Carmen Firan




(România – USA)





obsessive dreams


always the same dreams

the thump on hot bed sheets

after each flight

wing-traces well hidden

for fear of ridicule

next morning

when light screams into your life

canceling every rule

distance and time claim their rights


I go running voiceless through concentric waves

submerged in dead seas

swallowed alive by quicksand

pursued by bodies with blank faces

I can’t manage to close the door to the beyond

in delirium I save my breath

abandoned to destiny’s hands

that can restart a drowned man’s heart

long after the soul has entered another shell


nothing is more shameful than dream shame

alone surrounded by famished eyes and mouths

a grotesque ballet in the absence of words



Translated by Adam J. Sorkin with the poet



my sleep is not my own


o, lord, death fears me

he touches me lightly

then jumps away like a child

and trembles

his finger on my lips

not disingenuous as it might seem

gentle and whole he smiles at me


I take his hand and force him

to stroke and tender my sleep

as it lies stretched on a bed sheet


his hand draws back:

I can’t– he whispers –

your slumber is too cold

and yet, and yet

something in you draws me,

and I could hold you

and I could tell you tales and tales,

your eye draws me,

I am inside its globe,

teach him silence

I fear its expression

and I can’t hear or see myself



Translated by Andrei Codrescu



paradoxes of sleep


unlikely illusions, all white,

dreams without a trace of the shape or the soul,

of someone stretched out between the street and death


they do not sell newspapers anymore

and what they publish now are only

paradoxes, the sleep of the mind

written with impotent pens

distortions drawn with real ink


nor do they sell illusions anymore

the gates of the city have been locked



Translated by Isaiah Sheffer with the poet



the caretaker of dreams


in every dream I speak a different language

and in every language words have a different color

blind dreams rise from their foreheads

inflated on the purple horizon


from all I said in my lives before and to come

there remain only the flight path, the wing’s whisper

the island where I took refuge

free inside so many walls

on which I scratch neither hearts or love-words

but signs in the language I speak while asleep

a dialect of Old Angelic still useful for crossing borders


I have a vocation for happiness

a sort of unconscious facility

at making an ally of the caretaker of dreams

who’s always ready to lend me the silk cocoon

in which words sneak past customs

intimate objects I carry with me undeclared


nothing’s to be done about my golden dowry

dead languages yield just the powdery dust of stars



Translated by Adam J. Sorkin with the poet



next morning


I woke up with a dry mouth

in my dream I’d told you everything that could be said


rain kept falling upward and the water dissolved

my enemies’ names with shoe polish labels

floating together, sodden and swollen,

on a street where once I strolled

for the sole pleasure of the conspiring in dreams

with such loneliness my men stretched out their necks

and flew in fluttering capes

like bats scattered over the city


I was the only inhabitant

of a blue cup

terribly thirsty

but there’s never been a thirst truly quenched



Translated by Adam J. Sorkin with the poet













Carmen Firan, a poet and fiction writer, has published twenty books including poetry, novels, essays and short stories in her native Romania. Since 2000 she has been living in New York. Among her recent books in the United States are Inferno (novella, SDP, 2011), Rock and Dew (selected poems, Sheep Meadow Press, 2010), Words and Flesh, (selected works of prose, Talisman Publishers, 2008), The Second Life (short stories, 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 three collections of poetry published in New York: Afternoon With An Angel, The First Moment After Death, and Accomplished Error. In 2006, she co-edited Born in Utopia: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Romanian Poetry (Talisman House) and in 2008 she co-edited the anthology Stranger at Home. Contemporary American Poetry with an Accent (Numina Press, Los Angeles). She is a member of the Pen American Center and the Poetry Society of America.


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