Farewell, Dear Comrades and Lovers!

By Carmen-Francesca Banciu

Translation Elena Mancini

1.

 To father only three things mattered
In the order prescribed
The fatherland
The party
The honor of the family
That’s how father explained it to me
Even when I was a child
That’s what father said again and again
That’s what father wrote in his speeches
That’s what father emphasized in his farewell speech

Father’s last words, I do not know
With death father took his time
So much time, that I could no longer wait
The news of father’s death
Reached me in the most beautiful city in the world
And I hurried to my father

 At his funeral
Father wanted no priests
He had written down his wishes
Father wrote his own funeral sermon
Even our own eulogies father had written
He had decided on the storyline
He had picked out his outfit
Father had written everything down
Every year anew
And yet, death had
Surprised father

 At his funeral
Father wanted no priests
At mother’s grave there’d been three priests
A Catholic one
An Orthodox one
And father
The rabbi had not been invited.

 Father loves to hold speeches
Father loves to preach
Father loves to listen to himself speak
Father doesn’t want any priests
But at his funeral
He won’t be able to preach himself

 The church says
Whoever wants a funeral with priests must pay
church taxes
Father didn’t want any priests.
He’d never paid church taxes
Father wants to be buried like a dog
That’s what his neighbors say
And the relatives
And the acquaintances
I don’t want a priest for father
I don’t want to pay father’s
back church taxes

 Father had written everything down
A red flag was to wave on his coffin
His medals and distinctions father wants to wear
And the alpine horn should sound
From the city
To his mountain village
And his lovers should come
His countless lovers
His eternally loyal chain
Of lovers


  2.

 The death angel appeared three days after Easter
He came as a young man in a tin chariot
Father was buying potatoes
Father ignored the angel
Father overlooked the angel
The angel rolled toward him in his chariot
Let lightning and thunder fall on him
And spewed out rage from his seven heads
Father ignored the angel
Father overlooked the angel
Father held on tight to the bag of potatoes
Father flew aloft
His fingers cramped around the bag handles
The white bag in tatters
Wounded potatoes bled on the edge of the street

 One day father went to buy potatoes
And never again returned to his home
Potatoes and bread
Potatoes and bread on the edge of the street
That’s all they told me

 I only saw father cry twice

 When the president of our young republic died
And at mother’s grave
Father knows when one is supposed to cry
At what point fainting is the right thing to do
Since father has been lying in the hospital
Father’s been crying every day
I would really like to know
What father thinks of when he cries
But father doesn’t tell me
He speaks of the patriot Avram Iancu
And of the Romanian Revolution of 1848
And of the martyrs of this revolution
He doesn’t speak about
The Revolution of 1989
And its martyrs
And not about me
About my revolution
About our revolution
Father doesn’t speak about me
And my family
We who were all there
We who put our lives on the line

 Father overlooks this revolution
Ignores it
Suppresses it
Father tells of the martyrs Horia, Closca and Crisian
And of the patriot Avram Iancu
And he cries as though it had happened yesterday
As though Avram Iancu were his son
Father has no son
He always regretted that
Father regretted that he had a daughter
A daughter, who took part in a revolution
A revolution he wants to overlook, to factor out

 Father has no son
He needs to come to terms with that
I had to come to terms with it
But here in the hospital I know that
Neither of us has come to terms with it
Father is looking for his son
And I am looking for father

 I observe
I listen
I notice every one of father’s movements
And wait
Wait for father to tell me something important
Every day I visit father
Every day I eavesdrop
I follow father’s gazes
Attempt to guess his wishes
Hurry on ahead of his needs
Want to spare father
Every effort

I give him water
But father doesn’t want any water
I give him food
But father doesn’t want to eat
I open the window
I
close the window
Father doesn’t want any fresh air
Father’s cold
I get him another blanket
I massage his hands
I massage his feet
I try again to get him to drink
I try again with the food
Father takes a sip
He jiggles
He squinches up his face
The bites are too big
The sips are too cold
Even the food is too cold
I warm up the food
I let it cool down
My throat is cold, father grumbles
Don’t you notice how cold that is
How could you give me something like that
I’ve always known
You can’t do anything right

 I follow father’s glances
Attempt to guess his wishes
Hurry on ahead of his needs
Want to spare father every effort
Every effort

 I look at his mouth
Observe his every move
Steer the spoon to his mouth
Wipe his mouth
I clean his dentures
Father has pains
I pull the signal and call the nurse
What hurts, I ask
Father says
Everything
Father says: pride and dignity
I stick his dentures in his mouth
I don’t change his diaper

 Father speaks softly
I need to lean into his ear
He closes his eyes
His mouth trembles
His cheek twitches
I get closer to his mouth and wait
Wait for father to tell me something;
For years I’ve been waiting for this
Since I’ve known myself, I’ve been waiting for this
Since I’ve known myself, I’ve been waiting for father

 Father opens his mouth and says
I have to tell you something

 For years I’ve been waiting for this
For father to tell me something
There’s throbbing in my temples
My heart
My veins
In my throat
I wait
Highly strained

 Father says
Listen to me
Be smart for once
Do what I tell you
I can no longer do it myself
Listen to me carefully
In the bedroom
Behind the black armoire
There are two good sweaters
Don’t let them get ruined
Air them out
Otherwise the moths will eat right through them
Don’t let the moths eat them


3.

 Every day father draws closer to death
Every day father escapes death
Every day death draws closer to him
Then death takes one step back
And father wins again
And so they play hide-and-seek
A bloodthirsty game

 

4.

 Death advances slowly
Sometimes it crawls
Like with traffic
With street traffic
Father never paid attention to street traffic
Where were you headed in such a rush, I asked father

 Father said
I’m always in a rush
Now father needs to be slow
Much slower
Continually slower
Until the clocks
All of his clocks stand still
Father’s master clock still keeps good time
Even time
It’s an electronic mechanism
The battery will keep at least five years

 Father says
So much pain
Why must I bear so much pain
I don’t want to
I don’t want anything anymore
But the master clock
The main watch still works
Five more years
Father could lie in bed
Five more years
Father could wrestle with death
Five more years
Father could rant and swear
And quarrel with life
Five more years
Father could lie in bed
Lie on his back
Delivered up like a beetle
Five more years father could lie with bedsores
On his back and his rear end
Father no longer has a rear end
He’s just a sack of bones
A sack
In which testicles roll around astray
There are father’s testicles
There is father’s seed, from which I stem
Father’s seed
Whom else had it inseminated
Besides mother

 Father lies in bed and says
I won’t eat
The food messes up my whole system
Everyday father talks about his system
His system is blocked
Father can’t eliminate
Father lies in bed and receives enemas
With effort that comes out
Which without help would come to a standstill

 The caregiver doesn’t pay attention to me
She doesn’t pay attention to father either
She pays attention to his bowel movements

Father’s stool is hard like a rock
The caregiver attends to everything
With short, quick movements
Father lies on his back
He can’t do anything else
His flesh wobbles
His skin hangs
His testicles flinch
As though frightened
Lost in a dangling scrotum

 Father’s buttocks just skin and bones
Father’s pubic hair sparse
Just remnants
White and thin
These pubic hairs
His lovers saw
These pubic hairs
His lovers caressed
His countless lovers
A chain of eternally loyal lovers

 A chain of eternally loyal lovers
Men should have many lovers
Only then are they real men
That’s how the legend has it in my father’s land
And women shouldn’t have any lovers
None at all
Then
And only then are they real women

 Mother had never had a lover
Mother had a fiancé
And then a husband
Forever
Until death
Until she
Withdrew from him
Through death

 Mother had withdrawn from all of us
Or was it otherwise
And we withdrew from her
We were always out
We were always busy
Mother was also busy
And yet
Mother was alone
Because mother had no lover
And no friend
And only a husband
But she also didn’t have him
She had a husband
She always had to wait for
And when he did come
He was tired
And sated

 Father lies on his back
The caregiver works skillfully
Her movements are sure
Fluid
She wipes, washes, changes, wraps
For now, she’s saved father’s system
I stand petrified in front of the bed
The caregiver takes care of everything skillfully and speedily
She doesn’t pay attention to me
She doesn’t pay attention to father either
She pays attention to his bottom
To how the diaper fits
And the tenner
Which I stick in her work coat pocket

 Father lies naked on his back
For days father’s been lying on his back
With a wounded head
With a broken collar bone
With a sore shoulder
Father needs help
Father needs help for his most basic needs
With his basic duties
Father is crestfallen
Just a few days ago
He was full of faith
In life
In his further
His future life
Just a few days ago
He had his strength
Visited with his lovers again
He’d live to be one hundred
One hundred and even older
The neighbors said

 One hundred he would have turned
One hundred and beyond
We couldn’t keep up with him
Why did he have to be overconfident

Father lies on his back
Like a helpless beetle
A few days ago father had hurried about like always
Father went out to buy potatoes
And never again returned to his home
Father was quick and nimble
Too quick
Now he’s lying on his back
And says, don’t feed me
I don’t want to eat anything
Food messes up my system
Father’s system can only collect and hoard
Can’t release anything
Except for fluids
Father gets injections
Father depends on a drip
In order to replace fluids/for new fluids

 Father is naked
Father kicks off the blankets
Father receives enemas
W
hat’s hurting you, I ask
Father says
Everything
Pride and Dignity

 Father sleeps most of the time
Father wouldn’t wake up after the operation
Again and again he kept falling asleep
Again and again he kept withdrawing from us
Us and life
The assistant pinched him in the nipple
Father woke up
That’s what you need to do, she said
Pinch grandpa in the nipple
Then he’ll be sure to open his little eye

 The assistant takes father’s nose between her two fingers
She wiggles and jiggles it
I flinch
I flinch, stand still
Allow it
I let it happen
I leave him in the lurch
The nose is phallic
The nose is a symbol
Father nourishes himself now only with symbols
The assistant takes hold of father’s nose between two fingers
She wiggles and jiggles it
Only in the examination room do I protest
Against the disrespect

 Against the violation of dignity
Are you kidding, the female physician said.
We’re friendly to our patients
We cultivate a warm association
A familial atmosphere

 Father has given up on himself
His dentures stay in the drawer
Without his teeth, father looks old
And fragile
L
ittle old man
Daddy
Grandpa
Grandpa the women say to him
Grandpa, a young assistant says
And the female physician
And the cleaning woman
Daddy, little uncle, grandpa
The women say to him
F
ather is getting progressively smaller
Father contracts
Into a fetal position
Father is drawing closer to the beginning
The origin
How far will father go

Little Old Man
Daddy
Grandpa
The women say to him
What’s hurting, I ask father
Father is getting progressively smaller
A fetus
The lovers can’t reach him
Father approaches the beginning
The origin
The seed
The egg

 

Lebt wohl, Ihr Genossen und Geliebten!  Palm Art Press, 2018.