Romana Iorga

Compromise

A flask empty of wine on the table.
The table wanting for food
in a house missing its people.
Things are meant to be filled
with other things.

The sky, empty of birds, has clouds,
at least. They carry no rain.
Far below, the earth is barren of life.
Metaphors—easy and flawed.
We use them to fill up the silence.

I’m that earth that cannot bear fruit.
You, the rain that never comes.

Doesn’t it all start up there, in the clouds,
with thunder and lightning—the gods
flinging boulders as big as mountains
over their shoulders, a game
between equals gradually turned to war?

We were never equals. I praised myself
for my wisdom, you, for being practical.
Foolish wisdom, careless
pragmatism. We are
destroyers of worlds, passing shadows
on a screen held by no one.
The gods have nothing to do with it.

Tell me how the new world begins.
Who are you now? Who am I?
Where’s the up or down
in this place, where my fingers comb
the darkness until it shines?

Our language has not been
invented yet, its syllables heaped
into swaying structures, images fractured
like limbs reaching for an embrace
that’s no longer there.

Or not there yet?

The night outside is filled with shifting
tectonic plates, continents rising
and falling, oceans carving new shores.
Here, the trees grow taller
than the colossal creatures lumbering by.
Here, volcanoes erupt
to create islands of silence.

This primeval world is already rushing
toward its conclusion, but backwards,
to a time when the planet was only
a speck of dust plunging
through nothingness.

And there you are, half-etched
on the canvas of another first dawn.
And here I am, walking toward you.
Things might never be filled
with other things, but they are
here for now, and that
is almost enough.

Death As a New Language

You learn to speak it sooner or later.
Sooner or later you succumb to its charm,
ready to waltz as it leads you
across dimly lit floors.

Slender flutes of champagne
flash their similes from darkened mirrors.
People are gathered by the walls,
but the ceilings are high, the ceilings

are starry. It doesn’t feel crowded.
You could be at a bus stop,
huddling your belongings, as all
the other passengers push and shove

to get the best seats. You could be
rammed against the rusty railing
on that old ship shedding its paint
into the gray, silent waters of Lethe.

Instead, you are here, in this
weird place where everything seems
possible all of a sudden,
even this tall, dark stranger,

leading you deftly down
mysterious hallways, his hand
on the small of your back,
your eyes closed languorously,

your body attuned to the only
fantasy you’ll never feel guilty about,
the words he whispers in your ear
sweet as oblivion.

Salt Marsh

Someday she will start writing,
leaving her fear behind—
a coat on the doorstep.

Words, rusty in their hinges,
will blow against the old barn,
will whistle in the thin rain.

She’ll hear a door close
with a bang, a dog howl
at each passing shadow.

The narrow streets will get muddy,
then muddier. Where the thick
stream empties its bowels

into the marsh, she’ll step with much
care, lest she drop the exquisite
weight of her body

into the calm, treacherous swamp
of a poem. Before long, she’ll learn
to recognize the footprints

of wild animals, to welcome
death at the fangs of a predator
on some beaten path.

She’ll wander farther into the marsh
only to return with more
than her hands can carry:

the dry, flickering tongues
of the dead, the salt
harvested from her own tears.

Author Portrait

Originally from Chisinau, Moldova, Romana Iorga lives in Switzerland. She is the author of two poetry collections in Romanian: Poem of Arrival and Simple Hearing. Her work in English has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, PANK, Eclectica Magazine, Saltfront, Swimming with Elephants, and others, as well as on her poetry blog.

View the website of Romana Iorga