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now I know that each departure

is nothing more than the self-importance

of not being the one who stands

waiting on the platform

a tree grown in the cracks of the asphalt


                 from; crackups by Carmen Firan












a peaceful afternoon

requiem for the sinking city




festina lente

what remains




1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Carmen Firan


Carmen Firan, a poet and fiction writer, has published twenty books including poetry, novels, essays and short stories. Among her recent books are Rock and Dew, Sheep Meadow Press, (selected poems, 2010), Words and Flesh, (selected works of prose, Talisman Publishers, 2008), The Second Life (Columbia University Press, 2005), The Farce (novel, Spuyten Duyvil, 2003), In the Most Beautiful Life (poems with photographs by Virginia Joffe, Umbrage Editions, 2002), and several collections of poetry, among them: Afternoon With An Angel, The First Moment After Death, and Accomplished Error. In 2006 she edited Born in Utopia: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Romanian Poetry (Talisman House) in 2008 she co-edited the anthology Stranger at Home. Contemporary American Poetry with an Accent (Numina Press, Los Angeles). Firan is a member of the Pen American Center and the Poetry Society of America, and serves on the editorial boards of the international magazines Lettre Internationale and Interpoezia. Her poems appeared in several literary magazines: Arshile, Asheville Poetry Review, Ars Interpres, Barrow Street, The Broome Review, Breathe, Connotation Press, Exquisite Corpse, Free Verse, Hanging Loose, Hubbub, Interpoezia, Literary Chaos, The Light Millennium, Notre Dame Review, Osiris, Ozone Park Literary Journal, Paper Street, The Poetry Miscellany, Salt River Review, Talisman, Words Without Borders,etc. Her works are translated and featured in anthologies of poetry in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Israel, Sweden, Ireland, and UK.









I’ll grow old


you won’t hear me

snow will cover my traces


one morning I’ll wake up beside you

and open the curtain

convinced that through the window

I can see the Himalayas from above

a cynical miracle achieved without the least effort

lion cubs will spring forth ravenous

tear out my heart bolting it down


you don’t believe in the devouring word

until sound and soul join each other

you’ll hear only the crunch of the poem

in their young jaws





everything passes, you told me,

as when on a high-speed train you look out the window

and the trees rush behind you

with the mist of each word on a winter morning


everything passes, you said,

with the thick soup dribbling from grandma’s chin

to the edge of a hospital bed

with a pressed violet in an encyclopedia

whose pages no one will ever turn


everything passes,

the waters grows calm

the blare of sounds will blur—

the shadow sets upon the body





the difference between solemnity and a rigid pair of shoulders

is the same as between pretended silence and speechlessness

the parallel lines race each other leaving no trace on the skin

they flow between heaven and earth

linking big infinity with small infinity


the difference between loneliness and a languorous woman

recumbent on a divan

is the same as between imposed exile and running in circles

far enough from home


with your fate recast halfway through your journey

in the midst of others’ silence

you could die and no one would hear





in my late thirties I killed my ego

in the bathroom

I slowly twisted its neck with my own two hands

the Adam’s apple thudded to the cement floor

one by one I cut the threads

from which I drew my power

strong enough to keep me upright in a hunchback world


I knew I was mistaken to love my crackups

more than the patch of earth granted to me

now I know that each departure

is nothing more than the self-importance

of not being the one who stands

waiting on the platform

a tree grown in the cracks of the asphalt


in cold blood I watched the warm, proud, salty stream

snake down its chin

washing away the arrogance of forgiving nothing

the sweet venom of my daily solitude with an impudent body

the bread and butter of my youth





winter is yours

the city empty and quiet as if evacuated

it gets dark early and stays dark

you approach me quietly

and at each step something disappears irrevocably

swallowed by the earth’s hunger for mystery


summer is mine

only the echo of packed-down snow reaches

the tremor of your voice in an open field

white as a bed sheet


I press my palms over my eyes

in the end darkness looks the same:

the tunnel that spits you out and the one that sucks you back

I draw the curtains over a counter-season

from which no one has ever returned




a peaceful afternoon


the sky congealed in a cup

yolk spilling over the rim—

sunset above the hospital


in the windows white gowns wave

a surrender to night

tomorrow some will be carried out on their shields


I lean on the casement sill and listen

the boats come home empty from the sea

the fishermen disembark


a natural death of a peaceful afternoon:

youth hurtles like an avalanche in the mountains

then drifts like a summer vacation




requiem for the sinking city


it takes naiveté to believe the tales

of the old knife thrower

the blues dancer on the alligator’s back

from which he’ll fashion evening bags

and binding for books

written in the language of dream

madmen who with sound and fury besiege

the streets of the Vieux Carré


shutters from colonial houses float downriver

coffins wrapped in Mardi Gras beads

carry the last pharaohs of the food-can pyramids


the blind saxophonist sets his shoes to dry

in a voodoo-shop window


it takes naiveté to believe that this century

will ever wake up

from its bloody hangover of the senses

the world’s placenta bubbles muddy waters


death swims on her back

pulling behind her the last streetcar






angels are neither bird

nor mankind

it’s useless for us to represent

their chubby child-like body

with pelican wings

over a bed

or in a bitter corner of the temple


coupled words

are angels

born from the illusion of another life

impossibly perfect






our objects will survive us

with pride in their own faith

liberated from the soul

we lent them

ready to obey

a new master

just as on the morning after death

the light will fall the very same way

on the red-poppy quilt

your aunt’s gift

to calm our fear—

the new tenant will use it

to wrap his hunting rifle





death has withdrawn in a corner

curled up in a ball

tired of sucking and gnawing

yet she’s just an old crone

gently she rebukes me:

—dearie, would you like me to go away?

so I invite her to stay


I try trading the bird’s neck for my own

this way it will be much easier

I know her gnarled hands must cause her pain


the old woman cackles with glee

thinking I was scheming to fly

not die

—put back your stony neck, please

don’t you see I’m just trying to tease?


festina lente


it is always too late
even the philosophy of the Greeks
must be taken with a grain of salt
you can plunge sink without a trace
and your body weight
will not raise the level of the ocean,
the weight of your soul is valued at .0003
and this only if you die forewarned
by the eternal festina lente

things are always much simpler:
a baby's cry, the air of a summer night,
the books from which all that remains
is the happiness of a few synonyms,
the regret at the end
that love gives you everything
but time


what remains



a rare snake,

binds hands and learns how to perform

coiling insidiously

in the service of power


but wait, don’t throw

the mantle of clouds off my shoulder

remember, in the beginning was the word,

at the end, the word distorted 



there will only remain

poetry, a rare snake,

insinuating itself

into our full cup of tears



3 - Publishing History


soon                                       (Published in Rock & Dew,  The Sheep Meadow Press, 2010)

differences                             (Published in Rock & Dew,  The Sheep Meadow Press, 2010)

crackups                                  (Published in  Notre Dame Review)

a peaceful afternoon              (Published in Rock & Dew,  The Sheep Meadow Press, 2010)

requiem for the sinking city  (Published in  Barrow Street Review)

game                                        (Published in  Hanging Loose Review)

festina lente                             (Published in Talisman Review)


4 - Afterword

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We are looking for other poets to feature in this series, and are open to submissions.  Please send one poem and a short bio to - info@poetrykit.org

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