James Baldwin: The Fire Next Time / Urmează focul

Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death—ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us.

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Poate că întreaga rădăcină a suferințelor noastre, suferințele umanității, este că sacrificăm întreaga frumusețe a vieții, ne întemnițăm în totemuri, tabuuri, cruci, jertfe de sânge, turle, moschei, rase, armate, steaguri, națiuni, doar pentru a nega certitudinea morții, singura certitudine pe care o avem. Cred că certitudinea morții ar trebui să ne bucure – ar trebui să ne facă să hotărâm ferm să ne câștigăm moartea confruntând cu pasiune paradoxul vieții. Suntem responsabili față de viață: este micul far din acel întuneric înspăimântător din care venim și la care ne vom întoarce. Trebuie să negociem această trecere pe cât de nobil posibil, de dragul celor care vin după noi.

James Baldwin, Urmează focul  


2020 – fast forward

What did I do in 2020? I survived. And if I sound too dramatic then I’ll put it a little differently – we, me and my loved ones, we’ve been healthy and we remembered how good it is to live with the things we had around us, without the usual organizational and social pressures, without the need to have more and travel to further and as exotic places as possible.

Looking around, at the state of the world, and especially of the people, I would say that I personally had a good year. I could even say a wonderful year, but I can’t ignore the tragedies that have constantly unfolded around us.

Probably the most significant thing is that I managed to publish a tiny volume of poetry that constantly focused my energy and concentration in 2020 and, especially, it tested my ability to complete a personal project so indifferent to the rest of the world. Because the physical universe exists in itself, disconnected from and indifferent to us, and the human universe has its own laws, tough and often opaque, which can however be sometimes used to protect ourselves.

A book, especially a book of poetry, is an adventure. To write, to publish and then to make it reach its readers! I am delighted that I had the courage to embark upon this adventure. The adventure continues, obviously, but I came to a firmer ground from where I can have a glimpse of what my readers think about my efforts.

I hope to publish here some thoughts my Romanian or my international readers shared with me. Without revealing their names, of course. Why? This is a pretty intriguing story like most of the stories about our local culture. I use the term culture in its sociological sense. But I hope to develop my idea in the book of essays I am working on. I already published what some of my Romanian readers said. Now I’ll start with my Anglo-Saxon readers. I hope to translate everything into English or Romanian as the case may be.

1. Your book is a marvel! (…) I’ve sunk into the words, the thoughts, the feelings.  And I love how you set the book up, the pace, the illustrations, everything.  I usually feel bogged down by poetry as if it’s a language I never learned.  Your words speak so directly, so honestly – a simplicity that couldn’t be more powerful.

2. (…) I especially love Matrix. What really impresses me about poets is that you can convey so much with so little, in a time when we hear more and more empty talk. And what you write about is very relevant to me! Thank you! To have such talent in two languages really is awesome. (…) Your poems really mean a lot to people of our age, especially people like me who have trouble putting our thoughts and feelings into words. You’ve made something beautiful out of getting older!

3. What a wonderful surprise (…) the poems and drawings which illustrate them so well. Two poems a day. Food for thought. So lovely 💐  (…) Finished reading the last poem … Loved all of them and the beautiful illustrations. Thank you. ✒️🖊️🍹

4. … your book of poems (…) is splendid and I just love the illustrations. Many congratulations on producing it at this difficult time.

5. Thank you for the beautiful book with the beautiful poems. (…) I love reading it. It’s a beautiful collection. Great job on doing this huge amount of work as I’m sure it was.


24 Poems

The longest project I’ve been working on lately is a tiny book of poetry that I want to announce here. It’s called 24 Poems. I worked on it for some years, without really feeling as if I had been working. It would probably be fairer to say that I enjoyed my time with this project.

Well, the moment to end it arrived. And to present it to my readers’ reactions. I honestly didn’t expect some of those reactions to be so warm and close, empathetic and so moving. Certainly, many have been polite and indifferent. As life usually is!

You can catch a glimpse of what is between the covers here, by looking inside the PDF below.


Magic story

This is a magic and, therefore, relatively weird story. It was created and developed by my grandsons, Vlad and Radu, while the three of us were playing a cards story-telling game. This is the result. They read and approved of what I wrote. I hope for the time when they themselves will be actually writing the story.

Once upon a time there was a bad witch who was greenish and very mean. Her name was Greedy, don’t ask why. She had a cat, as most witches do, and lived in a place protected by a blue door. Greedy had put a curse on a beautiful and rich kingdom called Altar. She would have loved to have the kingdom of Altar all for herself, but even her evil spells could not make the good people of Altar accept her as their ruler. So, she placed one of her aficionados as the ruler of Altar. This puppet ruler was a frog which had a beautiful ring with a precious stone. The precious stone had in it a tiny fairy which could escape from the stone during the night when she did her best to undo the many evil things Greedy had been doing during the day. The tiny fairy, called Nemesis, because she loved justice and would not find her peace until she brought it to the people in need, had a magic wand and she was an ardent defender of Altar and its inhabitants. Through Nemesis’s good spells Altar was a wonderful place, full of sunshine during the day, a clear, starry sky during the night and many, many riches on the ground, underground and in its beautiful crystal-clear waters.

Actually, the beauty and richness of the kingdom of Altar was one of the main reasons Greedy had laid her eyes on it and placed her evil spells on all those who would fight against her, including placing Nemesis into the stone during the day. And so, the kingdom of Altar turned during the days in which Greedy was powerful into a gloomy place with lots of bad weather, damaging storms and bad rain and hail. Not really a place you wanted to live in. However, the inhabitants could not go away because they were kept prisoners by king frog who had grown many poisonous mushrooms in the area.  Those were very special poisonous mushrooms: you needn’t really eat them to be made sick. No. These mushrooms would develop some invisible spores who when inhaled by the people of Altar made them submissive and hard working for their frog king and his mistress Greedy.

Somewhere in a forgotten and well-hidden corner of Altar there lived a good princess who was hidden and protected by fairy Nemesis. The princess was very wise because she had been reading the great book of wisdom and was learning all the good and useful things from it. Her only friend was a little mouse, who helped in many wonderful ways to make her lonely life bearable. The princess discovered that there was a key which could have saved the world, and therefore the kingdom of Altar as well, from Greedy and her frog king. But it was essential that Greedy wasn’t the first to find the key. So, the princess sent her little mouse to hide the tiny key into the dinner of her father, the old king Silly the third, who was kept by both Greedy and the frog king as a façade for their evil manoeuvrings.  

The tiny mouse hid the key in the fish with the hope that Silly the third would find it and use it. As it happened Silly the third preferred to eat something else than fish which was really difficult to eat properly, with the right cutlery, in front of a respectful court. He obviously couldn’t find the tiny key which was thrown away with the left overs from the king’s dinner including the fish.

Larry the leprechaun, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, had just arrived in Altar brought over in one of the bags of a mule bringing supplies to Altar. As all illegal immigrants Larry was poor and starving, but lucky to find the leftovers. He started to eat and was almost ready to start on the fish when a hungry looking dog or maybe wolf suddenly jumped from a bush and swallowed the fish with the tiny key in it. All poor Larry had been left with were the fruit leftovers. He was happy to eat them all remembering how healthy it was to eat as many fruit and vegetables as one can get.

During this time Silly the third was talking to his good and loyal wife, queen Fiona, who actually was Greedy who had managed to take Fiona’s appearance in order to find out what happened with the tiny key. Little did Greedy know that she was watched all the time by an invisible dragon who was living deep down in a cave that Greedy thought was only hers. This dragon could spit fire on all those who would harm Silly and Fiona, but he could not undo the powerful spell that enslaved them and their kingdom Altar to Greedy.

Unfortunately, Greedy disguised as Fiona could not find anything useful about the tiny key. So she went back to her place beyond the blue door to start making another plan to discover where the key had been hidden and to finally get rid of all the good characters in this story such as Nemesis the tiny fairy, the wise princess looking for a way to free Altar, the kingdom of her parents, king Silly the third and queen Fiona, the mouse helping her and the invisible dragon protecting the good people.

As this is a story and strange things happen all the time you may want to know that the dog/wolf that had swallowed the fish and the key had an enchanted stomach in which the fish rematerialized together with key. The dog/wolf was so upset by this weird phenomenon which gave him some pretty strong discomfort that it started to cough strongly. So strongly that he vomited the fish and the key into the tiny stream on whose bank it was trying to rest. The fish found its way into the sea where it discovered a bottle with a strange message in it.

During this time Patrick, the Irish man, who was actually the reincarnation of Larry the leprechaun, appeared and wanted to go into the cave where the invisible dragon was living in order to make an alliance with the dragon and fight Greedy. He discovered Greedy’s cat and started to study how he could make the cat leave its comfortable place and help him discover the key which was to unlock all the mysteries, solve all the problems of Altar and defeat Greedy. Patrick whispered the word “fish” into the cat’s ear and, miraculously, or maybe not so miraculously if we remember how much cats love fish, Greedy’s cat jumped out of her comfy basket and ran all the way to the cave where, among many hanging and flying bats, well hidden in a dark corner, it found a bag and in the bag the tiny key.

“If you turn the key three times clock-wise and five times counter clockwise pointing towards the moon” – the message in the bottle had said – the spell would break and Greedy would become a prisoner in a small bottle from which she could no longer escape.

And this is what the cat and Patrick did.

And this is how the story ends – evil has been once again defeated and the kingdom of Altar with all its good people is thriving again.


Temptations (2)

Our freedom

Of which we are so proud
And we constantly pronounce
This is what I want
I choose to do so.
I am α and Ω.
The Universe starts with ME.
I am the millenium.
Me, I, myself, mine, forever I?
Luring –
Temptation or knowledge
We see
We are blind.
The end is here
Whether or not
I want so.

Things from the Past

My favourite Christmas ornament.

yellow with
little white and red flowers,
probably hand painted.
damaged and awkwardly repaired:
wrinkled cardboard and old glue.
a plain, boring and ugly object for today.
no shine, no movement; no fragrance, no sound.
an old object:
just hanging in a fir-tree and
capturing the light
of the sun or
the dining room lamps
throwing them back
not in thousands of sparkles,
but in a faded, mellow, subdued radiance
that brings to my mind so many memories.
my first glimpses of life:
the awe and mystery of Christmas.
my first Christmas tree
in a haze
of memory or smoke
from real candles -
their grey, church-like-smell.
the joy,
the wonder,
the security …
sheer happiness…
waiting for Christmas to happen.
I look at the little sun shining,
not burning, in my palm,
in the fir tree
in its storage box:
all those memories come back!
a life time of Christmases:
rustling candies wrapped up in shiny silver and gold,
the smell of oranges, a luxury.
home baked  sweet bread with lots of nuts,
the whispers of parents and neighbours
getting things ready for Father Christmas to come,
my first Jewish Father Christmas,
the distant sound of carolers in the streets,
orășelul copiilor,
frozen feet and noses,
boiled wine and spiced up țuica,
poems in exchange of gifts,
a this-small-dwarf-bathing-in-a-coffee-pot,
Moș Gerilă …
The pain of discovery,
the denial of mythology,
the happy sparkle of red wine,
cigarette smoke,
sausages and sarmale,
cold cuts,
my own kids’ expectations,
French perfumes, furs,
American cigarettes.
Stories … .