Cornelia Street

Cristian Popescu

The first time I saw Cornelia was at a dance, at the Cultural Center at No. 3 where folk music was playing and night moths gathered on trumpets as if around a street lamp in the dark. Children knew by heart the precise number of cobblestones in the pavement. And Cornelia had a little metal plaque sewn on her shoulder reading No. 7: that's where I used to live for several years. My mother would occasionally play the piano, the girl in the same courtyard would bake her raw breasts golden in the sun. Roses melted and left perfumed puddles on the sidewalk, where elegant ladies would dip the heels of their shoes and sashay merrily on their way. Such life on the street! And Cornelia was always by our side. In those days I counted up book pages as you might count up your wad of bank notes, and I'd save them stuffed in a sock. I was sixteen years old, those years amassed easily, with hardly any effort. On every street, I followed Cornelia. Furtively I peeked out the window at her, beneath the curtain. I waited for her at the dances, dogs barking with the sound of trumpets, trumpets muted with burnt moth wings. And she spoke to me a few times, the lovely Cornelia, while the trumpets rang out and trilled in their singing the way downspouts buzz when rainwater rushes through them. One time she told me they all had little metal plaques reading No. 7 sewn on their shoulders, and that I was going to live there for several years. But then I was going to have to pack up and take my leave. Cornelia walked me to the corner and stared after me for a long, long time. Whenever I happen to pass by again, the stones in her pavement tremble quietly beneath my step.

translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Bogdan Stefanescu

CRISTIAN POPESCU (1959-95), died young of a debilitating lifelong illness. He published three books, almost entirely prose poetry: the chapbook The Popescu Family (1987), Foreword (1988), and The Popescu Art (1994). His works have appeared in Sorkin's co-translations in The Prose Poem (reprinted in Poetry Daily) and others will be out in Green Mountains Review, and the forthcoming anthology edited by Sorkin and Stefanescu, Speaking the Silence (Prose Poem Press).

Email Adam Sorkin (co-translator)

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