The Ballad of the Glass by George Vulturescu translated by Adam Sorkin and Olimpia Iacob


“...To see the part of the glass that’s full
you have to raise it to the light
and look at an angle...”
          (Robert Şerban)


When I took him to granny Mălinda,
he was delirious. For three nights
he had the same dream: a white dog
came to his house, climbed up on his bed
and lay across his chest. He felt its cold claws,
heard them at night as they scraped
like needles of hail against the house windows
during the days of a blizzard.


Granny Mălinda stayed on her porch and watched them:
his father, Valomir, helped him down from the cart.
Anastasia, his betrothed, removed the counterpane from his back.
“Take him inside,” Mălinda ordered. They sat him on a chair
and went back outside to wait.


Simion overheard her:
“In the neighboring village, Nicoreţi, you have a mistress...
She wants you to go back to her...” In the vestibule
it was very dark. On the table a candle flickered.
Granny Mălinda mixed something, muttering to herself,
then she raised a big glass of water high above
the candle, directing him,


“Keep watching, until you recognize them...”
He saw the water in the glass turn as clear as a mirror
in which shadows were moving. Yes, it was Inga, on her knees,
naked, her hair loose, surrounded by nine candles.
Before her, her mother Berta was praying. He could see
her bony and shrunken body under her thin hair, unloosed.
“Perhaps I’m dreaming,” he said to himself. “Perhaps I’m among the grapevines
and I’m gazing through the window...”


Granny Mălinda gave him a sip of holy water
and in a kerchief, under his arm, tied a fistful of garlic.
“Carry this bundle for three days and then,” Mălinda cackled,
“only then can you go to the tavern...”


...Now he is in a bar in Timişoara. He has a glass
of alcohol before him. A gentle tenderness refracts
from the glances of those who sit at the tables,
as if they had all had read Ion Mureşan’s poem,
“The Poor Alcoholics.” The light at the windows
suddenly grows bright and a butterfly lands on his table.
Then it flies off to another table where it seems
that he can recognize Dustin Hoffman,
who looks back at him through the walls of a glass
that he has raised to the light at an angle...



George Vulturescu has published more than a dozen poetry collections, among them The North and Beyond the North (2001), Monograms on the Stones of the North (2005), Other Poems from the North (2007), The Blind Man from the North (2009), and Gold and Ivy (2011—in which “The Angel at the Window” appeared). Adam J. Sorkin is a translator of contemporary Romanian literature. Sorkin’s translation of Marin Sorescu’s The Bridge (with Lidia Vianu) won the 2005 Poetry Society Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation, and their version of lines poems poetry by Mircea Ivănescu was shortlisted in 2011. Olimpia Iacob is Associate Professor in Modern Languages at “Vasile Goldiș” West University of Arad, Romania. Her book-length translations include prose and poetry by Cassian Maria Spiridon, Gabriel Stănescu, Gheorghe Grigurcu, Petre Got, Mircea Petean, and Magdalena Dorina Suciu, as well as George Vulturescu.