December song
By Claudia Serea

Gray December
of patrols in the street,
Hurry up, shiver, Be quiet,

December of listening to the radio
for clues, volume down,
and at night, listen to gunshots
and cries, people screaming
You are our children!
Don’t shoot!

December, when we were no longer one,
but many, walking arm in arm,
and we raised our voices for the first time,

Hard December,
when we whipped the streets with demands,

December of chants,

December of coffins
and candles,

of 60,000 dead,
of bodies stolen from the morgue
and burned
to cover up the killings,

December of mass demonstrations
Comrades, stand still in your places

December, when we didn’t listen,
when we did as we pleased,
and we cried
and sang,

Dark December,
when we slaughtered pigs
and high school kids across the country,

December of holes in the flags,
of revolution live on TV,

December of smiles,
of ashes and wax,

when God walked among us,
then was gone,

December when we shot the bastards,
and the bastards shot back,
and we were confused and afraid,
and shot some more
until it was done,

December when the turncoats
turned coats,
and suckers and smart ones
embraced in the streets,

We won, we won!
and yes, they did,

December of sausages
and bells,

when Santa brought us freedom
and a firing squad for Christmas,

Mad December without snow,
when we didn’t know what to do
with our freedom,

except cry
and dance
and die,

White December
of angels and lambs,

you are long gone,
long gone,

and here again.

To the young man in the photo
University Square troita (memorial), Bucharest
By Claudia Serea

Mothers begged their soldier sons
not to pull the trigger,

and your mother begged you
not to go fight.

But you didn’t listen.

With your teenage body,
thin as a key,
you opened history’s gates.

You walked through the streets,
heart smoldering,
hair raised,
setting people ablaze.

You built barricades
and didn’t hide behind them.

Everything changed
with the speed of the clouds.

At nightfall, you were scared.

You offered your chest
to the metal rain

so I can write
in English, today.

Sometimes you feel like a mechanic
By Claudia Serea

Sometimes you feel like a mechanic,
fitting the small parts,
turning them this way
and that,

until they lock together,
teeth clenched.

You test the wheels,
try the belt,
turn the engine on
and off,
and on again

listening to the wheezing,
the whirr,

until it works,
and the growl comes on,

and the propeller starts flipping
and swooshing,

and the shiny thing
lifts into the air
and flies into the world,

leaving you behind
with your greasy hands
and grimy nails,


Diversity Visa
By Claudia Serea

When it carried our lives inside,
how could the envelope be so small?

We laughed and joked
that we’d sleep
under the Brooklyn Bridge.

We’d eat a donut a day.

We wondered if the New York streets
would be dirty and crowded,
and paved with dreams.

Would there be dogs
with bagels up their tails?

Would there be beautiful people
like in the movies?

Or would our life be
a Seinfeld episode,
about nothing?

Better poor in America
than in Romania, we said.

Would you do it again? you ask.

With you? I answer.

After the storm
By Claudia Serea

Giants sat here
after they ran through the field.

It’s calm now.

Under my feet,
the ants rush to rebuild
their ravaged homes
and highways.

A chickadee calls my name
in the pear tree.

I don’t answer.
There is nothing I can do.

In the sky, God sweeps the debris
over the horizon line,

paints his house blue
and fixes the fence.

Claudia Serea is a Romanian-born poet who immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. Her poems and translations have appeared in New Letters, 5 a.m., Meridian, Word Riot, Apple Valley Review, and many others. A four-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she is the author of Angels & Beasts (Phoenicia Publishing, Canada, 2012), The System (Cold Hub Press, New Zealand, 2012), A Dirt Road Hangs From the Sky (8th House Publishing, Canada, 2013) and To Part Is to Die a Little (Cervena Barva Press, forthcoming). Her poem My Father’s Quiets Friends in Prison, 1958-1962 received the New Letters Readers Award in 2013. She co-hosts The Williams Readings poetry series in Rutherford, NJ, and she edits The National Translation Month blog.