This wonderfully evocative poem appears at the beginning of Carmen's memoir, Burying the Typewriter, which details what happened to her and her family, isolated and under surveillance during the Ceauşescu regime in România.
The tyrant and his wife were exhumed For proper burial; it is twenty years since They were shot against a wall in Christmas snow.
The fish in the Black Sea are dead. Waves roll them To the beach. Tractors comb the sand. We stand at water’s edge Whispering, glassy-eyed, throats parched from heat.
Stray dogs howl through nights like choirs Of mutilated angels, circle around us on hill paths, Outside gas stations, shops, streets, in parking lots.
Farther, into wilderness, we slow down where horse And foal walk home to the clay hut by themselves, Cows cross roads in evenings alone, bells clinking.
People sit on wooden benches in front of their houses, Counting hours until darkness, while Shadows of mountains caress their heads.
On through hot dust of open plain, to my village: A toothless man from twenty years ago Asks for money, says he used to work for us.
I am searching for prints of mares’ hooves in our yard Between stable and kitchen window, now gone With the time my two feet used to fit inside one hoof.
We sit down to eat on the porch when two sparrows Come flying in circles over the table, low and fast, happily! ‘My grandparents’ souls’ I think aloud, but my cousin says:
‘No, the sparrows have nested under eaves, look Past the grapevine.’ Nests big as cupped hands, twigs And straw. Bird song skids in the air above us.
Into still-remaining rooms no sewing machine, Or old furniture with sculpted flowers on walnut wood. No rose bushes climbing windowsills, outside.
And here, our water well, a vase of cracked cement. Past Ghosts of lilac, pear, and quince in the sun-bitten yard I step On re-imagined hooves, pull the chain, smell wet rust.
Unblemished sky ripples inside the tin bucket, Cradled in my arms the way I used to hold Warm goose eggs close to skin so not to break them:
‘The earth will remember you’ my grandparents once said. Here, where such dreams do not come true, I have come To find hoof-prints as well as signs from sparrows.