N I C H I T A

D A N I L O V

SECOND-HAND SOULS
SELECTED WRITING

T R A N S L AT E D THE AND BY

FROM

ROMANIAN INTRODUCED COTTER

SEAN

TWISTED SPOON PRESS PRAGUE

/

2003

Copyright © 1993, 1999, 2000, 2003 by Nichita Danilov Introduction and translation copyright © 2003 by Sean Cotter This edition © 2003 by Twisted Spoon Press All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. This book, or parts thereof, may not be used or reproduced in any form, except in the context of reviews, without written permission from the publisher.

isbn 80-86264-08-4

9 Tr a n s l a t o r ’s I n t r o d u c t i o n

21 N i n e Va r i a t i o n s f o r t h e O r g a n
Kiril / 22 Ferapont / 26 Lazar / 30 ˘ Daniel / 32 Celalalt Kiril / 34 ˘ Atichin / 36 Celalalt Ferapont / 38 ˘ Celalalt Lazar / 40 ˘ ˘ Coborârea lui Daniel / 42
• Cyril / 23 • Ferapont / 27 • Lazarus / 31 • Daniel / 33 • The Other Cyril / 35 • Atikin / 37 • The Other Ferapont / 39 • The Other Lazarus / 41 • Daniel’s Descent / 43

45 Selected Poetr y
Senin / 46 Din timp în timp / 48 Lied (II) / 50 Lied (V) / 52 Neantul / 54 Despre poezie / 56 Poem / 58 Scurt poem de dragoste / 60 Chip orb / 62
• Serenity / 47 • From Time to Time / 49 • Lied (II) / 51 • Lied (V) / 53 • The Void / 55 • On Poetry / 57 • Poem / 59 • Short Love Poem / 61 • Blind Face / 63

Caderea / 64 ˘ Portret al artistului la tineret e / 68 ¸ Celui care vine / 72 Finita la commedia / 74 Peisaj cu îngeri orbi / 80 Apus / 82 Rastingnire / 84 ˘ Iluminare / 86 Îngerul / 88 Nimicul / 92 Peisaj diurn / 94 Din nou, Ferapont / 98 Profetul / 102 Trup / 104 Lan / 106 Second-Hand / 108 Îngerul / 112 Anatol / 114 Invocat ie / 118 ¸ Somn / 120 Poem în O / 122 Apele sufletului / 124 Peisaj cu mâini si aripi / 126 ¸

• The Fall / 65 • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man / 69 • To the One Who Will Come / 73 • Finita la commedia / 75 • Scene with Blind Angels / 81 • West toward the Sun / 83 • Crucifixion / 85 • Enlightenment / 87 • The Angel / 89 • Nothingness / 93 • Diurnal Scene / 95 • Again, Ferapont / 99 • The Prophet / 103 • Body / 105 • Field / 107 • Second-Hand / 109 • The Angel / 113 • Anatol / 115 • Invocation / 119 • Sleep / 121 • Poem in O / 123 • Waters of the Soul / 125 • Scene with Hands and Wings / 127

129 Selected Prose
On Writers / 131 In the Author’s Cell / 135 Sound and Space / 139 How Much Fiction is There in a Poetic Text? / 142

T R A N S L AT O R ’ S I N T R O D U C T I O N

We lack, in translations of East European literature following 1989, a sense of the importance of religion to these writers. Whether due to our more secular interests, or to the patterns established by officially atheist Communist governments, we have avoided exploring this aspect of literary experience, an aspect whose importance we can gauge by the centrality of the terms “Catholic,” “Orthodox,” and “Muslim” in the Balkan conflicts. The fall of the Communist governments removed the censorship that suppressed discussion of this topic with the West, and this change has given us the opportunity to explore East European spirituality more fully. When we examine the religion and literature of the region, we find a relationship more complex than we may have at first expected. This complexity holds especially true in the case of Romania, where for forty years the Orthodox Church provided a sense of Romanian identity, sometimes resistant to and sometimes complicit with a strongly nationalist Communist government. These considerations become more entangled in the case of Nichita Danilov, a poet from the city of Iasi ( Jassy), in the region ¸ of northeast Romania called Moldavia. Ias i is the home of Mihai ¸ Eminescu, Romania’s national poet, and the city has long been a center for the nation’s literary production. Danilov, however, is not ethnically Romanian. He belongs to the Lippovan Slavic minority, a group which settled in Moldavia and the Danube delta in the eighteenth century, having fled Russian persecution after the Orthodox Church schism. Although Danilov was raised

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speaking both Russian and Romanian, he writes solely in the latter language. The Lippovan identity as religious dissenters has been instrumental in constructing Danilov’s own identity. His mystical vision of religious experience seems to inform all his poems, even those that do not contain explicitly religious imagery. The imagery itself can be located in the Romanian engagement with Surrealism, which has provided Danilov a mode for describing an ineffable God. In his poetry and theoretical writings, he argues that the divine is manifest in this world through surrealistic moments, that is, through jarring juxtapositions. Danilov’s poetic technique is an imitation of this image of God. Not only does his poetry express his relationship with the divine, but it also demonstrates his relationship with the dayto-day world. He is conscious of the jarring effect his technique can have on the reader, and he words his poems carefully to balance that effect. At no time do we see Danilov detached from his relationship with others, writing purely for God or for his own amusement. He is constantly writing in the tension he feels between the divine world and our own. Danilov, an Orthodox Christian, understands the divine as the Creator God of Genesis. The world in which we live is the “created” world. Danilov also refers to another world, one where the divine resides. Because the divine is the Creator and not the created, he calls the divine realm the “uncreated.” His poetry is a kind of prophecy, not of a world to come, but of the simultaneous existence of another world. The poems take place in a world similar to but other than ours. Familiar images, such as a window lit at night or a man playing chess, are set against an

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indefinite, monochrome landscape; they are suspended in front of green and black fields, void of intelligible detail. His prophecy is a vision of our world sustained by these voids. The presence of another world in Danilov’s poetry has more than an aesthetic significance. In his critical writings he states that he has in fact experienced an other world. He describes visions, hallucinations that offer a writer what he needs:
Maybe hallucination encompasses more reality than simple perception. Hallucination makes other doors on the universe swing open. We move beyond the world of the senses. Time acquires another dimension and space another configuration.*

The other world in Danilov’s poetry is written in relationship to the other world he has experienced. His poems are not directly a description of that world, but they are analogous to it. By creating another world in his poetry, Danilov argues for the actual presence of a world outside of the one we perceive from day to day. He does not describe that world because the uncreated is always other than this one, which means it is also other than the words of his poetry. This world is made essentially other by its ineffability. Danilov places himself in the tradition of negative theologians, such as Meister Eckhart, St. John of the Cross, and Pseudo-Dionysius. This tradition describes the divine in negative terms: it is “not a part of non-existence nor is it a part of being” — Danilov quotes the Areopagite — it is “ineffable and unknowable.” For
* Apocalipsa de carton 29 (Iasi, Romania: Institutul European, 1993). All of the ¸ prose citations in this essay are taken from this collection.

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Danilov, the world “beyond the world we perceive” is a void, as in the title of his major collection, The Void above All Things. Because the divine is ineffable, no poem he writes will be an adequate expression of its nature. But his vision also includes a radical skepticism. The major distinction between Danilov and traditional negative theology is his emphasis on the impossibility of meaningful communication with the divine at any level. Meister Eckhart, for example, presents a dialogic relationship with the uncreated, in which the mystic is pecking his way out of his shell, while, on the other side, God is pecking in. For Danilov, however, we have no way to peck. The most we can do is passively wait for a divine eruption in this world, the nature and timing of which are impossible to predict. When these eruptions do occur, more often than not they confirm the incommensurability of the uncreated and created worlds. Danilov uses the angel, the traditional image of communication between earth and heaven, to show how unsuitable these worlds are to each other. In one poem, an angel realizes he is in the created world and hangs himself from his halo. The earth is so harsh that even divine beings suffer. They are driven to drink:
But what kind of angels are these? Some are drunk, like they’re coming from a party. Some walk around the house smoking and shouting, others sit at my table and play a game of chance. (“The Fall”)

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Danilov’s angels are far from Dante’s spiritual guides, far from Rilke’s terrible presences. His angels are incapable of functioning in this world. They arrive as incarnations of incommensurability. Even though the angels come from the divine, they are corrupted, sometimes battered by their contact with the created world. “To The One Who Will Come” sounds like a warning from one angel to his successor:
You need a heart of stone to live on earth, and sometimes it is better not even to have a stone.

This bitterness results in brooding figures such as “The Angel,” who stays in his room, smoking cigars and gambling, or the mob of decadent angels who take over Lazarus’s apartment in “The Fall.” Danilov finds the created world “a place of perpetual suffering.” The suffering is too intense, even for the divine. The exact nature of suffering in Danilov’s poetry is exemplified in his poem “Crucifixion,” where he pictures Christ, another mediating figure, questioning God:
Father, I bit into our bread our daily bread and I found a tooth. So I’m asking you, Father: What kind of bread is this?

In this revision of the story, Christ’s moment of doubt in Gethsemane is caused by the unexpected appearance of teeth inside a loaf of holy bread. The fact that this surreal eruption

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occurs in “our daily bread,” the place of holy nourishment, makes the irony of a believer’s relationship with God all the more apparent. The suffering that Danilov describes is not the result of the absence of the divine in this world, a simpler and maybe preferable situation. Rather, suffering is a result of the world being in an inscrutable, unpredictable relationship with God. Danilov describes this situation in images of his angels playing games of chance:
They will play dice for a week. Then, cards, for a month, day and night. (“The Angel”) Other angels hold my mouth open and fill it with champagne . . . The rest keep throwing dice at the table. (“The Fall”)

As a pastime for someone with divine knowledge, these games make little sense: presumably the angels would know already what the next card or roll of the dice would be. They must enjoy instead the tumbling of the dice, the chaotic shuffling of the cards. At his most jaded, Danilov suggests that the divine treats the created world like a deck of cards. The unpredictability of the world is something that the divine has introduced, for its own pleasure. Danilov identifies all kinds of shocking interruptions of our world as emanations of the uncreated. For him, nothing expresses the interaction of the divine and the created better than Dalí’s surrealism:
Yes, the uncreated exists, you only need eyes to see it

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. . . We have to include Dalí, without a doubt, among those who have seen it recently. Recall the flaming giraffe. What is in each drawer of the giraffe’s chest, if not the uncreated? (122)

The divine is marked by its frustration of our expectations. “The Void” treats this problem directly. The poem’s speaker, having witnessed a manifestation of the uncreated, asks a question with appropriate gravity:
A hole opened in the sky above him so he could speak with the void. He shouted: What is evil? Truth? Good?

The divine does not respond with the same seriousness:
After three days a response came: a soft giggle followed by a snicker.

Despite this response, the speaker must show reverence to the divine. The divine has the prerogative to change, while the person must be passive. The speaker continues with the same kind of questions:
He asked: What is wisdom? Love? The Soul? After three days a response came: a goat’s soft bleat, followed by a horse’s cackle, an ox’s squeak, a dog’s croak, and so on.

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The divine responds by unexpectedly juxtaposing incompatible terms, croaking being as foreign to a dog as burning is to a giraffe. The tears that appear in Danilov’s poems, such as those of Daniel in Nine Variations for the Organ, are often tears of frustration with the incommensurability of a person’s reverence and the divine’s caprice. This frustration with divine ineffability appears in Danilov’s prose as well:
Is the uncreated a thing or a being? Soul or puppet? Who or what? Half goat, three quarters ram, and four quarters teaspoon! Don’t ask me what it looks like! I don’t know anything about it! I have never seen it, and I never will! (122)

Danilov’s work describes a person called to a holy world that functions by rules he cannot understand. We realize the depth of this suffering when we read Danilov’s descriptions of his work as a poet. Danilov depends on his relationship with the uncreated world. The poet must constantly attend to the void, he argues, because the uncreated world is the source of creativity. To create a poem is to “take words from the void . . . and transfer them into [the] work (29).” Any creativity in the created world comes from an interruption by the uncreated (the creating) world. Danilov pictures the poet as a man who fishes, his hook resting age after age in a body of clear water that is void of fish. There are no fish in this world, but eventually a fish inexplicably appears at the end of the line, in the same way that a tooth appears in Christ’s bread. Despite his frustration, Danilov must embrace the otherness of the divine. He therefore transforms his frustration with the

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divine into a poetic practice. He imitates the unpredictability of the uncreated. We can see the resemblance of the uncreated and the poet by juxtaposing this description of the former:
The uncreated can take different forms. If the poet [Emil Brumaru] will be good enough to slide open the drawer of his memory, he will see the “uncreated” in all its brilliance: a short creature with a red crest and little yellow boots, walking from one end of the office to the other. (122)

with this picture of the poet as a similarly eccentric creature:
With pants made of billiard felt, with a pink jacket and blue shirt, a tie painted by a friend, an immense sombrero, a snarled beard pulled into a sharp point, and an enormous blue hoop in one ear . . . (14)

The poet in “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” is also distinguished by his appearance:
His head is shaved, his face is hairy, a cigar between his teeth. He tips his hat to show a 100 lei note stuck to his head. He dresses like this to shock your fat little hearts.

Just as the divine is marked by its surrealism, the poet is marked by his eccentricity. Both shock the world. What restrains Danilov from extending this rationale to

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the ruptured literary language common in Romanian postmodernism, and what distinguishes him from simple sadism, is his conviction that poetry wields a real power over the reader. He feels a responsibility to take great care over the language and images of his poems. We see his carefulness in his ars poetica, “On Poetry.” Here he describes an eccentrically dressed saddle-maker named Johann, a craftsman, as is the poet. “Every harness” that Johann makes he tests “first on himself.” After he puts on fancy clothes, he harnesses himself to a carriage for a short trip:
Only if the harness didn’t bruise his chest would he put it on the horse. Where can you find people like that today?

The answer, of course, is that poets are like that. Danilov sees himself as a craftsman, a creator of poems. But the poems he creates might bruise his reader. After all, this creation involves the most powerful energies that we can imagine, the power, for example, to set fire to a giraffe. The poet cannot ask his reader to empathize with an object that might do him real harm. Danilov therefore states that the language and form of the poem should be carefully constructed, contending that the poet
. . . should take care not to use [words] in such a way that they collapse without a purpose and without a form. He has the duty to make a wall of the words which came to him from the superior forces of the spirit in the moment of inspiration, a wall more durable than the Great Wall of China. (29)

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He is arguing here against a poetry that is not carefully constructed, a poetry that does not take its relationship with the reader seriously. Danilov’s own clear sentence structure and simple forms are an attempt to avoid bruising his reader, an attempt to fulfill this duty. Like his skeptical theology, Danilov’s understanding of a poem’s capacity to bruise has a radical edge. He argues that the words of a poem have the potential to bruise not only our aesthetic sensibilities, but also our bodies. He tells of writing a prose poem about a man with three black holes in his head:
Not long after, an inexplicable anxiety caused my hair to fall out of my head in three places, each the size of a large coin. I burned the text in an open place — in a rowboat on Lake Ciric — and I scattered the ashes over the water. (The poem was not that great, I had found it by chance in my coat pocket. I put a lighter to it and held the burning end of the paper over the waves until it all had turned to ash.) Not more than a week later, my hair began to grow back. Within a month you couldn’t see where it had fallen out.

The words that a poet employs can have a physical effect, and not only on the person who writes them and those who read them, but also on those who have not read them. Danilov tells us that during a train trip, after his hair had grown back, he overhears an anecdote that brings the prose poem to his mind for the first time in several months:
The man who told it, an engineer for the roads around

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Dorohoi, had three bald spots on his head. I wanted to ask him if by chance he had been swimming in Lake Ciric, where I had scattered the ash of my poem about Hans, but I held myself back. (21)

The poet may actually have the same power as his angel counterpart: he may introduce unpredictability into the world through his poetry just as he imagines the angels do through their gambling. This combination of uncertainty and potency makes the careful construction of a poem an ethical concern. Beyond demonstrating that the writer is always in relationship with the two worlds of the uncreated and the created, beyond arguing that in this relationship the poem should avoid bruising its reader (or non-reader), Danilov does not describe the precise boundaries of his ethics. In fact, given the relationship of the two worlds, he cannot describe the boundaries precisely. He states that the poet’s words come from his encounter with the uncreated, but their appearance is inexplicable: like catching a fish in an empty pond. He suggests that the poet has a “responsibility” to the world around him, but his power is unpredictable. We do not know just how or when the poet can be said to affect the world. Danilov’s ethics is a peculiar combination of potency and confusion: the great power of his creativity is circumscribed by a spiritual mystery. In the same way that Danilov writes in the tension between the uncreated and the created worlds, he writes in an ethics whose restrictions are unknowable by their nature. With this situation in mind, we can better understand the spiritual frustration we find in many of these poems. Sean Cotter

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N i n e Va r i a t i o n s f o r t h e O r g a n

Truly, the best part of everything can be expressed in many words, few words, or none, because it is ineffable and unknowable. It is supernatural, transcendent, manifesting itself directly and completely to those who are able to rise above both impure things and pure things, to climb the most holy peaks, leave behind divine light and heavenly sounds and words, and become one with the dark, where he who is above all things is truly found. We say that this part is neither the soul nor the mind . . . It is neither number nor order, neither greatness nor smallness, neither equality nor inequality, neither likeness nor unlikeness . . . It is not part of non-existence nor is it part of being: beings do not know it, as it is in itself, neither does it know beings as they are.

dionysius the areopagite

KIRIL

Calugarul Kiril sta în interiorul unei fântâni s i scrie la o ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸ neagra psaltire. Aici vietuieste de pe vremea lui Constantin. În ˘ ¸ ¸ jurul lui apa s-a dat put in la o parte. Totusi înauntrul fântânii e ¸ ¸ ˘ umed si frig. Din când în când îsi încalzeste mâinile la un ¸ ¸ ˘ ¸ opait. Pe masa sa are un blid, iar în dreapta un fel de pasare ¸ ˘ oarba care ciuguleste meiul din blid. ˘ ¸ Eu stau aplecat peste fântâna si-l urmaresc foarte atent: tot ˘¸ ˘ ce scrie el, eu transcriu într-o alta psaltire. Din când în când, el ˘ îsi ridica ochii spre mine, dar nu-mi spune nimic. ¸ ˘ Câteodata apa devine cam tulbure si nu pot vedea ce scrie ˘ ¸ el. Atunci trebuie sa m-aplec tot mai mult peste margine. ˘ Altadata apa devine vâscoasa ca lutul si crapa. ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸ ˘ Altadata e fierbinte ca lava si împroasca afara foc. ˘ ˘ ¸ ¸ ˘ ˘ Apoi se raceste treptat si se preface în piatra, ˘ ¸ ¸ ˘ atuncea astept. Ma asez în dreptul fântânii si astept ¸ ˘ ¸ ¸ ¸ pâna piatra devine iar apa. ˘ ˘ Altadata începe sa ninga. ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ Fulgi mari cad în fântâna, dar nu se topesc cum ar fi fost ˘ normal sa se topeasca la contactul cu apa, ci se prefac în banut i ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸ de-argint si de-arama s i se lipesc pe ¸ ˘¸ t easta rasa a calugarului Kiril. ¸ ˘ ˘ ˘ El scrie fara sa simta ceva. Eu îl urmaresc foarte atent: nu ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ trebuie sa-mi scape nici un cuvânt. Tot ce scrie el, eu transcriu ˘ într-o alta psaltire, dar nu cu ˘ cerneala, ci cu nisip. ˘
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CYRIL

Cyril the monk lives inside a well and writes a black psalter. He has lived there since the age of Constantine. Around him, the water has parted, leaving the walls wet and cold. He warms his hands from time to time at a stone lamp. On the right corner of his table, a blind bird pecks at a small plate of seeds. I lean over the side of the well, and watch him, very carefully: everything that he writes, I copy into another psalter. Occasionally he raises his eyes toward me, but he does not say anything. Sometimes the water ripples, and I cannot see what he is writing. Then I have to lean farther over the edge. Other times the water thickens into clay, then cracks. Other times it boils like lava and spits fire. Then it slowly cools into stone, and I wait. I sit on the well and wait for the stone to turn back into water. Sometimes it snows. Large flakes fall into the well. They do not melt, as they normally do when they touch water. Instead they turn into silver and copper coins and stick to the shaved scalp of Cyril the monk. Cyril writes, but without feeling. I watch him very carefully: I cannot miss a word. Everything he writes, I copy into another psalter, using not ink, but sand.
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Am în fat a mea o clepsidra si-mi moi pana în nisipul care se ¸ ˘¸ scurge din ea. Pentru asta trebuie, într-adevar, sa fiu deosebit ˘ ˘ de atent; orice boare de vânt îmi poate da peste cap tot ce am scris. Deasupra mea sta aplecat altcineva si transcrie tot ce scriu ˘ ¸ eu. Daca îmi ridic cumva ochii spre el, îsi vâra imediat nasul în ˘ ¸ ˘ carte si se preface ca-i absorbit de lectura. ¸ ˘ ˘ Seamana binisor cu mine s i cu Kiril. ˘ ˘ ¸ ¸ De multe ori se apleaca atât de mult peste margine, încât îi ˘ strig sa fie atent, sa aiba grija sa nu se prabuseasca în put . Dar el ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸ ˘ ¸ râde, hohoteste ca un nebun. ¸ El este fratele Ferapont.

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In front of me is an hourglass. I dip my quill in the stream of falling sand. I have to be exceptionally careful: any breath of wind would erase everything I have written. Someone else leans over me, copying what I write. If I look at him, he immediately puts his nose in his book, as if he is absorbed in reading. He looks a little like both Cyril and me. He often leans dangerously far over the well’s edge. I yell at him to be careful not to fall down the shaft. He giggles at me like a crazy man. He is Brother Ferapont.

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FERAPONT

Deasupra mea sta fratele Ferapont. Si-a lasat o barba pâna ˘ ¸ ˘ ˘ ˘ la brâu. El vegheaza peste tot ce scriu eu. Poarta un fel de ˘ ˘ rubasca s i e încins la mijloc cu o frânghie din ¸ ˘¸ scoart a de tei. Seamana mult cu ¸˘ ˘ ˘ Fiodor Mihailovici Dostoievski. Daca fac cumva o micut a greseala de stil, el îmi scapa o ˘ ¸˘ ¸ ˘ ˘ pietricica în cap. ˘ „Fii atent, fii atent, frate Nichita, îmi spune. Fii atent, toate astea s-ar putea sa te coste scump.” ˘ Când nu stiu exact unde sa pun virgula s i ezit între un ¸ ˘ ˘¸ punct si o virgula, el ma corecteaza. ¸ ˘ ˘ ˘ „Toate astea nu mai au nici o important a, îi spun. ¸˘ În psaltirea moderna nu se mai folosesc multe semne de ˘ punctuat ie.” ¸ „Tu, totusi, sa le folosesti, sa le folosesti. Nu se stie nimic ¸ ˘ ¸ ˘ ¸ ¸ niciodata. Cine stie ce vremuri mai vin! Trebuie sa fii foarte ˘ ¸ ˘ atent si prevazator. De asemeni, ar trebui sa postesti mai mult ¸ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸ si mai mult sa te concentrezi asupra ta. Mai put in sa visezi la ¸ ˘ ¸ ˘ femei. Sa fii un adevarat egumen.” ˘ ˘ „Toate astea nu mai au importanta acum, îi raspund. ¸˘ ˘ Vremurile sânt altfel, s-au schimbat mult. Lumea nu mai posteste. Cât despre femei . . .” ¸ „Tu, totusi, sa nu uit i niciodata ce-t i spun! Sa fii foarte, ¸ ˘ ¸ ˘ ¸ ˘ foarte atent . . .” Fratele Ferapont are ochi albastri si blânzi. ¸ ¸
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FERAPONT

Above me is Brother Ferapont. His beard reaches down to his waist. He sees everything that I write. His linen shirt is tied around the middle with rope made of linden bark. He looks very much like Feodor Mihailovich Dostoevsky. If I commit a small stylistic mistake, he drops a pebble on my head. “Be careful, be careful, Brother Nichita,” he says, “Be careful, that could be a costly mistake.” If I don’t know exactly where to put a comma, or if I hesitate between a period and a comma, he corrects me. “None of this matters at all,” I tell him, “In the modern Psalter, many punctuation marks are no longer used.” “Still, you should use them. You should. You never know. Who knows what the future will bring! You have to be very cautious, very careful. And another thing, you should fast more, attend more to yourself. Spend less time looking at women. If you want to become a Superior.” “None of this matters now,” I respond, “The times have changed, it’s very different now. People don’t fast any more. And about women . . .” “Even so, don’t forget what I’m telling you. Be very, very careful . . .” Brother Ferapont has soft, blue eyes.
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Desi e trist nu l-am vazut plângând niciodata. ¸ ˘ ˘ Are o voce groasa si cânta tot felul de psalmi. ˘¸ ˘ As vrea sa-mi moi pana si sa scriu cu tristet ea acestor ¸ ˘ ¸ ˘ ¸ priviri. Dar el sta mult deasupra mea si oricât de sus mi-as ˘ ¸ ¸ ridica mâna, tot nu i-as putea atinge ochii. ¸ Deasupra fratelui Ferapont sta fratele Lazar. ˘ ˘

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Although he is a sad man, I have never seen him cry. He has a deep, rich voice, and he knows many psalms. I would like to wet my quill in the sadness of his gaze. But he is so far above me. However high I raise my hand, I cannot reach his eyes. Above Brother Ferapont is Brother Lazarus.

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LAZAR ˘

Deasupra fratelui Ferapont sta fratele Lazar. ˘ ˘ Deasupra fratelui Lazar nu mai e nimeni. El e într-adevar ˘ ˘ foarte singur. Nu priveste nici în afara, nici înauntru, dar vede ¸ ˘ ˘ tot. Deasupra lui nu mai e nici un put. ¸ El e mai trist decât însusi Cristos. În fiecare zi putrezeste ¸ ¸ câte put in si pica-n fântâna. ¸ ¸ ˘ ˘ Fratele Ferapont îsi moaie pana ¸ în ranile lui si-si scrie psaltirea. ˘ ¸ ¸ Ranile lui sunt limpezi ca niste fântâni ˘ ¸ si nu putrezesc, nici nu dor. El nu scrie. ¸ doar sângele lui izvoraste din rani ˘¸ ˘ si umple toata fântâna. ¸ ˘ Ochiul lui trist ajunge pâna la mine, ˘ pâna la mine si glasul lui blând; el nu m-a mustrat ˘ ¸ niciodata. ˘ Într-una din ranile sale e si fântâna în care scriu eu. Din ˘ ¸ când în când îsi deschide ochii si-l priveste pe celalalt Lazar, pe ¸ ¸ ¸ ˘ ˘ cel din adânc. Celalalt e la fel de slab ca si dânsul. ˘ ¸

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LAZARUS

Above Brother Ferapont is Brother Lazarus. There is no one above Brother Lazarus. He is truly alone. He looks neither outside nor inside, but he sees everything. Above him there is no more well. Brother Lazarus is sadder than Christ. Every day, part of his body rots off and falls down through the well. Brother Ferapont writes his psalter after wetting his quill in Lazarus’s wounds. His wounds are as clear as well-water. They do not fester. He writes nothing. But the blood that flows from his wounds fills the well. His sad gaze reaches down to me, his voice reaches down softly. He has never chided me. The well where I write is deep in one of his wounds. He opens his eyes, from time to time, to look at the Lazarus in the depths. The other Lazarus is as feeble as this one.

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DANIEL

Fratele Daniel e înca foarte tânar si rataceste pe câmpia din ˘ ˘ ¸ ˘ ˘ ¸ jur. El înca n-a coborât în fântâna. ˘ ˘ Nu i-a crescut nici mustat a. ¸ Are un par cânepiu si nu stie ce e femeia. ˘ ¸ ¸ Acum simte un fel de greutate în piept si rataceste pe ¸ ˘ ˘ ¸ câmpie. Din când în când scoate o mica psaltire si-o rasfoieste ˘ ¸ ˘ ¸ fara sa înt eleaga ceva. E însot it permanent de o pasare. Un fel ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸ ˘ ¸ ˘ de soim, numai ca are cap de leu si coada de sarpe. ¸ ˘ ¸ ˘ ¸ Ea sta pe umarul sau drept si are ochii foarte stralucitori. ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸ ˘ Stie sa citeasca si-l învat a sa descifreze psaltirea. ¸ ˘ ˘¸ ¸˘ ˘ Când îsi deschide aripile, lasa sa se întrevada pe sub ¸ ˘ ˘ ˘ subsuori un trup de femeie. Se hraneste cu nisip si bea apa ˘ ¸ ¸ ˘ din ranile fratelui Lazar. ˘ ˘ Aduce cu pasarea fratelui Kiril, ˘ numai ca e de câteva ori mai înt eleapta. ˘ ¸ ˘ La fiecare luna noua coboara în put ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸ si aduce câte o noua psaltire. Ea este pasarea înt elepciunii. ¸ ˘ ˘ ¸ Acum se sfârseste luna april si începe sa amurgeasca. ¸ ¸ ¸ ˘ ˘

32

DANIEL

Brother Daniel is still very young. He passes the days playing outside in the fields. He has yet to descend into the well. His whiskers have not started to grow. He has golden hair. He does not know what a woman is. While playing in the fields, he feels a kind of weight on his chest. He occasionally takes out a small psalter and leafs through it, but he does not understand anything. He is accompanied at all times by a bird: a kind of falcon, but with the head of a lion and a serpent’s tail. The bird is perched on his right shoulder. Its eyes glow. It can read and teaches Daniel to decipher the psalter. Under the falcon’s wings, the body of a woman shows through the feathers. The falcon feeds on sand and drinks the water from Brother Lazarus’s wounds. It looks a bit like Cyril’s bird just many times wiser. On every new moon it flies into the well, in its beak a new psalter for Brother Cyril. Now, at the end of April, the fogs are gathering.

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C E L A L A LT K I R I L ˘

Dedesubtul fratelui Kiril e un alt frate Kiril. El sta într-un alt put si scrie o alta psaltire. ˘ ¸¸ ˘ Scrie invers de cum scrie celalalt frate Kiril. Cu o mâna ˘ ˘ scrie si cu alta numara banut ii de-arama ¸ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸ ˘ ce cad din buzunarul primului Kiril. El e foarte slab si nu manânca decât o data la sapte zile. ¸ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸ Un sobolan i-a ros sandalele si acum îi roade talpa de la ¸ ¸ piciorul stâng. Dar el nu simte nici o durere. Nici sângele nu-i curge din rana, de parca ar fi mort. ˘ ˘ Are o barbut a sura si-un nas ca un cioc. ˘ ¸˘ ˘¸ Pleoapele i s-au înrosit de-atâta scris si mâna îi tremura la ¸ ¸ ˘ fiecare litera. E ceva mai batrân decât primul Kiril si mult mai ˘ ˘ ¸ viclean decât dânsul. Îsi numara pe-ascuns banut ii de-arama si hohoteste ¸ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸ ˘¸ ¸ subtil. Mai mult se chioraste la lumina lunii si scrie cu propriul ˘¸ ¸ sau sânge, atâta e de zgârcit! Scrie foarte marunt, abia pot i ˘ ˘ ¸ deslusi ce-a scris. ¸ Dedesubtul lui scrie fratele Atichin.

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THE OTHER CYRIL

Under Brother Cyril is another Brother Cyril, in a different shaft and writing in a different psalter. His writing is the reflection of the other Cyril’s. While one hand writes, the other counts the silver coins that fall from the first Cyril’s pocket. He is very thin and eats only once every seven days. A rat has chewed through the sole of his left sandal, and now it gnaws at his foot. But he feels no pain. He does not bleed. As if he were dead. He has a gray beard and a beaked nose. Constant writing has turned his eyelids red. His hand shakes with every stroke. He is older than the first Cyril, and much more cunning. He counts the copper coins in his pocket and giggles. Most of the time he stares out at the light of the moon. He writes with his own blood, he is that cheap! He writes with very small letters. You can barely make out what he has written. Below him writes Brother Atikin.

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AT I C H I N

Fratele Atichin nu seamana cu mine ci mai mult cu fratele ˘ ˘ Ferapont, cel de deasupra mea. El citeste si corecteaza tot ce scrie celalalt Kiril. Nu are ¸ ¸ ˘ ˘ barba, în schimb pletele îi atârna pâna la chilia celui de-al ˘ ˘ ˘ doilea Kiril. De când scrie nu si-a taiat unghiile si acum ele îi ¸ ˘ ¸ intra în carne. Are în chilia sa o micut a fereastra prin care ˘ ¸˘ ˘ urmareste câmpia. ˘ ¸ Pe câmpie rataceste acum celalalt Daniel. ˘ ˘ ¸ ˘ Din când în când rupe câte o fila si-o arunca usor pe ˘¸ ˘ ¸ fereastra, apoi asteapta sa treaca prin dreptul ei celalalt Daniel. ˘ ¸ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ Dar acesta e prea absorbit de propriile sale gânduri ca sa mai ˘ vada ceva si în jur. ˘ ¸ Doar pasarea sa le citeste pe-ascuns, apoi le mesteca si le ˘ ¸ ˘¸ înghite pe loc, ca sa nu afle nimic Daniel. ˘ Fratele Atichin nu e zgârcit, în schimb viseaza mult la ˘ femei. De multe ori pana lui o ia razna si deseneaza ¸ ˘ pe fila coapse si sâni de femeie. ˘ ¸ În mâna sa dreapta t ine o micut a lupa, ˘¸ ¸˘ ˘ dedesubtul lui scrie celalalt Ferapont. ˘

36

AT I K I N

Brother Atikin does not resemble me; he looks like Brother Ferapont above me. He reads and corrects the writing of the other Cyril. He has no beard. Instead, his hair hangs from his head down to the cell of the second Cyril. He hasn’t cut his nails since he began to write. Now they are so long they curve back into his fingers. A small window in his cell lets him see the fields outside. On the fields, the other Daniel is playing. Every once in a while Atikin will tear a page from his psalter and toss it through the window. Then he waits for the other Daniel to walk past it. But Daniel is too absorbed in his own thoughts to see anything around him. The bird hides somewhere and reads the page. When he finishes reading, he eats the paper, so Daniel won’t discover it. Brother Atikin is not cheap. His problem is dreams of women. Often his quill will go astray and draw on the page, a woman’s thighs and breasts. In his right hand he holds a tiny magnifying glass. Below him writes the other Ferapont.

37

C E L A L A LT F E R A P O N T ˘

Celalalt Ferapont seamana pe jumatate cu mine, pe ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ jumatate cu primul frate Ferapont. Ochiul sau drept e aidoma ˘ ˘ cu ochiul meu drept. Celalalt e albastru ˘ si seamana cu cel al lui Ferapont. ¸ ˘ ˘ El sta cu capul în piept si pare ca mediteaza profund ˘ ¸ ˘ ˘ la ceva. E mult mai întunecat decât primul frate Ferapont. Pe spate are o pereche de aripi si-o cruce care-l apasa greu ¸ ˘ înauntru. Poarta barba si seamana cu un paianjen. El sta si ˘ ˘ ˘¸ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘¸ transcrie tot ce a scris Atichin. Are o fat a întunecata si nu ¸˘ ˘¸ l-am vazut ˘ zâmbind niciodata. ˘ E un adevarat gramatic. ˘ Înainte de-a asterne o fraza, o cumpaneste adânc, o ¸ ˘ ˘ ¸ întoarce de pe o parte pe alta, o rasuceste în fel si chip, ˘ ¸ ¸ apoi o trece citet în psaltire. Scrisul lui ¸ e foarte îngrijit. El transcrie în aur psaltirea. Dupa ce scrie o pagina, îi da foc la opait , iar cenusa o ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸ ¸ presoara pe trupul lui Lazar. Pe ranile ˘ ˘ ˘ celuilalt Lazar. ˘

38

THE OTHER FERAPONT

The other Ferapont looks half like me and half like the first Ferapont. His right eye is like mine. The blue one looks like Ferapont’s. His head rests on his chest, as if he were meditating deeply on something. His skin is much darker than the first Brother Ferapont. In between his wings, a heavy cross presses on his back. He wears a beard and looks like a peasant. He copies everything that Atikin writes. His face is dark; I have never seen him smile. He is truly a grammarian. Before writing down a certain phrase, he contemplates it from one end to the other, he twists it and turns it, then writes it carefully in the psalter. His handwriting is exceptionally neat. He writes his psalter in golden ink. After he has written a page, he burns it at the stone lamp. The ash falls on Lazarus’s body. Into the wounds of the other Lazarus.

39

C E L A L A LT L A Z A R ˘ ˘

Dedesubtul celuilalt Ferapont e celalalt Lazar ˘ ˘ Dedesubtul celuilalt Lazar nu mai e nimeni. Cenusa picura ˘ ¸ ˘ pe ranile lui si-i acopera trupul. El nu scrie la nici o psaltire. E ˘ ¸ ˘ prea slab ca sa mai poata scrie ceva. ˘ ˘ Nici nu are destula putere sa-si t ina ochii deschisi. ˘ ˘ ¸ ¸ ˘ ¸ Din când în când arunca o privire celuilalt Lazar, apoi îsi ˘ ˘ ¸ închide pleoapele obosite si-si întoarce fat a în alta parte. ¸ ¸ ¸ ˘ Cenusa îi acopera ranile. ¸ ˘ ˘ Fiecare rana a lui e ca o fântâna. ˘ ˘ Într-una din ranile sale ˘ stau eu si-mi continui psaltirea. ¸ Trupul lui e numai piele si os. ¸ E chiar mai palid decât însusi Cristos. Îsi misca ¸ ¸ ¸ ˘ încet buzele albe si sopteste abia: ¸ ¸ ¸ „Apa, apa . . . put ina apa . . .” Atât. ˘ ˘ ¸ ˘ ˘ Celalalt Ferapont îsi arde linistit psaltirea si în loc de apa îi ˘ ¸ ¸ ¸ ˘ presara cenusa pe rani. În aceasta cenusa ˘ ¸˘ ˘ ˘ ¸˘ îmi moi pana si-mi continui psaltirea. ¸ Fratele Daniel nu stie nimic din toate acestea. ¸ Acum el abia a-nvat at sa citeasca. Trece cu o mica psaltire ˘¸ ˘ ˘ ˘ în mâini si-i silabiseste buchiile. ¸ ¸ E sfârsitul lunii april si-n curând va fi noapte. ¸ ¸ Pasarea de pe umarul lui a zburat. ˘ ˘ El îmi va continua psaltirea.
40

THE OTHER LAZARUS

Under the other Ferapont is the other Lazarus. Under the other Lazarus there is no one else. Ash falls on his wounds, ash falls over his entire body. He writes nothing. He is too weak. Too weak to keep his eyes open. From time to time he glances at the other Lazarus, then he closes his tired eyes and turns his face away. Ash covers his wounds. Each of his wounds is a well. Deep inside one of his wounds I am writing my psalter. He is just skin and bones. He is paler than Christ. He nibbles at his white lips and whispers: “Water, water, . . . a little water . . .” Nothing more. The other Ferapont quietly burns his psalter. Ash falls on Lazarus’s wounds instead of water. I wet my quill in this ash to continue my psalter. Brother Daniel knows none of this. He has just learned to read. He walks with a small psalter in his hands, mouthing the syllables. The end of April; it will soon be night. The bird has flown from his shoulder. Daniel will continue my psalter.
41

COBORÂREA LUI DANIEL

Se sfârsea luna april si începea luna martie. ¸ ¸ Daniel se apropie de fântâna. Privi înauntrul ei si se trase ˘ ˘ ¸ cât iva pasi înapoi. Era într-o noapte de vineri ¸ ¸ spre luni. Îsi închise ochii si se-apleca peste marginea ¸ ¸ ˘ ei: nici cu ochii închisi nu putu scapa de chipul ¸ ˘ celuilalt Daniel. Luni statu toata ziua si plânse ˘ ˘ ¸ aplecat peste celalalt Daniel. ˘ Trupul i se înverzi si pielea i se acoperi cu solzi ca de sarpe. ¸ ¸ Îi crescura pene pe mâini, numai aripile nu voira sa-i creasca. ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ Statu toata ziua si plânse. ˘ ˘ ¸ Dedesubtul lui plângea celalalt Daniel. ˘ Îsi smulgea solzii de pe trup si penele, îsi sfâsia ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸ aura si plângea, aplecându-se tot mai mult peste ¸ Daniel Din put îi privea cu o oarecare tristet e calugarul Kiril. Îsi ¸ ¸ ˘ ˘ ¸ muia pana în lacrimile lor si-si continua linistit psaltirea. Îsi ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸ încalzea din timp în timp mâinile la opait ˘ ¸ si-si continua lucrul. ¸ ¸ Pasarea lui oarba ciugulea în continuare meiul din ˘ ˘ blid. Pasarea de pe umarul lui Daniel zburase demult. ˘ ˘ Era o sâmbata neagra, fara sfârsit. ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¸

42

D A N I E L’ S D E S C E N T

April ended and March began. Daniel approached the edge of the well. He peered inside, then moved away. It was the night of a Friday before Monday. He closed his eyes and leaned over the side of the well: even with his eyes shut, he could not escape the face of the other Daniel. He stayed all Monday and cried, leaning over the other Daniel. His body turned green and his skin grew scales like a snake. Feathers grew out of his hands. The wings did not grow. He was at the well all day, crying. Beneath him the other Daniel cried. He picked off the scales and plucked the feathers. He snuffed out his halo and cried, leaning farther and farther over Daniel. Brother Cyril looked up at them from the shaft, somewhat sad. He wet his quill in their tears and quietly continued his psalter. From time to time he warmed his hands at the stone lamp and continued his work. His blind bird continued to peck at the grain. The bird on Daniel’s shoulder had flown long ago. It was a black Saturday that would never end.
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Selected Poetr y

SENIN

Cu ochii goi si privirea stinsa ¸ ˘ ma voi pierde încet în patria mea. ˘ Sfâsiat de nostalgia unui câmp alb, ¸ descult voi pasi prin zapada. ¸ ˘¸ ˘ ˘ Orb la hotarele ei, mult timp fara un cuvânt voi privi în afara. ˘ ˘ ˘ Însot it de un stol negru, ¸ povara unei tristet i fara margini, ¸ ˘ ˘ cu capul în piept voi traversa încet câmpul nins. Cersetor pe drumurile ei, ¸ ma voi pierde umil si tacut. ˘ ¸ ˘ Prin târguri stravechi, prin sate pustii ˘ voi merge cu ochii în lacrimi. Cer albastru, cer rosu ca lacrima, ¸ încet, încet te întuneci!

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SERENITY

With my eyes empty, my sight extinguished, I will sink into my country. I will walk barefoot through the snow, torn with longing for an old white field. I will stare at the edge of the field blind, not speaking a word. With black sheep behind me, burdened by a sorrow without borders, I will cross the field of snow, my chin nodding against my chest. I will disappear, humble and silent, a beggar on the side of the road. Through ancient towns, through empty villages I will walk with my eyes in tears. Sky blue, sky as red as a tear you go dark slowly, so slowly . . .

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