The Poem on Easter Night by George Vulturescu translated by Adam Sorkin and Olimpia Iacob

Even the poem is a cow
Who else would I clobber here with the butt of a hatchet
right between the horns?
I ready myself to write the way my father,
Gheorghe of Hebei, readied himself to sacrifice the calf
at Easter. In the evening he called for old uncle Achim,
Ioachim and Andor, our neighbors. Each of them poured a glass
of țuică on the porch, then they led the calf
from the shed. They took it to the barn, tied
its legs with ropes to the side rails of the cart
and the heavy oak posts. Father took the hatchet
and struck it on the forehead. Even now can I hear the muffled
thud (as if the letters were blisters),
the calf fell to its knees, stumbled, then
leaned upon a leg that grew weaker
and weaker. Uncle Achim stabbed a knife
into its neck. The blood gushed out forcefully,
splattering everyone around, then trickled
more and more weakly. The calf went on gazing
ahead, trying to rise. Father struck it with the hatchet
one more time between its small horns. A brief groan
died away on the boards where its body fell
on its side. Right away, they thrust iron hooks
above the hooves in its two
hind legs and raised it up with chains
and a pulley fixed to the beam of the barn.
Hanging with its head downwards it still gave
quick twitches. Ioachim and Andor skinned it,
cut open the belly and pulled the entrails out
into a wooden basin.


I can still see it:
the axe remains propped against the wall. Father takes
the hose and rinses the blood from the floorboards.
It vanishes into a drain under the iron grill.
Now they take care of the meat: they all come,
my mother Irina and her elder sister Floarea and Alesia,
and they carry it in a trough into the house. There
they butcher it and prepare the dishes.


The following night with our wicker baskets covered with towels
we go to the Resurrection Mass.
The meat, the wine, the eggs are lined up
in front of the church. The priest cries out from the steps,
Who is the Emperor of Glory?” And the choir
responds, “The Lord who is Strong, the Lord
who is Great and Mighty in Battle. He is
the Emperor of Glory!

Now as I write, Father, even my pages are full
of blood, and I pray:
“This is my poem made of
Easter meat that I offer You,
that You may resurrect it, reader, every single time
with your reading...”



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.