A small piece of paper, hand written, slightly crumbled after having been carefully folded and worn in one’s wallet. A father’s wallet. He unfolds the paper and shows it to everybody. It’s his handwriting—he had copied a text and brought it home. There are around a dozen lines, mostly words, not full sentences. The school girl reads them, and then listens. Her parents are talking. It is a poem by a young woman poet they both admired. It’s 1984, it’s early in the afternoon and it’s already getting dark. It must be fall or winter. The girl is ten, and the carefully copied lines on the folded paper do not sound like poetry to her. There’s not much rhyme and no complete sentences. It’s also very short in comparison to the poems she’d learned in school and looks artless.
She is however mesmerized and unable to say much. The words and phrases are simple, very common, she knows them all, and understands them perfectly, they are part of her everyday life—food, drinks, images in the streets, daily activities, TV messages, and party slogans. She is silent, her parents are talking. The lines stay with her, they are so common, direct, straightforward—sounds and images from her own life, from her family’s life, brought together in no particular order. It’s unlike everything she has read so far, no heroic events, no pioneers, no celebration of national events, no beautiful landscape to be admired/cherished. It’s like a list of daily life things, just commonplace things, though so powerful, so telling. A poet, a great poet actually, writing about what they were all living, talking, experiencing, and also publishing it just like this, showing how their life actually was. While the ten-year-old could not say it, she probably did not have the words, it looked so courageous, and it talked to her in ways no other poem had done before.
This poem was published, and then censored, erased, disappeared. It was hard to get, and that’s why her father had copied it. That the poem was censured and the issue of the literary magazine in which it was published was withdrawn and destroyed didn’t really puzzle her. On the other hand, that a famous poet could write such a poem, that it got published in the first place, and that it came out in a national (literary) magazine—this was amazing, a complete surprise. However, the little girl did not know how to express all this, or ask for further explanation. Asking questions, interrogating things, was not part of her upbringing, neither at school, nor at home. Moreover, the poem said it all, it said “everything” that she needed to know: it’s “Everything,” by Ana Blandiana.
… leaves, words, tears,
streetcars from time to time, queueing for flour
[with] ladybugs, empty bottles, speeches,
eternal T.V images,
Colorado bugs, gas,
little flags, the European championship [soccer] cup
buses running with propane cylinders,
same old portraits,
apples not accepted abroad,
fake oil, carnations,
airport welcomes, cico lemonade, [chocolate] sticks,
Bucharest salami, diet yogurt,
Gypsy women selling Kent cigarettes, Crevedia eggs,
the Saturday T.V serial,
the peoples’ struggle for peace, the choirs,
the yield crop, Gerovital; the cops on Calea Victoriei,
the “Singing of Romania,” adidas,
the Bulgarian compote, political jokes, Ocean fish,
Ana Blandiana 1984