Claudia Serea

Claudia

Claudia Serea is a Romanian-born poet who immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. Her poems and translations have appeared in 5 a.m., Meridian, Harpur Palate, Word Riot, The Red Wheelbarrow, Cutthroat, Green Mountains Review, and many others. She was nominated two times for the 2012 Pushcart Prize and for 2012 Best of the Net. She is the author of Angels & Beasts (Phoenicia Publishing, Canada, 2012), and A Dirt Road Hangs from the Sky (8th House Publishing, Canada). She also published the chapbooks The System (Cold Hub Press, New Zealand, 2012), With the Strike of a Match (White Knuckles Press, 2011), and Eternity's Orthography (Finishing Line Press, 2007). She co-edited and co-translated The Vanishing Point That Whistles, an Anthology of Contemporary Romanian Poetry (Talisman Publishing, 2011). She also translated from the Romanian Adina Dabija's Beautybeast (Northshore Press, 2012).
Visit her blog at http://cserea.tumblr.com/.

End of August

One day the sea has silky hands
and the next one, hammers,

running horses,
war drums.

I sit in your arms
and listen to the boom of the waves.

The sand covers our bodies
with its eyelid

and the sea fills up,
spills,

empties at our feet,
fills again.

Skin smells of salt,
sweet oil, tangy sweat.

The world is old.
Footprints wash off the beach

and the end of August fills
with seagull wings,

empties its gifts,
retreats.

We fold our towels and take in the light,
the seagull cries, the scent,

the flutter of unknown roads
unfolding ahead.

Passing through

It's hard to walk through the tangled meadow,
through chicory, chamomile, wild phlox.

Wasps and green flies hum
over the plums fallen on the path,

and an eye glows, liquid red,
high up on a gnarled branch.

It opens and looks at me unflinching,
trying to guess if I'm an enemy
or a friend.

I am a friend, I try to explain,
a friend that comes seldom here.

Please, go on;
don't mind me.

I'm just passing through.

Go on and ripen your fruits,
watch out for wasps, and wait for my mother's quick hands.

Pretend I'm not here.

Don't let my presence interrupt
your exuberant eruption of juices
in blue flames flickering,

your amber's slow tears.

Two brothers

Side by side,
they sit by the lake.

There is not much
to talk about,

not a lot of fish
left to catch,

and the years they didn't speak
pass overhead

with all their weather
and death.

Silence rises
and builds around them
a transparent house.

They sit
still.

The house sways,
lit by star lamps.

A fish flaps its tail
out of the water,

then silence,
deep again.

The gold tooth

Little girl, little girl wait

The man's shadow
is almost as long as mine,

and I run as fast as I can,
my feet eat the black asphalt
and the steps, by two,

by three,
by two.

Little girl, wait.

On the fourth floor,
a naked bulb
dangles from the wires

and, in the yellow square below,
the man opens his coat.

In his grinning mouth,
a single gold tooth
shines.

Wine

An intoxicating flower
threads its stem through our bodies
and blooms in our blood.

Tongues untied,
we speak the truth.

You pour into my skin's
soft decanter.

I seem
to understand more.

At midnight,
red vines sneak through our veins

and stitch us
closer.

Zaraza

I want you to tell me, most beautiful Zaraza,
Who are the ones who loved you?
How many men have cried for you
and how many have died?
Cristian Vasile, Zaraza

You set my heart on fire,
Zaraza, princess of slums,
slut of the boulevards.

You set my heart on fire, Zaraza,
this old house that burns to the ground
as you dance on its roof and everyone can see
your thighs, your black smoke pantyhose billow.

You set my heart on fire, Zaraza,
this house of cinder and debris
where no one lives,
not even hope.

I can't bear to see you dance flamenco
with the flames,
pirouette through sparks and leap
into the green devil's arms.

How many houses have you burned?
How many men you gorged?
How many lives you wilted with your smile?

Gypsy woman, my heart has turned to ashes
and I just want to taste your lips—
do they taste of lilies or lies?

I just want to touch your skin—
does it smell of night or sin?

And, when you'll die,
I'll drink your soul, Zaraza,
brown sugar in my coffee,
one teaspoon at a time.

Hands

The past stretches toward me
its arthritic hands,
deeply veined:

the hands that caressed me
as a child,
held and fed me,
felt my forehead,
made a cross sign,

the hands that blessed.

In the mirror, my mother's hands
hold the hem of my skirt
and she looks at me from the past,
her mouth full of pins.

And darkness has
my lover's hungry hands
burning my body,
a refuge,
hiding place.

Grandma's hands snip
the stem of a rose
in the delivery room.

She waves at me, pruners in hand.

Then doctors enter the room.

Hands hurry,
pry me open,

push–
grab–
tug–

and pull you
out of my belly.

Hands give.
Hands receive.

Your small fingers
curl around mine
and my dry hand blooms.

Sunshine, moonshine

The fruits grow old
and fall to the ground
with the soft thud
the stars make in August
when they ripen and fall.

Mom fills buckets
with blue flames.

It's the season of shedding
the weight of flesh,

when all things wrinkle
and rot
with no regret.

The air drips alcohol,
the plums' distilled afterlife.

Heated and fermented,
their last breath rises, travels
through the alembic's copper,

and trickles, condensed,
at the other end,
on the lip
of an apple leaf.

Mom collects and pours
the plums' reincarnation
as liquor of truth
into bottles.

She locks the bottles in the pantry
and hides the key.

The history of small nations

The order comes at night:
"Evacuate the trees."

Rumors and fear rush
through the branches in the dark.
Old voices speak
of emptiness left behind,
and the certainty of death.

In days,
entire populations relocate.
Legions of refugees flee
the wrath of the empire.

They plead
and pile at my door,

mounds of hearts flecked
with blood and fire,
and small red leaves
of Acer palmatum,

children's hands,
fingers spread apart.

Madame Constance, clairvoyante

I see them clearly now:
the fork in your life line,
the tin spoon
in your mouth,
the knife.

Pick a card, any card,
says the witch in the mirror.

It won't matter
'cause they all show
your packed suitcase.

I see you curled in fetal position
inside the womb
of your fate.

Line up the greasy rectangles:
here, you're walking the streets
among strangers, snowflakes,
rain sheets.

Your birth sign falls in a well
or maybe an ocean.

Turn the cards one by one,
until the last.

Sell what you can
and give the rest away.

Your shoulders are heavy with wings.

I see your face
in the window of a bus
or airplane.

On an evening road,
you'll land.

On Craig's List: Free Stuff–Just Need to Pick It Up

Armloads of yellow leaves.
Lightning bolts to mix your martini.

Free golden silence.

Free Nobel prize
with an order
of brie und wurst.

Free time:
43 years since I was born.

Daylight by the barrel.

Rain beads to use for crafts.

The raft I sailed on over the Atlantic.

Free salt
for blood and tears.

Free-dom
free-falling.

An armchair, a lamp,
and free poetry
written by a fly on the ceiling.

The day you left

The house seemed larger.

My steps,
smaller.

The streets, quieter.

I could hear
a siren in the distance

and the sound of someone
sweeping the yard.

Summer dried

and fell
from the tallest branches.

The ants ate it.

The Love & Death Games


Someone

1.
Someone next to someone next
to someone next to someone else

next to someone else next to some–
one else next to you.

You,
someone else's
someone else.

2.
Someone always eats
and drinks someone else.

Someone else is to blame.

Someone always looks
the other way,

knits facts
into something else,

becomes somebody.

Someone else is always first
to be killed.

Better you than me,
someone says.

3.
You,
my someone else.

With others we stumble
and fold in waves.

Someone up there
watches us.

We're his
someone elses.

The blind old woman

You fold me
along my life lines

and carry me in your pocket
next to the bank card
and the marriage certificate.

You blind me with mirrors and smiles,
with lightning and blietzkrieg.

You blindfold me
with a red scarf
and spin me around,

then let me search for you for decades,
arms stretched in the dark,

and you laugh
when I embrace strangers,
cardboard boxes, trees.

But the laugh gives you away
and, through my night,

my stumbles,
my mistakes,

I grope and feel.

I find you,
and I win.

Tic-tac-toe

I draw an X.
You draw a 0.

I draw two arms.
You draw a head.

I draw a slanted cross.
You draw a noose.

And if your noose aligns
with the head and zero,

you win.

In the great Pacific Ocean

In the great
Pacific Ocean,
a small fish
swam about,
and on its tail
it was written
You-are-out.

Ping-pong

I said glass
and you said mirror.

I said needle.

You said metal,
ouch, blood,
prick,

and thorn,
and nettle.

I said thread
and you said stitch.

I said poem.
You said speech.

I said red
and you said yellow;
moon, I said,
and you said melon.

You said sleep
and I said dream.

Speak, you said,
and I said sing,
but what song?

And to what king?

Kong, you said.
Leave me alone.

You pong first,
And then I ping.

You said water,
wine, and thirst.

Love, I said,
and you said hurt.
I said purple.
You said mauve.

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