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Poetry in Translation (II – VII): Marin Sorescu – “Ladder To Heaven” and five other poems

February 18th, 2003 · No Comments · Poetry, Translations

by Marin SORESCU, translated by Constantin ROMAN

A silk thread spun by a spider
Is hanging from the ceiling
Just above my bed.

Every day I notice it
Descending lower.
Now I am even offered
The ladder to Heaven – I say

It comes from ‘up there’.

Although I had lost weight to the point
Where I am only the spectre of my former self
I believe that my body
May be too heavy
For this delicate ladder.

You, soul of mine, I think that you ought to go first.
Pitter-patter, pitter-patter!.

– – – – – – – –
“Scara La Cer” was the last poem written by
Marin Sorescu before he died in 1996
– – – – – – – –
Translated from the Romanian by:
Constantin Roman.
– – – – – – – –
Maris SORESCU (1936-1996)

(Short Biography note from “Transcript” (7) Romania) and from Wikipedia

Marin SORESCU (1936, Bulze?ti, Dolj – 1997, Bucharest) was a Romanian poet, playwright, and novelist) certainly one of the most popular and better-known poets and perhaps one of the most translated Romanian writer of the latter half of the 20th century. More than a dozen books of his poetry and plays have appeared in English (see below), mainly in the U.K. and in Ireland. He is author more than twenty collections of poetry, among them Poems (1965), The Youth of Don Quixote (1968), Cough (1970), Fountains in the Sea (1982), Water of Life, Water of Death (1987), Poems Selected by Censorship (1991), and The Crossing (1994). His valedictory volume, The Bridge , published posthumously in 1997, was composed during the final two months of his life, while he knew he was dying of liver cancer. Too weak commit them to paper himself, Sorescu often dictating the poems in this book to his wife, Virginia.

Shortly after the fall of Communist dictatorship in 1989, Sorescu was Minister of Culture.

Sorescu’s collection of Censored Poems were finally published after the fall of Ceausescu’s dictatorship. Amongst these, the best known is “House under surveillance”.

The six poems presented here in the translation of Constantin ROMAN were published in the Romanian issue of Transcript (7) of the University of Aberystwyth, Wales (see above link), of which five poems first appeared, in the early 1970’s in two separate issues of the now defunct London literary Quarterly “Encounter” and in the Cambridge Review

By Marin Sorescu. Translated by Constantin Roman.

Your Honour,
As I was returning home,
From the War, as a volunteer,
They killed my Time.
Then I noticed, the Time being amputated
Of its heart, mouth and forehead.
Still, they will not leave it in peace.
So they condemned it to further painyears,
tearyears, Robotyears, donkeyyears
And a host of other things
Of no value to it.
They started turned it into a guinea pig
Testing all kinds of poisons
Like sadness and misfortune
Or such like names.
The fatal blow came when it was hit on the head
With a piece of hardwood destiny.
Pardon the expression, Your Honour,
This was no life!
Since then I have even forfeited half of death
Waiting for my turn in the queue
To make my case to Your Honour,
At the Last Judgement.


by Marin Sorescu. Translation by Constantin Roman.

The first day he made the sky,
The mountains, and the spiritual abysses.
The second day he made the rivers, the seas
The oceans, and the sentiments
Giving them to Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Antony, Cleopatra and Ophelia To Othello and others
To master, they and their descendants,
Unto eternity.
The third day he gathered all people
And taught them the tastes:
The taste or happiness, of love, of distress,
The taste or jealousy, glory and more
Until all tastes had been accounted for.
Then some characters came along late.
The creator patted them fondly on the head
And said the only thing left for them to become
Was literary critics
To deny his works.
The fourth and fifth days
Were dedicated to laughter.
He let out the clowns to do somersaults
And let kings, emperors
And other unfortunates have fun.
The sixth day ?He solved some administrative problems
Plotted a storm
And taught King Lear
To wear the crown of straws.
There was still some waste left
From the creation of the world
So he made Richard III.
The seventh day he wondered whether
There was anything left to do:
Stage directors had already
Flooded the earth with posters
So Shakespeare decided after so much labour
He deserved to see a show himself.
But first, as. he felt quite exhausted,
He passed away for a while.


by Marin Sorescu. Translated by Constantin Roman.

My cat is washing herself
With the left paw
We shall have another war
For I notice
Whenever she washes
With her left paw
International tension grows
How can she see
The five continents?
Maybe in her eyes
The pythoness moves
Who knows by heart
All the world’s unpunctuated history.
I feel like crying
When I think that both I
And the heaven of souls bundled
On my back
Should depend in the last instance
On a capricious cat ?
Go and catch mice
Never again unleash ?World wars
Fuck off
You bitch.


by Marin Sorescu. Translation by Constantin Roman.

All museums are afraid of me:
When I spend a whole day
Contemplating a painting
The following day they announce
It has disappeared.
Every day I am found stealing
In another part of the world
Yet I am unperturbed
By the bullets which whistle past my ears
And the police dogs
Which now know the smell of my steps
Better than lovers
The perfume of their beloved.
I talk loudly to the oil paintings
That endanger my life
I hang them up on the clouds and trees
Then step back to study the perspective.
With the Italian masters it’s easy to start a conversation
What a chatter of colours!
And so with them I am easily detected
Heard and seen from a distance
As if I were carrying parrots.
The most difficult to steal is Rembrandt.
You reach to touch him and come upon darkness
You panic, his people have no bodies
Only. eyes locked in dark cellars.
Van Gogh’s canvases are mad
They swirl and turn head over heel
You must keep a tight grip
With both hands
They are sucked in by some power of the moon.
Why should Breughel make me cry?
He was no older than me
Yet he was named the Elder
Because he was omniscient when he died.
I try to learn from him
But I can’t keep my tears
From running on his golden frames
As I escape, the Seasons under my arm.
As I say, each night I steal a painting
With a dexterity to be envied
And yet it is such a long way
And finally I am caught.
So home I come late at night
Tired, torn by dogs,
Bearing in my hands a cheap reproduction.


by Marin Sorescu. Translated by Constantin Roman.

When the wicked
Are recycled in hell
Nothing goes to waste.
By means of tweezers
From women’s heads are gleaned
Combs, grips, pins, rings,
Soft goods and bed linen.
Then they are cast ?Into bubbling cauldrons
To see that the brimstone
Doesn’t boil over.
Afterwards, some
Are made into saucepans
And carry hot sins
To the homes of retired devils.
The males too are made use of
For all the heavy work.
?Except the very hairy:
They are rewoven
And made into doormats.


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