Claudia Serea








I go to the kitchen and turn on the faucet


Pain gushes out,



straight from the treatment plant.


It has a vague scent of chlorine.


I wait for the steady flow,

pour it into a cup,

drink it,


sprinkle the rest of it

on my windowsill flowers.


Pain runs down the steel sink drain,




I wash my hands in it,

splash some on my face,

and turn off the faucet.


Under the city,

the pipes moan slightly.




The curse of soft rocks


I think of you each time I see the teapot

on the stove, full of hot water,


the cloud over the Passaic river,

belly full of cold rain,


your sock on the floor,


the rotten kiwi fruit

in the wire basket,


the sparrow

on the telephone wire.


My hand holds the phone

on hold,


ear listening

to the music yarn.



the eye moves inside the dream


like the chick inside the egg,

wings dreaming of flight.


A pear falls through the air

before smashing on the ground


like a hand grenade,

and the heart does the same,


my heart, the cursed

soft rock.




Even if you don’t believe in angels


You still have your life,



crumbling, dry,


and you have no choice

but to carry it,


a cement slab

on your shoulders


instead of wings.




Dark calligraphy


On the blank sheet of paper,

the little girl writes

a row of letters t.


Her pen screeches,

barely audible,

against the white,


as she slowly fills

the vast field of the page.




Rooms filled with silence: a museum, a library, a classroom with kids taking a test.

We move from room to room, silence to silence: from the empty church to the ICU,

to the closed bar, to the deserted hallway where a janitor mops the floor.


There is the silence of a still life, the silence of Monet’s water lilies, and, in my mother’s house, the silence of the plastic flowers in a vase. But my favorite silence is the one of the snow when the twigs draw their dark calligraphy.




Is it better to know

or not know?


To remember,

or not?


To notice,

or glide by,


closing your eyes

at the ruins of the buildings

where we were supposed

to line up by the hundreds to receive

our daily soup?




Snow and silence, the enemies. Snow falls, covering everything, making it feel alright. No matter what it is, it will be covered by snow, including and accepting all in silence. Let’s bury the past, it says. Let’s cover the mass graves with an immaculate silence,
a sheet pulled over the dead. Let’s throw away the shovels.




Overnight, it snowed

and silence covered everything.


Even the crows were quiet.


Only the woodworms kept chewing

the furniture and walls.


Not everyone could hear them, though.


My grandfather and a few others could,

and they were driven mad

by the deafening chew.


Sooner or later,

everything will crumble, they said,

but no one believed them.




The little girl had finished her homework and left the paper on the table in the deserted kitchen. Row after row, the white field of her sheet was filled with slanted dark crosses. Outside, the wind was tracing in the trees its own calligraphy.









Claudia Serea is a Romanian-born poet who immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. Her poems and translations have appeared in Field, New Letters, 5 a.m., Meridian, Word Riot, Apple Valley Review, among others. She is the author of Angels & Beasts (Phoenicia Publishing, Canada, 2012), A Dirt Road Hangs From the Sky (8th House Publishing, Canada, 2013), To Part Is to Die a Little (Cervena Barva Press, 2015), and Nothing Important Happened Today (Broadstone Books, forthcoming). Serea co-hosts The Williams Readings poetry series in Rutherford, NJ, and is the founding editor of National Translation Month. More at


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