Claudia Serea is a Romanian-born poet who immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. Her poems and translations have appeared in New Letters, 5 a.m., Meridian, Word Riot, Apple Valley Review, and many others. A three-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she is the author of Angels & Beasts (Phoenicia Publishing, Canada, 2012), The System (Cold Hub Press, New Zealand, 2012), and A Dirt Road Hangs from the Sky (8th House Publishing, Canada, 2013). She co-edited and co-translated The Vanishing Point That Whistles, an Anthology of Contemporary Romanian Poetry (Talisman Publishing, 2011). More at cserea.tumblr.com/.
Read an interview and poems here: http://connotationpress.com/poetry/479-claudia-serea-poetry
For the forty soldiers of the XII Legion Fulminata
Sift the flour three times,
for fear, forgiveness, faith.
Make a nest in the middle
and pour the milk.
Think of the frozen Lake Sevasta
embracing the martyrs.
Let yeast foam
and bloom a warm flower.
Break the eggs.
Think of ankles and kneecaps
broken by hammers.
Add lemon zest rinds,
glowing crowns of saints.
Think of ice melting on soldiers’ skin.
Mix with oil and knead
until the dough speaks and breathes.
Pound and throw the dough 100 times.
Tell it to renounce God.
pinch of salt, of patience.
Leave it by the oven to rise, alive.
Make figure eights
shaped like humans,
with heads and bellies
of braided dough.
Brush with beaten egg.
Align the small army.
The forty soldiers of the XII Legion Fulminata
go straight into fire.
Sink them in honey,
sprinkle with chopped walnuts.
Think of the forgotten ones,
known or unknown.
Think of the unidentified,
Call out unspoken names.
For them, break apart the macinici cake.
Take a bite of its soft body,
fragrant and sweet.
Ask for forgiveness of the wandering,
ones that lived before us
and are gone.
First published in Connotation Press, An Online Artifact
The first 80,000 are hard. The next 2 million are easy
Forgive me, Grandma, for not speaking sooner:
my mouth was stitched by my mother and father
who thought it was best that way.
I won’t give you anything I won’t give you any-
thing I won’t give you anything I won’t give you
anything I won’t give you anything I won’t give
you anything I won’t give you anything I won’t
give you anything. I won’t give you any damn thing,
unless you leave me for dead,
and they did.
Cranking up the machine,
the president explains:
The first 80,000 are hard.
The next 2 million are easy.
Send in the troops. Send in the troops.
Send in the troops the tanks the trains
send in the military tribunals the prosecutors the judges
send in the troops the troops the troops
to shoot them chain them jail them send them
where the mute had weaned the mare.
They must be guilty of something:
send in the troops.
What makes a nation bite its own flesh?
How does a country turn cannibal?
In a burlap sack stitched shut,
Grandma abandoned the cat
that ate her own kittens.
Rows, rows, rows, rows.
Rows, rows, rows, rows.
I see my grandfather in one of these rows.
Behind him, his cousins, his neighbors, his friends.
My father is further away,
in the rows of the young ones, worked to death.
Forgive him, Grandma, for not speaking sooner:
his mouth was stitched with fear.
I am a product of this machine
that feeds on grandparents, on parents,
and spits out the new generations,
memory cards erased,
then swallows us again
I was there,
in one of the school rows,
my red pioneer tie flapping,
proudly reciting my achievements.
Today, my father lives closer to death
than to his youth in the gulag.
In the grapevine shadow, we visit the past
with flashlights of plum brandy,
and we unstitch it thread by thread,
we tear it apart.
First published in 5 a.m.
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, the first Romanian Communist president, bragged that 80,000 peasants were arrested for the crime of resisting the nationalization of the land between 1949 and 1951. It’s estimated that, by 1989, the total number of victims of the Romanian Communist regime reached 2 million.
The Eden Rose
All night I listened to the thunder,
nectar of fear underarms.
Tobacco flowers and doors
opened and closed
with muffled cries.
Car wheels, soldiers, shouts,
Do you really have to do this?
luggage dragged on the gravel road,
mother’s shuffled steps leaving the house.
Then, the ooze of silence in my ears.
The wind moved the leaves of sky
and, in the morning,
everyone I knew
Crabgrass crept in.
down to the ground,
I watched the weeds’ rise to power.
I bloomed in secret,
releasing my scent only at night.
I cried rosehips,
pain ingrained in wood.
In spring, I grew hands
and climbed the trellis,
new thorns on my head.
I watched the road from the roof for years,
burning orange and pink
for my family’s return.
Winner of the Franklin-Christoph Merit Award, 2011