one year ago, and six months ago

august 8, 2011

alternate titles to this post:

– „i just want to post something i wrote at some point, so there!”

– „it’s not a personal blog until it gets embarrassing”

– „if it’s embarassing, you could’ve at least made it interesting”

– „the most non-feminist thing i wrote this year”

– „gosh-am-i-glad-that-my-ex-is-not-online”

proceed with patience.

 

 

Cross (7/02/11)

 

He asked, where did you get this from? On a bench in the Botanical Garden, full summer, my head in his lap, him playing with my necklace. The containment of his voice told me it wasn’t the first time he’d noticed it, just the moment he’d chosen to bring it up. There’s Cyrillic on the back of your cross, he said, tracing it with a fingertip, and so I jerked upright to look at the cross, as if for the first time.

I didn’t remember when I’d gotten it or started wearing it on the silver chain along with other good luck omens. It must have come from my grandma, I said. No, she’d never been to Russia – but maybe it’s normal for Orthodox crosses to have Cyrillic on them? No, I didn’t know: I’d never thought of it before. Should I have?

I’d carried these tiny signs against my skin for years, my fingers flying up to touch, my eyes at times obviously registering the letters – спасиисохрани – and my mind still not wondering what or why. He said it was a traditional religious phrase: Sauve moi, garde moi, and I retranslated into English instantly. We scramble all the time between English and French with detours into Romanian or Russian. Sometimes this still strikes me as strange, sometimes it’s just what we do.

 

We were in love, and that was supposed to conquer all. I hadn’t believed that for years, and I had to start believing it again. Save me, keep me safe. I liked how the words were related, yet the concepts diverged: there’s nothing safe about salvation – the leap of faith, the break with old routines. This love of mine, although changing me deeply, was also bringing back things I’d thought forgotten.

When we’d met he’d asked, and by that time I already knew I liked him, so where are you from? Nothing special, everybody asks that. Of course he was Russian (his tone spelled “of course”, and I approved), with his accent and his Slavic face. And me? I think there are no typical Romanian features, except in retrospect, I said, and to that he smiled even larger: oh, you’re Orthodox!

As a child I went to church with Grandma every Sunday, kneeled in the women’s pew,  sang along, examined the aged ladies’ faces and memorized details on the icons, the old bronze and fading colors. I read the Bible like a story book, painted Easter eggs, tidied family graves in the cemetery, sang carols at Christmas. Then it was over just like that, a thing that only makes sense in context.  I’d been a social Orthodox the way people are social smokers or drinkers. My grandma’s village was far away and was dying.

After I met him I had the impulse to try that again, be a believer all the way. Not having stepped into a church in years, there I was looking them up on the map of Montreal. I turned up a Romanian church a few blocks away from me and went one early summer morning. It felt like back home, all the indescribable reasons why I’d gone away – so half an hour in I turned back and left – fume of candles, sweat coated in perfume, bent silhouettes in their Sunday best and fragments of my language trailing behind. I didn’t tell him this. What I told him was: religion is just the golden aura surrounding its culture; my Orthodoxy is not exactly your Orthodoxy. We have different Christmases, different New Years. Romanians abandoned Slavonic in church service, we abandoned Cyrillic a century and a half ago. We are a small nation, bending with the times. And me, I’m neither this or that, neither here nor there. It broke my heart a little every time he said he understood.

 

Save me, keep me safe. I used to say my prayers every evening before bedtime. To consider missing that would be as disturbing as saying I miss home. I wrote to Grandma to say I’d gone to church, and to ask about my little silver cross. She wrote back to say she remembered. The village priest had brought her the cross from a pilgrimage to a Moldavian monastery forty-something years ago, and she sewed it in the lining of my father’s overcoat. She found it years later, while mending his broken pockets, and put it aside for her grandchild, me, not yet born.

People here in Canada say wow, that’s a nice chain. Some touch it on impulse, sifting the metallic cluster through their fingers. I’ve had some remarking I was a Christian, with satisfaction as if this reinforced their own faith, which I don’t mind. But the moment he pointed out the Cyrillic, a current of recognition and panic crossed me.

Spasi i sahrani. I saw myself standing in the pew at the Russian church in Nowhere, Ontario, and someday in Some Other Place, Russia. I would have Russian Orthodox children, I who had run away would be anchored again in a family and tradition, and this felt like something I wasn’t equipped to fight. Salvation and safety was in starting from the words.

 

Language has always been my territory. I moved in the world dancing among phrases and grammar structures, not expertly but in awe. I’d gotten English and French and been enamoured with each in turn. It made sense that my new love would manifest through a language so particular and akin to religion.

A new language probably happens less than a new city, less than a new love in the average person’s life. That day I went online to learn the Cyrillic. These days I’m taking Russian classes and learning extra with textbooks and CDs. He’s in Toronto now, his voice in French over the phone barely real. I don’t know what will happen with us. But built inside the Russian I’m acquiring there are permanent undertones of love, yes, and prayer, yes, and housekeeping.

 

 

 

 


the blue room poem

iulie 14, 2011

(for hélène and shiva)

 

i found the walls blue, stickered with long-stemmed

tulips; scrubbed the smell out with wet wipes, but the window

dust streaks stayed – ancient, unreachable. i brought

good faith, the bed with a broken board, the big chair. what i left

is gone in a van, under varnish, to pieces.

 

last spring, out of the taxi with two suitcases

and three boxes, i dreamt of permanence. now i know better.

or worse. it`s just seasonal heartbreak, perfumed

with sweat, lindens and earth after rain. tout va être correct.

along every street cabinets, chairs, soft worn sofas wait

to be rechosen. all these chance meetings.

 

i cross st joseph holding traffic, holding a writing desk

above my head. my new roomie finds an armoir coin Gilford

et Chabot, and guards it til enough passer-bys have stopped to help

push it home. for me. more plants, rug, plastic hangers, the cat

and the laptop`s unison purr. and suddenly here`s everything

again, even absences carried over, vivid-shimmery, dancing

like lights above treasures.


uh, update

mai 25, 2011

two of my main concerns lately: i can`t get back to writing `properly` – mmm, literarily; and i can`t really blog i.e. say what is going on, even if i want to. so out of these combined, resulted a hybrid that`s sort of a semi-poem. i shrug and post it:

end of may 2011 –

here`s the poem i owe you/ i thought about rhyming, but it’s more important/to get it out any old way: /to each, their own priorities.

it’s rainy, still raining; my cherry red/rubber boots march past armies of tulips/no time to go swimming at the local pool/i compensate by walking lots, and eat my vegetables.

my new room faces north, a backyard/of spiralled stairs. far from the metro/but it’s big, cheap, the roommate is tidy. /i furnished it all from the streets.

i haven’t been to parc jarry lately/some lost things glow in my head like dead stars/i took up coffee again – at 8 a.m./i sip my first cup in the kitchen/ working hard on not feeling guilty.

there.


sonia’s chips (27 nov. poetry portfolio)

ianuarie 10, 2008

* tot voiam sa nu uit sa-i spun soniei ca am mancat chipsuri cu otet, si culmea ca mi-or placut. de-acolo a pornit si chestia asta, evident deformata un pic, dar aud ca se practica si la case mai mari.

Vinegar

  

True, I did say I’d never, and how much I hate vinegar,

but it turns out you were right, stop rolling your eyes, one

really should try everything once.

There was this poetry reading today, all about sea, fish,

ice, rocky words, then, four blocks up from the ocean,

they had tuna flakes on sale at Buy-Low. And then – I

just felt like it – am I not allowed to? I swear I saw your

sneer as I ripped the bag open.

First a sharp-oily tang, I thought of zits cropping up

under skin, and that day back home, of me asking why

would anyone soak chips in that of all things? You

snapped: your Canadian friends had said so, could I take

their word for it? I relented: well it still sounded disgusting.

It’s a taste to get eased into, sea salt and malt vinegar.

Sour and see-through, like changing one’s mind, the thin

ness of layers, crunchiness of crisp autumn light. Here

they call it fall, and it can be wonderful. Soon my lips got

tired, sore as if from an angry kiss or faking a smile. Still

walking, I licked my fingers thoroughly, folded the bag to keep.

You haven’t written in so long. This new taste smudging

today’s dusk, caught in the foreign frame of verse, this is

what feeds me now, I long to tell you. This is how things

pick up and move on.

     


go (27 nov. poetry portfolio)

ianuarie 10, 2008

Go

  Honey, don’t be afraid, Dad said every time the screen went dark, to thundering music. I was a curious child, wary of being told how to feel. I didn’t close my eyes or scream. Fear was that sharp tug at my chest, quickened breath – no foreseen danger ever turning real.

And so, when you say go, it’s like the movies. We’ve had our walk down side streets, stray silence, glowing talk. The light is grainy, an old black and white. Hand on arm. Lips to cheek. In the goodbye scene, the heroine looks so lost – I’ve seen it before, just want it over with.

The ticket’s in my purse, bags packed, mind fluttering, eyes completely dry. You slap your strength patch in place, arrange an alibi. Go. I want to be out of here, watching, rerunning this reel. Each image retaining its halo. The texture of your lips saying go. The texture of going.

Your turned back, fade to yellowish brown. Flashback. Flashback. Flashback. There’s got to be a way to splice. In the wake of this parting, how hard to make the story about me.

Cut.

Who does the eye follow now?

Blindness, imploding with flashes: dozens of plane crashes; one landing; any airport; one airport; one road; one building interior. The heroine advancing step by step, a candle by her pale face, along a dark passage way. This way. Expanding. Further.

   

* e singurul lucru tipic despre ‘despartire’&co. pe care am reusit sa-l produc. o sa fie rescrisa masiv, pentru ca e total neomogena, dar mi-e destul de draga as it is. in special pt ca voiam sa fac prose poems, ca toata lumea din jur pare sa incerce…si la unii le si iese…


elusive/explosive: asking for some sort of feedback

decembrie 31, 2007

pentru ca tot nu mai am ce face cu ea (am scris-o pentru cineva, pe urma am vrut s-o bag intr-un workshop, dar m-am razgandit) o sa pun aceasta bucatica aici…it’s as close to non-fiction as my writing gets, i.e. pretty close, but with at least one shameless embellishment…si nu mi-e jena de ea, dar am sentimentul ca ceva nu ii chiar unde/cum trebe. deci daca aveti sugestii, pleasepleaseplease. (in plus, poate cineva, =sonia again, cred?) ma sfatuieste pe teme de copyright. nu ca is eu marea autoare, dar chiar e indicat sa stiu. multumiri anticipate.

  

Elusive/Explosive  (Nov. 08, 2007, Vancouver)

          One would have thought I’d be anxious about my first morning ever downtown; I might be, if I were alone. The fog hangs over the ocean, then as we get closer it comes lunging at the bus, wet and stingy-looking. I’d like to thread my way around the people hurrying to work, burning their lips on coffee. I’m not sad about the waiting hours lined up in front of me though, I should be lucky for it to take just one morning. On the bright side, I’ve got this idea, still unformed, just the right texture. I hope it- or rather she – she’s a female voice in a short story – came to me today aware that I’m going for the U.S. visa interview; that she’s willing to accompany me, ease me through the bureaucracy, and maybe even follow me further.

            I smile sleepily on the bus, all the way. I have to be careful with this idea. It’s happened to me before: if I lean too hard on her, or try to pin her down now, the voice beginning to uncoil in my head will switch back into an ordinary memory, of someone I knew long ago, maybe some girl in school I didn’t even like much. And then I have no use for it any more.

At 5 to 8 I walk to the back entrance of the embassy on Pender street, conveniently anonymous but glowing inside. All through the way upwards, to the offices, I can’t help noticing how many non-Caucasians are gathered up here, working and waiting. At the entrance check-point one of the two guards looks Hispanic, but the other one is what I still think of as typical American (are they even Americans, though? they should be Canadians) – tall, blonde, the kind of complexion where the blood rushes to the face easily, that open, boyish face trying to keep serious and focused.

 “Hello, and how are you today?” the Hispanic asks; he’s got a bit of a stoop, curly hair, wide grin. “Looks like a wonderful morning.” The other guy keeps silent, a six foot three mound of silence in his dark blue uniform.

“I’m fine, thanks”, I shrug, not knowing if I should ask back. I’m a third country citizen shielded by the aura of a promise; you are someone who stands by a door ushering people in all day long, so you must have a lovely nature and a good sense of humor. How are we supposed to feel, otherwise than fine? As I start climbing the stairs, I add an almost flirty smile for the American boy only. I wonder, does he get that a lot.

 In the waiting room where they take our passports and forms, two of the three clerks are Asian and the other one might be mixed race – plump lips and large nostrils.  In my line, most people are Mexican, and some an Arab denomination, with those small blue turbans looking like a sock with a big knot right on top (I probably should know what they mean by now). Then, at the elevators, one of the two attendants is black. They both smile gesturing helpfully when I don’t know which button to press. The family going up with me speak a Slavic language and their two white-blond girls cling to their parents’legs, giving me shy glances. Everybody is pleasant enough for a midweek morning, as we pass the second checkpoint. The Hispanic at the entrance joked about the things in my pocket, when I took so much time to sort out and show them every object –  “you can leave all this here”, he said, “you’ll be back anyway, eh?” By now I know the drill, and after stepping through the control gate I tilt the plastic tray to pour everything back in my fist and then in the coat pocket. Coins, bunch of keys, bus pass, pen, wristwatch.

The previous group have slumped into chairs along the narrow hall of the 20th floor, in front of the office windows, steeling themselves for the wait. There are about twenty numbers to go before me, which doesn’t sound bad at all, I might even get time to return to the library today. Just a little more, I almost whisper to my idea – we’ve come a long way.

 I get fingerprinted at one of the three windows. The woman (Caucasian, auburn-haired) shows me patiently how to press down first the other fingers, then the thumbs, onto the plastic slate. While doing that I suddenly realize the many ethnicities piled up here must be just a representative cross-section of Canadian population. Apart from the queue, it must be the same all over the country. I sit down, hugging my coat and my bag with all the stuff ruffled inside, and think about that for a minute, before launching myself into ambush mode.

First I’m a bit self-conscious about writing here, but soon I stop caring altogether. After all, I have written inside bus stop shelters, on table corners at cafeterias, on benches, leaning against walls. I rush into it scrawling automatically, in long spurts, in desperation to grab the moment, however short, in the most improbable of places.

The week after I arrived I saw a person, Canadian for all I know (during the break at a reading while everyone else was mingling), writing, right in the middle of the throng. I followed her frown, rub her hands, open a notebook crisply on her skirted knees, bite her lips as her pen gathered speed along the page. I looked at her, thinking, yes, I wasn’t wrong, there must be a place for me on this continent. I thought, good thing for us writers that it only takes a pen and paper. Bad thing that sometimes not even a month of weekends fuelled with coffee will suffice.

For this one time, it should work, is my mantra now that I’ve started. It should work, for this one time. 

When my number’s called the third time at window 2, I realize it’s me quickly enough to rise and step ahead of the murmurs and turned heads, still clenching my notebook. Across the counter I face a slight Korean guy (can’t tell why I think instantly Korean, not Chinese or Thai or whatever) whose teeth are severely misaligned, but even so he exposes them widely:

“Hello, how are you today?”

“I’m great, thank you.” – I try on a chirpy tone. Maybe you have to be born here for saying you’re great to come easy. Something feels slightly amiss, like an arm going numb.

“Wonderful day”, I add, chipping off even more of the wonderfulness of the day. In a few years, if I stay, I’ll think nothing of it. He’s reading through my form.

“Fine Arts student, eh?” he asks benevolently, checking me up as if to test if I look artistic enough. Hell, he’s not thinking writing one moment, and I feel a sudden urge to strangle him. Fine Arts to him is painting, maybe theater – I try to guess by his eyes which one. I could have put on a colored scarf today, or my peaked cap, at least earrings. I rest my palms on the counter – they do look like somebody’s who could be an artist, my fingers long and ink-stained, and the freshly reinforced corn on the side of my right thumb.

“December?”

“Excuse me?”

“You want to leave in December? Going to New York? To put on a show?”

“Err…not exactly”, I blush. “On holiday.”

 “You’ve just arrived here and already want to go to America? Why? This country is so beautiful.”

“I’m only planning to stay 10 days there”, I say obligingly.

“OK, well,” – he suddenly pushes a sheet of paper in front of me, pointing on it – “now you need to go to this place across the street, buy an express envelope, bring it back here, drop it at window 1. Write your address on it. So we can return your papers by next week. Thank you.”

Taking the directions I’ve noticed with brief, vague horror how narrow his cubicle is. I step out of the hall, turn to my idea, proprietorially, for solace – and she steps back coldly, remote, almost imperceptible. I round a corner, press the button to go down, knowing there’s no holding her back. I’m left on my own. The scribblings in my notebook, on a second look, are almost nonsensical.

The elevator spits me out by the front door of the building this time. Across the street, at the post office, a clerk smiles at my lost face as I go in and open my mouth: “For the visa?”. I nod sheepishly.

Carrying an extra envelope instead of an aura, and after a ten minutes’ wait during which the line behind me has stretched seriously, I greet the Hispano at the entrance: “Hello. Again.”, looking for a sign of recognition. He nods, indicates the tray with a short gesture, then turns to beckon to the next person. My American boy stands on the other side of the control gate, and I move towards him like he is my last hope of humanity, flinging myself across the threshold, arms held almost horizontally. My tray waits: coins, envelope, keys, wristwatch, with the open bag topping it. I smile at the guy again: alright?

He indicates that I should take off my coat, pats one pocket, the second, and freezes mid-gesture. I am turned towards him reaching to take the coat back, one foot on the first step to the elevator.

“What is this here?” he says, in a robotic voice. The first words he’s said to me. “What is this?” he repeats, his hand stopped on the pocket. “What is this?”

“I dunno”, I frown and step back down, and my artistic palm flies over the pocket, almost touching his military one. Silence buzzes grave over the entrance area. The line at the door has stopped moving, a whisper flutters towards the outside, all eyes are on me. The Hispano’s jaw has dropped, his mouth gaping sickly.

“Can-you-show-that-to-me?” the guy asks. I’ve heard this tone in movies, and must have laughed it off as exaggerated: the intimidation tone. He hasn’t upped the volume a bit, but the words come barking at me all at once, open, sonorous. They echo.

“It’s my pen”, I breathe. “Sorry, I forgot it there?”

“Can-you-show-it-to-me?”

I insert my hand in the pocket but still can’t reach it, it must be buried deep in the lining, that’s why I didn’t pull it out with the rest of the stuff. Midway through my fumbling, the thought hits: I am a terrorist threat. This is what reality feels like. The fingers stumble, terrified, comb faintly along the pocket corner, and there’s the cold metallic feel, the pointed tip.

“Here.”

The hallway breathes out in unison, a gust of relief.

When I google it afterwards, my first search, “pen + explosive”, doesn’t turn out much, then I put in “pen + weapon” and come upon a site which explains how easily a sharp blade could be hidden inside a pen, and only become apparent once you try to write with it. So I probably should have waited, held the pen for proper inspection – but right then what I do is, I pour the contents of the tray in my bag, not bothering to close it, and run up the stairs on half-melted feet. They let me go.

My hands shake on the envelope on the counter at window 1, leading the pen in  domesticated loops. I brought this pen with me from home. I might have thought it really was a weapon, on those days when I fantasized that luminous ideas were seeking me out, offering to be forced into words, which then would change…would make a change.

 Did I ever REALLY believe it was a weapon? Not until those 10 seconds there, when this pen managed to keep a roomful of people enthralled, holding their breath. But now I know it’s just a pen forever, and it will never in its life time do a comparable thing again. I walk out alone, there’s a fissure in the sky of this wonderful day. There’s no fissure, the fissure’s in my eye, anyway, water comes pouring down.