THE TWO OF US
by Victor Pambuccian

the two of us

since our common silence
happens in time
we are one day drowned
by the implacable advance
of that circular motion
its vortex pushing us down
trying to mute the echo
of that resonating silence
against the soundboard
of our own hollowed chests
we pretend to be unaware
of these invariable outcomes
we live in that suspended
leaf
having started its fall
but never accomplishing it
if we could just persevere
in that silence imposed
by the dreadful certainty
that none of the things
we would want to hear
can ever become sound
much less words
and not be tempted
by that fear of losing
our minds
as our silence
advances in us
creating a space of
the other’s silence
in our very midst
removing all that
we once knew and
were familiar with
to build a void filled
with the gathered bundles
of unexpressed wishes
of the agony that they
may never be heard
never will have touched
the walls of separation
never even attempted
to walk that bridge
that we could never build
but whose silhouette
hovers in our imagination
on days when we look
in the distance
sitting on a bench

The light of sorrowful yearning

I look for a sign
not any change in a world
that would have existed
without me
a sign unseen
by sky and bird
that sight cannot read
leaving no trace
in the sand
undrowned
by waves and cliffs
and while I look for it
everywhere
at nighttime
and in the afternoon’s
missing shadow
I get to feel that
boulder unmoved
that grows over me
a wait like a salty wind
like ships on the horizon
seen while walking on a sandy beach
for signs that cannot
be read or felt
or mowed at dawn
to be preserved as hay
a wait that twists your thought
to look askance
to see the other light
hidden in blinking
in wait’s veil
a sign only I could understand
in a language
we never learned
and never forgot
that only we
could ever comprehend
or even perceive
the wind moving
a wisp of your hair
to form a shape
unseen before
whispering an open secret
a tilt of your head
a twitch of a corner
of your upper lip
a vertical wrinkle
of your brow
rustling
an equal amount
of questions
and certainties
half asleep
and tired of dreaming
we wonder how
we turned
our enchanted
embrace
into an endless wait
for that sign



now, from the end of a night

I call on you but do not find you
you are not in some drawer that I forgot to rummage through
you are a person, and sure the memory of you is filled with an alarming     
                                                                                                            level               
of presence, it’s only the wrong kind
the kind of presence that an absence emanates
a presence of lack, the reminder of a missing person
and the missing person happened to
be the person I care for, and I care the way a nurse cares
for a patient, and I care the way someone needing your touch
cares, that touch gives meaning (why, am I a baby? do I need a motherly
                                                                                                            touch?).
No, it’s not the touch, it’s the trembling, the hesitation of the touch, the
                                                                                                            encounter
of that mountain, that insurmountable obstacle, the shaking of that touch.
I need to write this now to you,
not to complain about the absence of that impossible touch
nor of the impossible breathing it comes with
nor of the inaudible moan
I need to write to you for although
others overcome much greater losses
I did not overcome
am ashamed that I have no heroic story
to tell you
except that you’ve left this lacuna
that void in the air
and that I do not know how



are there times in your day as well

when you feel that absence
with its bad habit of turning a knife
regardless of the pain it causes
and what do you do to make it pass
to stop reminding you
of that wretchedness
of our daily existence
with its insistent thoughts and other
paraphernalia of the past
hurling images at you
hurling smiles at you
hurling that sun in the hair at you
or whatever images you’ve involuntarily
gathered of
our passing
those whose presence you
hold dear
but cannot hold
when you want things impossible
and not even want but a desire
knocks on your door and asks you
out from the comfort of your chair
out in the dark
to feel the things
you cannot feel alone
one by one
according to a list
of unknown composition


I need to write to you

be it only automatically
things without meaning
the most insistent noise
that plagued me for so many days
in the delusion
that these dull lines
are what you are thirsty for
these signs
from afar
these charged words
that have long lost the sharpness
of the pain that carried them
the moment they were written
down
and by the time
you get to read them
will have moved on
to the impossible task
of filling the next
row of memories
that also stubbornly refuse
to come alive without you
for no one could
can the essence
of what you were then
and likely still are
and even if
what would an essence
be able to communicate
in the silence of eyes
watching unknown corners
of a room without a table
and would an essence
be able to have
difficulties
breathing
for that orange unseen
heavy presence
pressing so hard
against its chest
would it need to
turn its gaze
from where it rested
a while ago
afraid of drowning
in the weight of its own
desire to disappear
to be taken away
to foreign lands
where trees carry you
on their shoulders
you move
without walking
and hands  that you
cannot see
hold you up
so you cannot fall
and you wonder
where the fairy tale
came from
that burst into your
room
knocking down
your door
and removing you
from the only world
you had ever inhabited
to carry you away
on those shoulders
or were they wings
and if so
why do you wake up
alone
why is there no hand
on the nape of your neck
to ease the pain
why only words
without a sound
read from a sheet
in another room
colder and more humid
and much more
alone

About the Author:

A professor of mathematics at Arizona State University, Victor Pambuccian has translated poetry from Rumanian, German, and French into English, the translations appearing in Words Without Borders, Two Lines, International Poetry Review, and Pleiades. He was the guest editor of a 2011 special issue of International Poetry Review dedicated to poetry from Rumania, and am a recipient of a 2017 NEA Translation grant. He is the editor and translator of “Something is still present and isn’t, of what’s gone. A bilingual anthology of avant-garde and avant-garde influenced Rumanian poetry,” Aracne editrice, Rome, 2018.

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