Cristina A. Bejan is a Romanian-American poet, historian, and theatre artist based in Denver, Colorado. She grew up in Durham, North Carolina, and received her BA in Philosophy from Northwestern University, where she also studied theatre. She has held fellowships at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Georgetown University, and the Woodrow Wilson Center, and has taught history at Duke University and the Metropolitan State University of Denver, among others.
As a playwright, Bejan has written 18 plays, many of which have been produced in the United States, Romania, the United Kingdom, and Vanuatu. She is founding executive director of the arts and culture collective Bucharest Inside the Beltway. She has performed her poetry under the stage name “Lady Godiva” across the United States and Romania, getting her start at Washington DC’s Busboys and Poets. Green Horses on the Walls is Bejan’s first book of poetry and her second book after Intellectuals and Fascism in Interwar Romania: The Criterion Association (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).
I’m from a tricky Diaspora
An assimilate-quick Diaspora
A red lipstick, high heels and skinny perfumed cigarettes Diaspora
The only thing we are known for is not exactly in our history—“Dracula”
Maybe that’s why we say we’re from anywhere than we actually are—“Je suis à
An I can’t actually hear the parental accent Diaspora
A my siblings cannot pronounce our family name correctly Diaspora
A too suspicious and yet too trusting Diaspora
A “Shhh, don’t talk or they will hear you,” Diaspora
A country that you’ve never heard of Diaspora
An “I silently understand eight languages” Diaspora
A no pressure to get married ever Diaspora
A sex is healthy and beautiful Diaspora
An any race is more beautiful than Caucasian Diaspora
Unless you’re a Roma gypsy Diaspora
A politically totally confused Diaspora
A Reagan Realpolitik Diaspora
A “So, you’re telling me healthcare isn’t free?” Diaspora
All education is always on full scholarship Diaspora
A “What, you don’t have at least two graduate degrees?” Diaspora—Dr! Dr! A knowing the world map Diaspora
A spiritual but not religious Diaspora
A never knowing your grandparents Diaspora
A family history so painful that you just never talk about it Diaspora
A rejoicing through tears when your country’s dictator is assassinated
A real appreciation for a pair of blue jeans Diaspora
A not so ancient history of wearing denim on denim Diaspora
A deep understanding of the origins of rock and roll Diaspora
Ce frumoasă ţară e România [What a beautiful country Romania is] Is it?
Dar în SUA avem un viitor [But in the USA we have a future]
You don’t have to be from our Diaspora to have heard that one before.
Put it under your mattress
That’s my Romanian father’s American mantra.
“Cristina, put this 200 dollars under your mattress.
Cristina, don’t tell anyone of the rape, the breakdowns, the sexual harassment.
Just stuff it under your mattress, no one looks there.”
I was told early on not to look in our family’s secret police file
Which was absurd because I was in that Bucharest archive every day anyway
When I told my friends that I was obeying my father’s instructions
Romanian girlfriends are loyal to family but they also don’t take the bullshit
that American women do.
Cristina, asta înseamnă că trebuie să te uiți.
[Cristina, that means that you
have to look]
I know, I always said.
Under communism there were no banks There was no wealth
Every man and woman were equal Equally destroyed
Equally in fear Equally invisible
But there were ways around the system
As there always are under oppression
Black market ruled
And all the good guys had a prison term as proof of their protest
Don’t talk or they’ll hear you
So Romania was silent
People listening through the walls
Making love to your wife and everyone knows It’s in your secret police file
I’ve read those truths
And the risk that they will raid is always there.
Looking for dissidence
Looking for an excuse to torture
Because frankly everyone is just bored under totalitarianism
Not allowed to go anywhere
Not allowed to choose your job
Not allowed to choose your apartment
So you drink, you smoke and you fuck
Reduced to animals.
Ambition is a no-no.
the ultimate threat.
So the agents burst in
They’ve heard you’ve been keeping a chicken farm illegally on the outskirts
You know, saving money Defying the system
Bejans protest of course
“N-avem nimic de ascuns.” [We have nothing to hide]
“Ba da,” Securiștii [“But yes you have,” the Secret Police] bark
As they go straight for the bedroom
And flip your mattress.