[the thermometer in my armpit; as if a transfusion…] by Emilian Galaicu-Păun – translated by Adam J. Sorkin, Lidia Vianu, & Raresa Galaicu

the thermometer in my armpit: as if a transfusion of quicksilver for

(presumed) inward mirrors. 39.2º C. fever. my body turns to one side, then the other

like a kaleidoscope that changes from red glass (embers) to

emerald (cold shivers) with a twist, then back. while

the fever grows, my legs poke beyond the covers, stiff like two parallel

tram lines that lead (or led, more precisely) to

the central cemetery, where with bare feet they search in the dark

for a clay boot somebody else happens to be wearing at the moment but are

unable to find it and hurry back underneath. fever. the house warm

again after a trip to africa – no, that’s not kindling,

just the creaking of my joints – from which I narrowly escaped,

my skin hung on a stick like the last (white) flag of the race. it’s getting dark. I, myself.

my entire being contracted within my sleepy eyelids against my pupil watching the sky’s


through the airplane window. one movement and the northern hemisphere

flips upside-down. “careful! don’t touch it!”

it’s my daughter who’s carrying to my bed a cardboard tube

with mirrors, god’s eight-point star. “show it to mother.” the mirror

on the retro wardrobe – can this be dream? – brings her before me. silent film.

merry-go-round with. faces gestures bits of glass. mother daughter. at the other end of.

“what do you see?”    “add these.”    the jewelry box (most of them fake – this last,

for thieves to take note of) contributes its contents to the kaleidoscope. silver symmetries

golden honeycombs sparkles like water glitter

of diamonds. after a day like this it’s comforting to see la

vie en rose (your own), relaxing at the end of – a dream journey? a nightmare? – to close your

eyes in your own bed,

assuring yourself: “I’m falling asleep.” And I am falling asleep, the thermometer in my armpit.

the last thing I hear before

I enter the tunnel is her voice chanting vowels – A noir E blanc I... – at the (presumed) end of. “how come you’re not writing about the kaleidoscope?’

Emilian Galaicu-Păun, one of the leading Romanian-language poets and novelists writing today, was born in 1964 in the Republic of Moldova (then the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic). He has published ten books of poetry, including two in 2019, and three books of prose; in 2020 Dalkey Archive Press published an English translation of his novel, Living Tissue. He is also a blogger, translator, editor and cultural radio personality. His poetry has appeared in Adam J. Sorkin’s co-translations in the anthologies Singular Destinies: Contemporary Poets of Bessarabia (Cartier, 2003); A Fine Line: New Poetry from Eastern and Central Europe (Arc Publications, 2004); New European Poets (Graywolf, 2008); Born in Utopia: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Romanian Poetry (Talisman House, 2006); and in literary journals: 3:AM; Absinthe; Connotation Press (nominations for Pushcart, Sundress Best of the Net & Dzanc Best of the Net prizes); Asymptote; and in the UK Orient Express, Poem, Turbulence, and Poetry London.

Lidia Vianu is Professor of English at the University of Bucharest, and Director of the Centre for the Translation and Interpretation of the Contemporary Text. Vianu and Sorkin have translated nine books of Romanian poetry and drama, including Marin Sorescu’s The Bridge (Bloodaxe), which won the 2005 Poetry Society (UK) Prize for European Poetry Translation, and served as the basis of the libretto for the recent opera by Michael Hersch, On the Threshold of Winter.

Rareșa Galaicu, co-translator of this piece, is the author’s daughter.

Adam J. Sorkin has published 60 books of Romanian poetry in English translation and won the Poetry Society (UK), Kenneth Rexroth, Ioan Flora, and Poesis Translation Prizes, among others. Nora Iuga’s The Hunchbacks’ Bus, (Bitter Oleander, 2016), translated by Sorkin and Diana Manole, was longlisted for the 2017 National Translation Award (US) in Poetry. Most recently Sorkin published, in 2017, Syllables of Flesh by Floarea Țuțuianu (translated with Irma Giannetti–Plamen Press) and A Deafening Silence by Magda Cârneci (translated with Mădălina Bănucu and with the poet–Shearsman), and in 2018, The Barbarians’ Return by Mircea Dinescu (translated with Lidia Vianu–Bloodaxe). Sorkin is Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Penn State Brandywine.