Adam J. Sorkin
Notes on the Translation
THE WORK OF Mihai Ursachi often shows a characteristically Romanian combination of hermetic mysticism and surreal symbolism, an intense spirituality and irony perhaps further reinforced by the poet’s solitary confinement during the communist years in Romania’s most notorious political prison, Jilava — a place, Ursachi has said, “where you were expected to die.”
At one point in Mihai Ursachi’s career, he “supposed himself a pelican,” but to me perhaps more pertinent to a reading of “Post Scriptum: The Pelican’s Shadow Once Again Haunts the Drowned Man” is the fact that in medieval bestiaries the pelican — reputed to nourish its young with its own blood-represented Christ. (The Latin passage ending the poem can indeed be construed: “O Holy Pelican, let your blood purify me who am impure.”) In any case, the pelican image here is not so much a metaphorical self-invocation, but a lyrical prayer spoken to a magnificent and even militant deity by a drowned man submerged in his own dark mortality-supplication to a figure who seems as overwhelming and weighty as an Orthodox Cathedral. —Media, Pennsylvania, August 23, 1996
Post Scriptum: The Pelican’s Shadow Once Again Haunts the Drowned Man
In the mud of that night I lay trembling: just as though
I weren’t dead, and my much beloved lake
appeared there once more; in a pale boat
we drifted beneath the willows of the past.
The hour was uncertain, it floated on the water like smoke.
Nowhere could any trucks or bulldozers be heard.
Everything seemed to take no less than forever, and I felt that now,
now my soul was bathed in profundity, in understanding.
And through the mist I saw the Pelican like a Metropolitan Church,
his enormous beak thrust into himself like a sword,
and drowned in the lake of blood I implored: Pie
Pelicane, me immundum munda tuo sanguine. . .
(Translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and Magda Teodorescu)
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