‘Difficult is the descent of the cross from the cross’: 2 postmodern poems by Emilian Galaicu-Păun

‘Difficult is the descent of the cross from the cross’: 2 postmodern poems by Emilian Galaicu-Păun
Orheiul Vechi. Image: Dave Proffer via Wikimedia Images

30 April 2021

A “maximalist” poet is how Romanian critic Al. Cistelican describes the Chișinău-based writer Emilian Galaicu-Păun, for the writer’s ambition to address grave themes such as death, as well as the ecstasy of adventure. In Galaicu’s poetry, “impulsiveness is restrained by meticulousness and the summons of gravity by a consciousness of artefact and play,” Cistelican writes. Since his debut in 1986, Galaicu has published more than 10 collections of poetry and a novel. Below are two of his visceral poems based on the religious motifs of Christ’s crucifixion, translated from Romanian into English by Adam Sorkin, in collaboration with Lidia Vianu and Stefania Hirtopanu.


Ascension

Translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu

heavy as honey, from the ladle of his overturned nimbus

the flesh of his body slowly seeps

deep inside him through the sieve

of his blood: it trickles downward

over his face, molds itself to his chin, his neck,

his rounded shoulders, then flows along

his arms to his fists until it reaches the tips

of his fingers and his hands unclench into

finger-candles. for sacred as

holy oil from the ladle of his nimbus

the flesh of his body spills away,

anoints his chest, his abdomen,

bifurcates, letting the lotus of his virility

unfurl in the fertile mud, it runs down

his thighs, his calves, in his veins, and drops abruptly

from the knee below, while his ever-wakeful gaze

is all that manages to hold his body

steady as it sways, powerless to get free

even for the blink of an eye

from the venomous thorns – alive – a crown

of bees swarming everywhere around

his by-blow flower’s brow – can they be gathering

pollen? – each one stings him

in hope that he might ascend in flight

for just an instant, dies,

then another comes to sting him, the hours

prick him like thorns, the swarming crown

renews itself in the air,

his pluricellular body is like honeycomb:

no longer does the cross hold him, nor his bonds,

nor the nails piercing his palms, only the crown

of bees as they swarm, to whom

the heavy honey and transparent wax,

the flesh of his drained body,

simply is


Pietà (Ivy on the Cross)

Translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Stefania Hirtopanu

ivy on the cross: vegetal blood

through arms spread wide

powerless, paralyzed

look at their veins, bulging,

blueish green: wooden crosses

the ancient aristocracy of cemeteries

ivy on the cross: passionate, sainted

Magdalene winding around the foot

of the stiff crucifix: from the cross

Jesus, nailed fast, stares transfixed by

her lithe body in which God

discovers Himself – Aletheia! – in the process

of photosynthesis: more air

for the cemetery (only six feet lie

underground – the rest rises in the open air

from the grass on the graves as high as

heaven: nothing but cemetery)

in spring: pious widows

keep coming to whitewash the arms

of the cross, which is bleeding (every March

the cemetery caretaker,

deeply religious, prunes

the green fingers like young branches

of both arms of the cross,

as he believes sacred and proper:

that each cross remain

a cross crucified in and of itself)

ivy on the cross: it doesn’t want to know

about the caretaker, it doesn’t want to know anything

Magdalene-ivy taking

each cross of fresh wood

for the Savior in the flesh

crucified upon Himself, ivy-

Magdalene winding around His arms

year after year – until one day they fall

to the earth’s lap: difficult is

the descent of the cross from the cross.


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