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Piaţa Ovid

by Liliana Ursu

translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter

Sometimes I wandered around this statue
with frozen tears
and left a poem at his feet
folded inside a green envelope

Other times, I left a white demitasse
brimming with espresso.

Other times, I walked the narrow street
past the House of Lions
to a small hotel,
waves of jazz washing through the door
Beyond the fogged-over windows
I spied Eminescu’s shadow, waltzing alone
for the first and last time
before the sea.

I have failed to keep
many promises
but one will not leave me alone:
the one I made, in secret
to Ovid:
to take him back to Rome, or at least
to put him on a ship
bound for his Mediterranean Sea.

Sometimes I wander around
this same statue
with frozen laurels
resting directly on the poet’s soul,
a sparrow that trembles while it dreams
of an orchard of lemons and oranges.

And the same shadows hold out timid hands
over the ships in port, over the casino
over the Coca-Cola billboard
in Piaţa Ovid, where a beggar
plays the accordion.


Liliana Ursu is a poet, prose writer, and translator with eighteen books published in Romania. Her work has been translated into many languages, including four books in English. She lives in Bucharest, teaching courses in poetry and creative writing, producing occasional radio programs for România culturala, and writing. She has received two Fulbright grants and taught creative writing at the University of Louisville and at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. (4/2009)

Sean Cotter has translated several books from Romanian, including Liliana Ursu’s Goldsmith Market (2003) and Lightwall (forthcoming in June 2009). He is a professor of literature and translation studies at The University of Texas at Dallas, where he is part of the Center for Translation Studies. (4/2009)

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