Radu Vancu

[from the volume 4 A.M. Domestic Cantos, Casa de editură Max Blecher, 2015]
February 25, 2022 Vancu Radu

[from the volume 4 A.M. Domestic Cantos, Casa de editură Max Blecher, 2015]


Canto I


There will be people and they will push the world further.
Today it is evening, we are building a Lego police station
and we are watching Cars.
Today the world does not deserve to be pushed further than that.


Today we have not seen the sun struggling tetanized
in the sky. It seemed it never existed.
Today God was not the concept with which
we measure our pain, as John sings.
Maybe it measured the convulsions and torture of the sun,
what do I know. For us there existed
only the slow growth of the police station
and no sun to ruin any plans
above it.


We need a Lego sun shining without alternative
above a Lego abyss. Young Lego peasants
from a Lego Galilee
taking upon them all the Lego sins and dejections.
We need Lego children singing:
“in the shadow of the Lego cross we sat down and wept.”
A Lego John Lennon singing about
Lego gods and concepts and pains.
Only then will the sun struggle happily
in convulsions. Only then will the world deserve
to be pushed on.


Today it is evening, we are building a Lego police station
and we are watching Cars. The milk
gets warm in the white tin cup.
Nothing, and this is no big talk – nothing
can push us further.


Canto XIII


How strange it seemed to me when
Mircea Ivănescu told me that he
shaved without looking in the
mirror. The small cuts on
his face seemed to me
an absurd poem each. I counted them
as an anthology.


Today I shave and brush my teeth without
looking in the mirror. Avoiding to
see my eyes. The eyes are the only
part of the brain that can be seen,
isn’t it. But I’m not contemporary
with my brain. Which is a
privilege. I prefer


to keep my eyes stuck on the
small bathroom window. The blade
works on my cheeks and
throat. I’ll count
later the cuts as a


Meanwhile, those arrived a few
centuries ago in my brain
smite him with thick crowbars
of light.  Good for them. They torture
him as a traitor and apostate.
So it is.


And if from time to
time it groans almost
humanly, do not be im-
pressed. I am not. His groans
are not contemporary
with me. Mashed under the
crowbars of light, this brain
who had the air of a
perfect victim
really was one.


He will sometime count
his disasters as an
anthology. This will  also be
a privilege.




I had found with my brother Iuli
behind the block
a she-hedgehog with cubs.
Look what this is about:


I took them in my arms,
I was scared, but the hedgehog and the cubs
were so scared that
one could see the God of the hedgehogs
hovering over them.


I took them in the laundry room,
at the fourth floor, near our door.
And when I put them in the carton box,
with a thick coverlet beneath them
and grass on the coverlet,
with our little tea cups
filled with water for them –
they were so scared that one could see
even the Holy Spirit of hedgehogs
wrapping them like a coverlet
of thick light
with grass and little tin cups on it.


And we were so scared
and happy, that our hearts
were floating and twitching
somewhere in front of our bodies,
as only after I had cut
the noose around dad’s neck
and I thought he was still breathing
and God floated like
a coverlet of breathing
above him
I have also seen.


I covered the carton box
with a thin plywood. I closed the window
of the laundry room so that
they could not jump. I closed the door
of the laundry room with the key.
The next morning they were gone. The door
closed, also closed the window, the plywood
untouched. I was not too surprised,
as I was also not too surprised
when my father disappeared.


And my brother Iuli, in Kutna Hora,
40 km from Prague, makes computer keyboards –
and that does not surprise me
too much. Not as much as the
coverlet of light wrapping his
every gesture, leaving the rest of him untouched,


This was what it was actually about.


[from the volume The Happy Monster, Cartier Publishing House, 2009]
translation from Romanian by Martin Woodside


Summa ethilica
Once I wished with all my heart, almost religiously,
to become a committed vodka drinker.
I would have given even my soul for this.


My alcoholism reared from the most respectable cultural sources:
each glass of vodka made me think,
above all, of Thomas Aquinas:
40 percent liquid hell in iridiscent light
forced me to see the meaning of
integritas, consonantia, claritas.


Then suddenly you appeared before me,
Cami, you painful teetotaler.
Your missionary ways converted me to the monotheism of hops.
Alcohol would now cap off at five percent;
I resigned myself to this ethylene ice age
because our love prefers proletarian sand in the urethra,
cultivating in its place class hatred for the artistocratic cirrhosis.
The only Marxist accent of a mystic love.


I remember more of Thomas Aquinas
having only my ever expansive belly
to seriously rival the Angelic Doctor.
But I accept this in good graces,
because I have gone far enough to desire
to be a good man, not an interesting one.
For that, now, I would surely give my soul.


The royal path


When dawn breaks and, shy, the Scheherazade
of ethyl falls quiet, hepatic cells clang with alarums & excursions,
like rural noblemen hearing
that the crown prince is making his annual visit
in the countryside domain.
Only now the true journey begins


on the royal path between the esophagus and the liver.
The body waddles towards the sleep, but the inner
to-and-fro wakens. The body is sound asleep,
but the liver is almost incandescent,
his gehennas liquify & disintegrate
& purify everything in the eternal fire,


so that the viscid body is immaculate
on the inside like the angels’. Who watches
the souse gasp has no idea that within him
is being perfected the Great Askesis of redemption through liver,
who demands to incessantly listen to your Scheherazade
with eyes round like the edge of the tsuika tumblers.



The genesis of metaphor and the sense of memory

This girl, whom Blaga describes tasting the plums from the cemetery
to see whether the dead who nourished them were good or bad—
just like her my soul searches restlessly, striking powerfully
against walls of flesh with memories, chimes of remembrance
sounding sometimes sweet, sometimes putrid and bitter, like the juices which,
oozing from the corpse of the time when you were living, are their placentary food.

The analogy with the „Genesis of metaphor” goes even further:
the peasants in Lancram boiled the plums grown from the flesh of the dead
until they were transformed into the brandy which macerates life and death.
Similarily, memories ferment their dead time in me as in a narcissist hogshead
until their squashing inconsistency oozes a spirt
from which I can’t sober up, gliding back and forth between heaven and sheol.

Not deep enough in my soul, squashed and compact like the earth,
memories germinate relentlessly, always more, always more fertile,
their branches reaching ever higher with each passing moment
and the fruit of memories, with their contained spirits, never cease to abound.
So only that, when the plum brandy sends a burning chill through me,
they fall, rot and nourish the beloved germinations. The memories are about the future.


translation from Romanian by Martin Woodside

Radu Vancu is a Romanian poet, novelist and translator. President of PEN Romania. He teaches literature at the Lucian Blaga University in Sibiu, is editor-in-chief of the Revista Transilvania and is the director of the Poets in Transylvania festival.