Stella Vinitchi Radulescu
from Journal with Closed Eyes
Translated from the French by Luke Hankins
The August heat pierces me to the core. The flies too. And his patched-up pajamas. He had to sell his gold watch to some neighbors . . . Soon, very soon, his life will be over. Sitting on the edge of the bed, his breathing shallow . . . He asks me for a cigarette.
First I stand up, then I find the pack, next . . . But is there really an order to things? I’ve made and repeated these motions for such a long time, always the same, backwards and forwards, I extend my hand, I find the pack, I light the cigarette, I know it won’t burn to the end.
The sun through the windows is already making me sweat. The next room over, the children are waking up. The lapping of their little voices.
You could begin a book this way. Or end one.
The pages have scattered on the beach. Letters fall off, wrap around rocks, fray, twist, attach to the roots of plants, strange organisms, writhing seaweed . . .
A melody rises from the earth. Suddenly I recognize it, it’s the one I put on in the car sometimes. Then it changes. I hear footsteps underground . . .
Untangle these letters, gather them from the sand, it’s my job, I’m the one who has to do it, I know it.
I’m the one who invented them, drew them with colored pencils in my notebook.
And I can’t move, my feet, my steps . . .
This seaweed that grows out of me . . .
The nights are very long and the days pass unnoticed. I hear thoughts like little motors whirring in the air. Others’ thoughts and my own. Living, keeping me company, more alive than those to whom they belong.
Over the years some have grown hard with rust; others, weakening, falling apart, still delight me. So I wind them up, set the little motors going, and I listen to them . . .
I’d have a hard time waking tomorrow to find only silence.
It’s three in the morning, the dead in their graves. I think of them. Thought is alive, warm, it gathers itself, forms a kernel that attaches itself to the world, and it begins to move, to shift.
I give the dead this gift, the only one possible.
The dead—a formless mass on which we walk.