George Vulturescu: What Vision Cannot Stand

By and | 1 May 2015

A tourist map of key points of interest in the George Vulturescu poetry-scape would feature a number of salient features that his poetry has developed over the course of a quarter-century career of increasing depth and metaphysical complexity.

The first feature – where the map metaphor naturally derives – is his upper-case North, an abstract, mystical dimension as well as a literal and biographical lower-case coordinate. The Stones of the North, almost living crags on which, fatefully, prophetically, lightning incises its script and where wolves range in the forests, are coterminous with underlying geographical realities of the region of Satu Mare county in Romania’s north and, especially, the hamlet of Tireac, where Vulturescu was born and grew up. As to many Romanian authors raised in a rural world, village life and customs become a kind of mythical, eternal realm populated by a circle of voices – a kind of dramatic chorus – and filled with traditions of inherited folk wisdom side by side with ironic commonalities of social life.

Second, the motif of blindness – as a boy in his childhood village, Vulturescu lost the sight of one eye – entails the paradox that the blind eye ‘inside us’ sees beyond, and through, the external world and, moreover, ‘knows to distinguish / sick, sour letters from letters suckled on the truth …’ The poet’s half-blindness is amplified by the recurrent presence of Row, the blind man, whom Vulturescu makes the voice of ‘When the Forest Dies.’ Row is a seer of ‘a thousand visions.’ In ‘The Addition of Contour,’ likewise, the icon painter Ioachim fills a parallel oracular role: ‘I do not make use of my eyes but of what burns within them …’

This brings up a final, and basic, concern in this tour of Vulturescu country: letters, words, poetry, art, and the role of the imagined, the esthetic, the psychologically deep, in uncovering and representing truth. His notion of truth is innately spiritual. In a richly suggestive, humorous story characteristic of Vulturescu’s poetry, Ioachim, who ‘can feel the flame of the stones in the wall …’ tells his disobedient apprentice, the young Vulturescu, ‘the addition / of contour is faith, my son …’ And the poem gives Father Ieronim its riddling last words: ‘Blinding, says the Apostle, is what vision / cannot stand …’

Adam J. Sorkin

When the Forest Dies

                                                       Except for a stone, no one is innocent.”

The wolf will meet his end, the forest whispers to me
as I pass through the junipers.
A thousand visions of the North have I had,
but I, Row, the blind man, did not return. Lightning 
does not toy with you, its flame does not break open stones,
oh Lord, I cannot be saved from their violet folly.
Today above the Stones of the North there was
no raven,
                     no vulture,
                                             no crane.
Among the insects, clays and wild beasts, among the leaf stalks 
of the lecherous weeds and the strawberry plant runners
was debauchery without sex:
skin upon skin, bark upon bark, carapace upon carapace,
scale upon scale, tooth upon tooth.
Today above this sleet a black eye arose:
it hung over the pines, fixed in space, a bachelor of death.
The sun did not make it blink,
its shadow did not fall over all things and living creatures.
At noon it threw itself upon the necks of the roe deer, 
it had claws with which it choked the martens in the undergrowth,
it plunged into the river waters and caught fish, with its beak
it pecked the stones and scattered the sand beneath their skins
into the wind.
“It is not an eye,” Row, the blind man, told me.
“It is a letter from an unfinished poem
which set forth to hunt for the other lean ones.
In the unfinished poems the letters turn vengeful:
the lean devour the fat, the wet
guzzle down the dry, the singed set on fire
the green and unripe…” 

I know: a thousand visions I had
inside us are both the finished poem and the unfinished one
inside us are the raven on the Stones of the North
and the dust on the stones of the road
inside us is the eye that knows to distinguish
sick, sour letters from letters suckled on the truth 
of our nights
as only the wolves’ eyes know when the forest dies.
Când moare pădurea

                                                       În afară de pietre, nimeni nu e inocentă”

Lupul va avea un sfârşit, îmi şopteşte pădurea
când trec printre jnepeni.
O mie de viziuni ale Nordului am avut,
dar nu m-am întors, eu Row, orbul. Fulgerele
nu ţin de urât, flacăra lor nu deschide pietrele,
dar nu mă mântui, Doamne, de sminteala lor violetă.
Azi nu era deasupra Pietrelor Nordului
nici un corb,
                         nici un vultur,
                                                     nici un cocor.
Între gângănii, luturi şi fiare, între peţiolurile de 
ierburi lascive şi stolonii de căpşunici era o 
curvăsărie fără sex:
piele pe piele, coajă pe coajă, carapace pe carapace,
solz pe solz, dinte pe dinte.
Din zloata asta, azi se ridică deasupra un ochi
negru: plana peste pini, ţintuit, celibatar al morţii.
Soarele nu-l făcea să clipească,
umbra nu i se împrăştia peste lucruri şi vietăţi.
Pe la amiază se aruncă la gâtul căprioarelor,
avea gheare cu care sugruma jderii în tufişuri,
plonja în apa râurilor şi înşfăca peştii, ciocănea cu
pliscul în pietre şi nisipul de sub coaja lor se
răsfira în vânt.
„ Nu e ochi, îmi zice Row, orbul.
E o literă dintr-un poem neterminat
care-a ieşit să vâneze pentru celelalte slabe.
În poemele neterminate literele devin malefice:
cele slabe le mănâncă pe cele grase, cele umede
le beau pe cele uscate, literele arse le aprind pe
cele verzi...”

Ştiu: o mie de viziuni am avut
în noi e şi poemul terminat şi cel neterminat
în noi e corbul de pe Pietrele Nordului
şi praful de pe pietrele drumurilor
în noi e ochiul care ştie să deosebească literele
strepezi, bolnave de literele alăptate cu adevărul
nopţilor noastre
cum numai ochii lupilor ştiu când moare pădurea.

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