Letter from the Constellation of the Swan
(For Cathy and Donald)
Once upon a time, maybe two weeks,
maybe two centuries ago in Pennsylvania,
a friend telephoned:
‘All evening I heard a strange rustling,
as if someone were trying out
the word sadness in all the languages of the world.
I raised my eyes to the sky.
Wild geese were returning.
Flocks of swans followed
in solemn stateliness. I had gone out into my yard
into the soft breezes of spring
to hang the communion linen to dry.
You know the priest gives it to me for washing.’
In this tender night of the mystical Spring of Healing,
from my window in Bucharest,
I look up to the constellation of the Swan.
And suddenly Europe and America are fused
under wing beats, under the cosmic telescope
with which I magnify my still falling tear
toward the undying of my dear father.
Liliana Ursu wrote her poems during the Ceaucescu regime, this selection is translated by Tess Gallagher and Adam J Sorkin. The Sky Behind The Forest, by Liliana Ursu, trans Adam J Sorkin and Tess Gallagher. Bloodaxe Books, 1997.