Monthly Archives: July 2012


I hardly found this translation for one of the poems I liked once. I think it is a sad poem…

Jacques Prévert's Paroles in English

I play the piano
one of them was saying
I play the violin
the other was saying
I play the harp I play the banjo
I play the cello
I play the bagpipes… I play the flute
and me I play the kazoo
And the ones and the others were talking talking
talking about what they played.
You couldn’t hear any music
everybody was talking
talking talking
no one was playing
but in the corner stood a man:
“And what instrument do you play Monsieur
you who are standing there not saying anything?”
asked the musicians.
“I play the barrel-organ
and I also play the knife”
said the man who up until now
had said absolutely nothing
and then he advanced the knife in his hand
and he killed all the musicians
and he played the barrel-organ
and the music was so true
and so lively and so beautiful
that…

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Categories: different poems I like | Leave a comment

A Cradle of Dreams


Before my parents bought their car we went each summer first with a fast train to my grandparents’ village located exactly in the middle of Romania. Then we were taking another slow train to reach our destination. Lord, how much I loved traveling by train! I was in admiration with the scenery all the way, but I preferred talking with people on the train. They were so kind and welcoming, asking me many things and giving me sweets or trifles. And when I grew up a little I was so happy to talk with other people telling me their life stories and I began to dream that I could help others in the future. The return to Bucharest was easier and cheaper, I was coming back with a slow train. I remember one winter when my grandmother brought me back to the city, and we were snowbound spending almost the whole night in train (such a delay never happened again in my life). I never liked to learn by heart the names of the stations because I wanted that journey to remain like a dream. Our small village station was closed after 1989. There was also a window for tickets and toilet and a well like in many stations, where I used to taste water before taking the train on our road back to Bucharest.
Stepping down from the train we were walking on the long and dusty road lined with poplars. Passing over the green river’s meadow, over a small creek where I played as a child, (even now I almost feel slippery stones under my feet), where water was clear, women were washing clothes or wool there, little fish were swimming inside. We were passing over the river on a small suspended bridge and if it was broken (damaged by storms or snow) on the cable ferry gliding slowly, which was named “ship” by the villagers. Usually a gypsy held the job of transporting wagons or cars on the cable ferry, he had a hut on the other shore and we were calling after him. That suspension bridge was an opportunity for dangerous childhood games (boys annoying girls, rocking the flimsy bridge to scare them or jumping directly in the water from up there) and it was swinging even at small weights, certainly fascinating for a child. Then we had to walk for a while until we reached the other end of the village where my grandparents’ house was the only house in the village with a crucifix in front of it with Christ hand painted.
The village was built between hills, in fact between the river and a long hill named “The Rib” guarding all village houses. Sometimes its waters were flooding the lower houses and the meadow. My grandfather was taking me across the water on his back and I was very happy, a child fascinated by the natural world, so rich in beauty and wonders. But I must admit that I started to discover the beauty of wild places only when I was twelve years old or so, because until then I was too small to understand and I was missing my other grandmother living in Bucharest. It was boring to spend the entire summer holidays in the village. Usually my parents were leaving me there.
Village houses were built along the main street, side by side. There were two drinking water sources, but the one near our house had gone dry before I got there as a child, so I was going frequently after drinking water with a one or three liter pitcher in my hand. In the center of the village was a crucifix (cross) covered with a roof, where people gathered in earlier times for ring dances, games and story telling. There was also a scale for hay carts. Almost all village houses had crosses printed in their walls under the eaves and benches at every porch where people were sitting on Sundays to talk and watch others go by, old women waiting for the herd to return in the evening from the pasture. It seems that even pigs were taken out in the old days to graze grass near the village boundaries. The village had once a flourishing period, there were many other houses and two churches above the main street (where only ruins remained), because the young ones (my mother’s generation) left to find their fortune elsewhere. When I was little I had been with my grandfather to the farrier workshop and I was allowed to heat up the bellows, watching how our horse was shoed.
There was also a primary school and the village local store (with a mailbox nearby) where a seller came on bike and where I was staring, buying sometimes a few things I liked: sweets, notebooks, stockings. Gradually I was received in many houses in the village, where I found ornaments resembling those in our home (towels, woven carpets, icons) and people were also very kind towards me, but I remained too shy and it was hard for me to yell from the street their names when I was sent by my grandparents to someone else with different tasks (in those times door bells were rare). One of my grandma’s cousins gave me beautiful flowers, other women did the same. The peasants had beautiful old names with Latin origin. A shoemaker of German origin was living near our house, where I asked once for much too many cookies or candies prepared by his wife. I think I was a greedy for sweets, but I quickly learned the rules of conduct.
Our house was isolated from other houses, we had a garden and a large courtyard paved with stones. The household was thriving, with daily hard work, with many cattle and sheep. I loved to stay in the barn at milking hour, we had buffaloes and sometimes I was singing little improvised songs, perched on the opposite manger, where some brooding hen was ruffling furiously her feathers. I was wondering why the buffaloes had no names. It was so sad for me when the calf was slaughtered usually in secret (because the law did not allow that) and I was praying in vain for his life, but the meat was tasty, one of the best. I suffered a lot when I saw it whipped to enter its enclosure before my grandma was milking for us. Sometimes I gave it sugar, feeling its rough tongue scratching my palm, caressing it between the small horns. I was also approaching the horse with some fruit or grass, but very carefully. I never was allowed to milk, because buffaloes are by nature dangerous animals, even grandma suffered because of them. And the horse was big and unmanageable, my grandparents did not let me ride it (other village girls went riding on the street and I envied them a little). Once grandma was in the hospital after a hoof kick and suffered a long time. But I have a picture with me on horseback, of course under strict control. When the herd came back in the evening I was waiting at the gate, armed with a stick (useless of course). I had to hide in the yard, especially when I was wearing red cloth.
In our house I found many old things and mysteries. Everything was left there as before – iron stoves giving heat for a short time (in the morning it was very cold), many ceramic plates hung on slats or walls, ceiling beams and thick planks on the ground, covered with mats. In the room where my grandparents were sleeping was a protective nylon where I choked once a mouse. But I stayed a long time on the floor with my hand pressing the poor creature, because I was afraid to take it out – finally my great grandmother came and threw it to the cat. In the table drawer there was an old wooden pencil case with pencils and pens, from which I was taking drawing tools for my princesses and fairies. Simple icons were hung on the walls, copies printed on paper. I was fascinated by small niche-cupboards in the walls. My granny kept inside her glasses, prayer books and candles for storm, because she was praying when it was thunder and lightning. Grandpa kept in old photos and documents. I was fascinated by an old pepper grinder with a crank. I do not remember if the grandparents had TV, but the refrigerator was not available a long time, the whole household was in a prosperous state, but obsolete, maintaining traditions, without any sign of modernization, as if time stood still there, but in a pleasant way. In the bedroom we had a cuckoo clock and a mechanical sewing machine. Really there were so many things to discover in every corner … and they did not change until today.
Grandfather was an expert when it was the time for slicing pork in winter, teaching me the anatomical parts of the slaughtered animal. Grandma was so kind to me. Apart from cooking delicious food, home-made bread, gorgeous cakes, incredibly delicious pies, she used to sing beautiful Christmas carols and she also taught me some prayers. In the winter holidays season it was so nice to hear the carolers singing. Once I even had a Christmas tree, although there such trees are rare, grandpa found it somewhere. In the evenings my grandparents were playing with me, we were tickling each other joking. My grandfather brought once a horse foot tightening rope and he tied my legs saying I was too unruly. We all laughed and everything was so magical. Grandma was weaving in winter on the old wooden loom. Those times women gathered in each other’s house to spin wool. I learned by heart the cycle of wool gathering, from shearing sheep to carpet weaving. Grandma was also knitting, but not too much, especially wool jackets and thick socks or mittens. Grandpa was bringing from the city bottled juice and sweets. I sat next to the table and it was fun to watch him put in the bottle for soda those small gas bombs, then combining soda with sour wine from the cellar, sweetened with a pinch of sugar. I loved to watch him sharpening the scythe and usually I was going with my grandma to the fields bringing lunch to the workers around 10 a.m., because they had been mowing since dawn hours.
They were working daily the whole week and Sunday was really beautiful, holy and Christian. The priest came in every home with baptism in January, when he was consecrating water in people’s jugs. Near the priest’s house it happened to me once a funny story with a turkey. I was returning home bringing fresh water (the priest used to say smiling that the pitcher is bigger than me) and a turkey attacked me, fidgeting around me. I decided to stand still. I was like a statue in the middle of street until the priest or someone else came and chased the monster. That happened because children were saying that when a bear attacks, you should better fake death.
The moments I liked the most were the hay working days, but I was spared of work although I liked it and I was able to do my part of work there. I had to force doors locked for me and then my grandparents seemed so amazed about my skills. I was coming back home on top of fragrant hay, holding that pole that was above hay in order to maintain my equilibrium. It was also beautiful in the forest where trees of different varieties were growing together. My grandfather knew all their names.
At home I liked to collect eggs from our hen nests, climbing on ladders, and I was feeding chickens in the yard calling them with a special sound to gather before dusk. I watched the hierarchical relationships between winged creatures and their habits. Tiny yellow or black hatchlings were so nice. When it was cold in autumn (the last series of chickens), they were gathering close to the stove in our courtyard kitchen and I kept them in my palms. Once again I broke the rules around me (because I was supposed only to read or to play around), and I cooked the first meal of my life there when I was twelve years old: rice and tomatoes with marrows. We had a small garden inside the big garden where flowers grew every summer (hawthorn, dahlias, basil) and we had also beans, carrots or other vegetables and spices. What a scent! Nearby there was a well were I had my fish, once caught by my father, a fish who lived in cold waters a few years. When it was sunny grandma was rinsing laundry there, bluing it with small chemical cubes.

Only when I grew up I began to discover there the charm of nights filled with stars, which were fantastically bright and so many there that I felt like floating on unseen wings, as if they were pulling me gently up from the earth. I grew there as a child in slow motion cradle of emotion.

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Sledges


Why am I obsessed with sledges, can you tell me?

I tried in vain to understand the whole story. In everyone’s life there are moments that count and significant others leaving their prints in memories, beliefs and feelings.

Maybe you can tell me what a sledge means for you. I can guess that each of you has a special story, a different story about sledges and I am sure that for each of you a sledge has a different meaning. This is my story.

I was raised in a house with a big courtyard and two gardens. The house and the streets nearby were on flat ground. Nonetheless my parents bought me a sled when I was little, a real sled with polished wood and green metallic tracks. This stirred my imagination and my need to ride that sled more often than my relatives were disposed to drag me around our house. I was little and our dog was big, so I tried to make it haul my sled. It was impossible to convince the dog to do that. I found refuge from my disappointment reading Andersen fairy tales about ice lands and children traveling in sledges driven by raindeers far from home.

When I was about twelve years old I went in the countryside one winter, where my grandparents had their house. There the road was sloping right before reaching home and maybe, I say maybe, I was playing with my sled there among other children. My memory is blank about this, blank as snow. I remember only the fact that my grandfather brought out from the old attic an old sled made of wood from head to tails, the sled that once carried my mother. I was so impressed and happy to see it tied with hand made ropes.

Then, one Sunday afternoon, a neighbor came to visit us with his horse driven sledge. It was also entirely made of wood. He was going with his wife to visit another friend of his in another village. And my grandparents let me go with them. That was my only sledge stroll in my whole life. We arrived at the destination and everything was so beautiful along the way. We returned late at night, but the driver was unfortunately drunk. His wife never took the harnesses in her hands before and she couldn’t do that then. She was listening to her husband’s demands. I must admit that I was scared. But in the same time all the road back was so beautiful, billions of stars were shining above and below in the snow. I felt a kind of ecstasy admiring everything in that cold starry night, when…the man began to argue with his wife. She was pestering him to pay more attention to the road. And he got angry. I was in the back seat, with my feet covered in woolen cloth. And he hit her a few times and I believed we were about to fall together in the snow because the road was descending. Yes, I was frightened after all that excitement about snow, stars and gliding so rapidly downwards. And I felt such pity for that woman…Thanks God we arrived home without any other accident.

Some people say that man is caught sometimes between hammer and anvil. Many situations in life are like that and one does not know what to choose…the least of evils like they say. I think that woman was then in such a situation and me the same. And I don’t remember what I did afterwards, did I tell what happened to my grandparents or not? All those blank pages in my memory are like snow where sledges continue to glide. Or life’s and neighbor’s sledgehammers continue to hit and flatten my emotions.

But even though I don’t know for sure why sledges still impress me so, I can say that that trip in the sledge was one of the most magical moments in my life. Maybe because of that I am still happy to listen to children carols about Santa Claus and his sledge. A part of my childhood is there, the best part of it, my dreams, my wishes, my disappointments and my first life lessons.

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Time Limit


Checkmate

Two players under a white cherry tree: black sacrifices his queen.

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There I Stood Near the Window


I remember so well those days…as if I were looking through my father’s magnifying glass, one memory I keep in a drawer since my old man is been gone. In fact he was not so old, but he liked to call himself „the old man”, exactly like he was calling his own father a long time ago. I never dared to call my father „old man”, I was a kind of shy girl and he was fearsome in so many ways. We never had a close relationship, but I guess few daughters are emotionally close to their fathers. Anyway, he was the type of rigid parent, he had his words spoken as if they were engraved on the doors, on the floors, everywhere in the house. For example he cared very much about the old golden rules like: „never speak while you eat” and others like that. For him I was not tough enough and maybe he was right because once I was infatuated with a young boy, three years older than me. Impressed by his big green eyes, his eyelashes and his style, like reading or writing poetry, being kind, helping me when I needed to mend a musical tape because I was also too clumsy and afraid to destroy it, reciting even love poems to me in the few moments when we were walking on the street together with our mothers nearby. Stupid girl, that is what I was. And when I was almost sixteen my two years old love dream faded away, while I was recording my thoughts in a journal. That adventure ended well. And he had also other reasons for that thought, for example the fact that some of my classmates were making fun of me, hurting my feelings.
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Those were the days before 1989. We were obliged to go every day to school in dark blue uniforms and they were controlling even our matriculation numbers. I had a leather portfolio under my arm and usually I was walking towards school very fast. Luckily it was very near to my house, I knew by heart the traffic signals order, so I could pass very quickly from one street corner to another, arriving at school in less than five minutes. Good old days, happiness and freshness all around either summer or winter, because we were so young. I was studying mostly mathematics and physics and the truth is that I used to read a lot of literature and I hated those two horrible, boring, tiresome things. But at the end of the tenth grade we were obliged to give an exam for being admitted in the superior cycle of studies, an exam for those two sciences I disliked.
In my first high school year I had low grades at my physics examinations, but it all worked well in the end. The next year the teacher was replaced. Then I almost lost that important exam because of mathematics! The next year the physics teacher was replaced again. This last lady played an even more important role in my life.
One day, when I was seventeen, the age of reason for some girls, and it was obviously spring as far as I remember, she gave us a written test with different exercises. I placed my sheet of paper on the teacher’s desk in time and then, a little tired and dizzy like a young girl when flowers bloom, I went towards the classroom windows, where I engaged in a conversation with another girl. We stood chatting for a while and I wasn’t aware of what was going on in my back.
Suddenly SPLEESH – SPLASH!! What?! I was slapped on my face by that teacher and I couldn’t wake up in the first moment. She was raging on red in her cheeks, screaming at me: „Miss!” or something like that. She said that I was trying to help another colleague, a boy who was still working on his test, sitting in the first row of benches. I just couldn’t understand in the first moment. I really did not even notice that boy there. And why me? The other girl I was talking with was spared of such a treatment. And she seemed to stare at me in a strange manner. The teacher, in a fury and hurry, took all the papers and ran out the door, leaving me there in a state of shock, thinking without speaking my mind out.
My friend started to talk to me expressing anger and revolt, criticizing that teacher and the way she reacted. I just couldn’t understand, that is all. Maybe I was wrong, even after all these years I don’t know for sure… There I stood near the window, my friend told me that I should denounce that teacher to their higher council. I was confused. I refused to do that. Was it right, was it wrong? I was not so good at physics like I said and maybe I never tried to help another colleague. I was also too shy.
After all maybe only then did I really lose my only important exam with that teacher.

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