Language and Maps

Of all the places on this earth, how many have I seen?
We travel in summer and face the questions

and promises of thresholds. Mysteries of dusk, revelations
of conjunctions, which hold grammar and fish together

suspended in the molasses of postponing. Tomorrow
I will buy tickets for another country. Tomorrow

I will brush on a language I won’t use. Have you noticed
how in your dreams you’re always fluent and confident—

or terrified? Purified? I wish I had traveled more. I wish
I had seen my friends more. My friend, invite me over

to see your country. Wait for me at the airport,
and I will always wait for you. I will always honor you.

I will listen to your stories, bring toys for your children,
cardigans for your mother. I will always remember

what you looked like when you were young,
I will always laugh with you—and I will wash your feet.

 

The Chronic Confidence of Want

Around that house, I am more me. Quickened language
of palimpsests. Lace curtains, broken windows.

My family is deciding whether to sell my grandparents’
crumbling house. Maybe two rooms could be saved.

More expensive to demolish than to buy new.
Someone found a horse roaming in the garden.

We should fix the fence to keep out the horse—
or bring more horses so no one has to mow.

The weeds grow trunks like trees. One day
we cry about selling the house. No buyers.

Why would I want a house in another country—
I haven’t been to Romania in three years. The other

grandchildren don’t claim it. My uncle planted
apple trees. At night, the rain pelts

through the broken roof. I frittered away my days.
Half of my dreamwork happens in that house. Why

have I left? The graininess of the painting. Mold,
dust, mice. They gave away the two dogs he got

only six months before. His cats now feral, famished.
We lock the door to a collapsing house—

so it doesn’t fall on anyone. Chronic confidence
of want. Across the ocean, my apple tree.

 

The Romanian Blouse

After all these years, I still don’t own an embroidered
Romanian blouse. I have some ancient ones woven

and sewn by my grandmothers or my mother,
but I don’t wear any of the new ones, copies

designed to look like the authentic ones.
I guess I cannot walk around with a museum piece.

When one of my friends traveled through Romania,
he bought woven carpets, embroidered scarves.

At the end of the trip, on his way out, the hosts
threw in “this tattered rug.” Their treasure—

they didn’t know. Sometimes we give away
what we love most, not what others want. Over the years

I gave away old pieces of embroidery or glazed
ceramic plates. Every embroidered Romanian blouse,

every plate I have carried back across the ocean. Every ie
will clothe my soul in the other world. Here,

the ie yellows in boxes downstairs. Chronic
allergies to dust. Stuffed closets. Count

how many tops you own. Why? What desire
pushes you to keep searching? Is all you want

always elsewhere? Already here? Cheap
imitations. Ambiguity. Elusive blue of chicory.

 

Lucia Cherciu is the author of five books of poetry, including Train Ride to Bucharest (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017), a winner of the Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize. She is the 2021 Dutchess County Poet Laureate, and her work was nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the Net. She teaches English at SUNY/Dutchess in Poughkeepsie, NY. Currently, she is working on revising her novel.