Claudia Serea

Que Sera, Serea

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Upcoming poetry readings in New York City

Save the dates for my upcoming readings:

• March 12: At the Inkwell Reading Series, NY, KGB Bar, with Anthony Cirilo, John Barrale, and John J. Trause
• March 19: Guerrilla Lit Reading Series
• March 28: IAWA’s Ethnic Encounters Reading Series, Enigma Bookstore, Astoria, Queens, with Gil Fagiani and Marisa Frasca-patinella
• May 4: Great Weather for Media Series, NY
• May 18: Writing Across Borders Conference

More details to follow soon.

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Gearing up to rock the house with GEORGE HELD this Thursday at Cornelia Street. Come say hello!

Gearing up to rock the house with GEORGE HELD this Thursday at Cornelia Street. Come say hello!

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National Translation Month in its second year!

Welcome back to February, the National Translation Month! This is a project I started last year with Loren Kleinman, in which, for the entire month of February, we showcase work in translation from all over the world. Check out the new tumblr site:

And remember, in February and beyond: read, write, and share your favorite translated poems. The world lies open; take time to enjoy it.

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My Father’s Quiet Friends in Prison

New Letters announced that I won the Readers’ Award for Poetry for my poem “My Father’s Quiet Friends in Prison” they published last year. They also nominated this poem for a Pushcart last fall.

Here it is. This series of poems was published in the chapbook The System and also in my full-length collection A Dirt Road Hangs From the Sky. The poems are inspired by my father’s stories from the Romanian Gulag. He was sentenced in 1958 to 8 years from which he served 5 in various prisons (Craiova, Gherla, Giurgiu) and forced labor camps (Salcia, Periprava). He learned French and how to play chess in prison from other detainees. He was released in 1962.

My father’s quiet friends in prison, 1958-1962

Craiova, Gherla, Giurgiu—political prisons
Salcia, Periprava—forced labor camps for political detainees

The gruel

I’m lumpy, lukewarm, and gray,
and you could use me for glue,
mortar, or clay.

Inside your cupped hands,
I breathe my steam,
soft as a prayer.

Dip your tin spoon
inside me.

Lift me
to your hungry lips.

You don’t have to like me.

The blanket

I can’t protect you from nightmares,
or from the hands that grab you in the dark
and push you back
into the beating room.

Forgive me.

I’m so thin,
worn to threads by the bodies
I covered before you,

I can’t even protect you
from the cold.

But I can offer you my checkered field
where you can move the armies
made of bread,

molded with saliva
and hardened
into soldiers,
horses, bishops, towers,
and queens.

At last, this battle is yours to win.

The piece of glass

You guard me with your life.

You spit on me
and smear me
with shavings of soap,

and sprinkle lime dust
from the walls

until I have a new,
smooth skin.

Now I’ve become a surface
for poems

and equations
with multiple unknowns.

Today’s lesson is French,
taught in whispers.

Write down the words
with a sharp twig
and repeat them.

No one can wipe them
off your mind:

Je suis,
tu es,
il est.

I am.
You are.
He is.

We are.

The small stone

All you need
is a stumble

even if you earn
a boot
in the ribs.

And you pick me up,
hide me
under your tongue,
and carry me inside.

I’m your phone,
your postcard,
your smoke signal,

the only one who can talk
through ceilings and walls

and send a coded message
to the man released today:

Ring the bell
to my mother’s house

and tell her
I’m alive.

The moon

I come to look at you at night
to see if you’re still
curled on your cot.

Thousands of years,
I witnessed
the butchering of men
called history.

I can’t help anyone.

I rise,
stir the howls in wolves,
and swell the tides,

but I can’t pull you out
from your brother’s
murderous arms.

I can only hold
your hope

in a tin cup
in the sky.