Claudia Serea

 White lab coats
  
 When I was still in Romania, studying to become 
 a chemical engineer like my father,
  
 he asked me how I see my future.
 I’d like to work in a factory, like you, I said,
  
 walk fast and solve problems, like you,
 and my white lab coat 
  
 would fly behind me like a cape, 
 or wings.
  
 Everyone would move faster, energized,
 once their problems were solved.
  
 I must have been 14 at the time,
 and wasn’t kidding.
  
 Since then, I have learned I can’t solve 
 anyone’s problems.
  
 I can’t even solve my own most of the time.
 And many things move rather slowly, 
  
 slowly,
 toward disaster,
  
 and no white lab coats 
 ever flutter.
  

 
 My doppelgänger
  
 Sometimes, the ghosts reach out of their dimension
 small, transparent hands and snatch an earring, a scarf, 
 an umbrella, or whatever else they fancy, 
 or send a flash of forgetfulness so they can rob at will.
  
 That’s how I lost so many things: jewelry, clothes, keys, a pen 
 with gold-plated nib in third grade, and books I lent to others, never returned.
  
 Once, I walked out of the dorm for the summer, leaving behind 
 a cupboard full of turtlenecks, fluffy sweaters, and mohair dresses
 Mom had knitted for me. I still didn’t tell her I don’t have them anymore.
  
 I lost another earring today—but I was most heartbroken 
 when I lost Mom’s brooch I carried pinned to my breast across the ocean.
  
 It matched the knitted burgundy mohair dress. I imagine the sticky fingers spirit 
 that now wears it is the same one who got the necklace last year: 
 my doppelgänger, completing the look.
  
 Let her have it.
  
 Let the ghosts be happy in their world with whatever they steal from ours:
 gloves for cold hands, mismatched socks from the dryer for their icy feet,
 a hat, a computer, wallets, lottery tickets, and bills.
  
 Let those losses be the only ones I’ll suffer.
 I’ll get new earrings anyway.
 
   

 A village in Romania
  
 The wind blows love letters on the streets
 and black and white photos with scalloped edges.
  
 Here, on the bottom of a well, I find the poems I once wrote.
  
 And here’s the guy that first kissed me: I remember 
 his muscular mouth, his tongue taste of cold mollusk,
 but I don’t remember his name.
  
 Moths flutter over the main road where skinny horses pull wagons 
 loaded with Latin verbs, logarithm formulas, Mendeleev’s Table, 
 Ceausescu’s Theses for the brilliant future, le subjonctif, 
 and technical drawings of useless contraptions.
                                                                                                                                      
 Forgetfulness is a village in Romania by the amnesiac Black Sea
 where secret police generals retire to open B&Bs
 and sing in the church choir,
  
 where former snipers and revolutionaries 
 drink together in the local pub,
  
 and everything I once learned disappears in the dust 
 that rises and swallows a house where an old woman sits at the table, 
 throwing a fistful of corn seeds with a spell—
  
 41 seeds, 41 brothers—
 to find out what the king is doing. 

Claudia Serea is a Romanian-born poet with work published in Field, New Letters, Gravel, Prairie Schooner, The Malahat Review, Asymptote, RHINO, and elsewhere. She has published five poetry collections, most recently Twoxism, a poetry-photography collaboration with Maria Haro (8th House Publishing, 2018). Serea is a founding editor of National Translation Month and a co-host of The Williams Poetry Readings series in Rutherford, NJ. 

Return to WordCity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.