Poeme de Clara Burghelea

photo credit Teodora Cosma

Photo credit Teodora Cosman

(Publicate în volumul Praise the Unburied, apărut în octombrie 2021 la editura Chaffinch Press, ISBN 9781838402556.)

Portrait of my mother in the middle of things

The way she relished in sitting with daily life,

peeling potatoes for hours in a row, then doing

her nails burgundy red. Forgetting is essential,

she said as she dunked her fingers into hot water

only to come out perfectly polished, no smudge

whatsoever. She then flaked garlic cloves, sheer

skins piling up under her humming touch. She would

get a stamp on things – laundry, dishes, number of hugs,

night shifts, cigarette smoking, morning snuggles, and

everything by twos. Children, painkillers, bruises, shopping

bags, don’t sees and cant’s, dream skins shed down the cold

tiles, crocheting needles, blood-spoored pies, yesterdays

and tomorrows twinned in always. Wound, loving its hurt.

Ode to the 80s scrapbooks

We called them oracole as if they could tell the future

when all we wanted was to be seen in that moment.

All shin and burning eyes, best-friend necklaces and

oversized sweaters our mothers knitted while doing

extra night shifts at the chemical plant that fed and kept

half a town and what a town that was. Too large to

contain whispers that made trees move on their inside

and then, too small to matter when Ceausescu visited

on August 23, 1986, and we waited half a day in the sun,

churning stomachs and scorched ears, to sing our hearts out

to multiubitul tovarăș, and the power failure at the chemical

plant screwed up phone lines and we were never told he would

go straight to Sibiu, his son’s residence town, and 3400 kids,

all braids and cravate roșii, dreamt under the cobalt skies, stems

of their hearts stitched together. The rest of that summer tiptoed

into our blocks of flats as we lay on our bellies on the cold

linoleum. Cutting and pasting flori, fete, filme sau băieți

in our secret books, dripping wax on folded scented pages

where secrets stained like bruises, then swaped them while

waiting in line for bread, always super careful not to lose

our ration cards. We would not yet miss the imploding youth

in our bones, the teen-thin thirst in our foraging fingers.


The small bedroom in my parents ‘apartment,

my mother, by the window, watering the plants.

Her back cracks like an old chest as she stretches

to prune the ficus. A green-god structure bending

under her apt fingers. Behind the curtains, a tissue

of cloud. Light, a spill of uncut diamonds.

You don’t know yet this is going to be the best day

in a long row of choked-up blues, tinking

and frogging until there is nothing left to mend.

Before you pack a small suitcase filled with

bruises and go down into the moist November,

you’ll suddenly recall the ficus needs watering. 


Before Tuesday rolls into Thursday,

I am all kinds of weather, mostly drizzle.

Mornings have a way of sneaking up,

burnt toast and sticky jam, milk on tiles.

By noon, love comes in Tupperware boxes,

more fits and starts. Headaches flutter like

broken-winged butterflies, worn body eager

to crawl back into pupa at nightfall. Behind

closed eyes, I dream of lavish maunderings,

bold, scissor-slit poems at every street corner.

Limenas, half-light

The Greek sun dissolved

into violet loose glitter,

the buttering sea

motherly brushing my feet.

By dark, I’ll become a ghost,

all foam and salty limbs.