history

this is how things stand:
mom will never
leave romania
dad will never
leave romania
if you die you’ll never
leave romania

the shampoos I collect
from the bathrooms of your hotels, europe
all have the same perfume
like the lily-of-the valley eau de cologne
you used to buy in the tobacco shops
can’t you understand that things aren’t so very different there
where you’ll never go?

history is a piece of the wall
in a city at europe’s center
history is the corner of a photograph

in every street urchin ragged and high
there’s a part of me
in every dog haunted and starved
there’s a part of me
in the men drunk and caked with vomit
the brave men of our people
reeking of urine rot and fear
there I am too and my name
is romania.

my wealth: a few hundred books
a red plastic basin
an old iron
a radio
a tea set
the color of earth
a proud and ruthless soul
a damned termagant skin
a bored God
lust like a lethal guilt

you walk down the streets
of a city at europe’s center
my cowardice and lack of hope


europe. ten funeral songs

europe will swallow me
I’ll become a european daughter
my life will be like
one of your many rivers
my sad europe
I wonder if your sadness
can equal my sadness?
do you have
enough room for my brain
for my carnivorous rats?
(my memory lasts as long
as the air in a 3-mm syringe)
but as for my face
is it more like a man’s than a woman’s?
the little children dead on our streets
or in our bellies poisoned and full of passion
will they have a place where they can string their silent beads
where they can to gnaw on their fingers

where they can to hang their scrawny spines?


fast food

I watch a story on children in north korea
so many things are told about these children
I get informed about how many there are and how poor
in less than a minute I swallow
statistics grams of food per capita per child per month
a few-years-old kid walks barefoot
mud up to his neck
struggles to scoop some water with a plastic bag
don’t drink this, you can’t drink this
the reporter insists
you’ll get sick if you drink this filthy water
15 years ago a young woman in germany or great britain
was watching a story on children in romania
probably waiting as I am now
for the reporter to hand the child a drop of clean water
I wish I cared but I don’t
they’re so far away
they’re so fucking far away
I go round the sun in my erratic
yet aseptic safety
I tell myself I’m being manipulated and I click off the tv


Elena Vladareanu is the second featured poet in 3:AM’s Maintenant series of interviews. She was born in Medgidia, Constanta county, in Romania in 1981. Vladareanu graduated from the Faculty of Letters in Bucharest and has worked as a journalist since 2001. In 2002, she published her first volume The confessions of the distinguished lady m. The collection Pages followed in the same year with fissures being issued by Pontica in 2003. In 2005, Elena Vladareanu was awarded a creative scholarship in Berlin and released europe, ten funeral songs. Her work features in an anthology of Romanian poetry in English translation, No Longer Poetry: New Romanian Poetry, HeavenTree Press, 2007. Her latest collection privat space was issued last year. The poems featured here were translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Adrian Urmanov.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, February 7th, 2010.