20180526

Claudia Serea


Signs the end of the world is near (time to move to New Jersey)

Mother and I walk through the woods, and a woman with a twirling umbrella shows up, dressed as a clown from the Zamboni Circus. She’s telling me a message, but I’m distracted by her umbrella and don’t understand. A dog comes by—and it’s my little brother. I recognize his eyes, the way he looks at me. He’s limping, so I carry him home. Giant fires light up the sky. We’re on the highway near my hometown: the hills are burning.

In Times Square, Jesus is eating Pad Thai for lunch, and a bunch of Elmos are joining the armed forces. A recent transplant from the 9th Circle of Hell chats with an old lady in the subway. She can’t hear anything because Spiderman is playing the saxophone. In the tunnel, someone detonates a teapot bomb by accident. Everyone runs, but the sax player.

In Bushwick, the local artist takes her peacock for a walk. The Queen Bee is walking tigers on Broadway on a golden leash. And my neighbor is walking a white dog named Noon and a black one named Midnight. He smokes and stops to pick up after them. He has a cat named Insomnia at home.

At Starbucks, the latte costs 39 bucks. The barista is wearing a Putin T-shirt and a Karl Marx beard. He speaks with a strong Russian accent and writes “Comrade Claudia” on the cup. E.E. Cummings is eating a freedom omelette with freedom fries for breakfast. I pay for the latte and sit at the table with Keats. He’s holding a toy bus in his hand and says, "God bus you."

The walls are covered with portraits of Justin Bieber and Beyoncé. On the black-and-white TV, Wolf Blitzer announces that Beyoncé had just won the presidential elections. One should always ask: At the end of the world, what would Beyoncé do? She’d probably move the White House to New Jersey.



After the elephants, a janitor came out with a garbage can on his back. He spoke in a thick accent and scooped the elephant dung into large plastic bags. When he filled a bag, he tossed it into the air and—rim shot—caught it in his trashcan backpack. Higher and higher, he tossed the bags, catching them each time. The crowd roared. Then, one of the bags caught fire. Then, two, then, three! The janitor was juggling huge flaming bags of elephant shit flying to the top of the tent. The crowd was on its feet. If he dropped a bag in the sawdust, the whole place will go up. But all three bags plopped into his trashcan, extinguishing one by one. The lights went out, and the clown disappeared.



This is the night when the girls wash their faces with dew, and watch how the gates of the world open, and the spirits let them see their future. This is the night when all the animals, insects, and birds can talk, and you can hear them. It’s the night when the sky grove changes, and the sun starts getting smaller. At midnight, summer and winter hang in balance on a knife blade, with all the weather, winds, and stars before summer recedes. In the midnight stalls, winter breeds its stallions.

This is the night to pick miraculous herbs: chicory gives strength; white fern flower makes you lucky all year; maple leaves heal wounds and headaches; maselarita cures toothaches and makes you light, so you can fly on a broom; snakeweed blooms at midnight and disappears the next day, so catch it before it’s gone and use it for a love spell. If you’re brave enough to swallow it, you can touch anyone and read their fate like an open book. And don’t forget verbena and zarna, the love weeds.

At midnight, naked in the moonlight, pick the sanziene flowers and hang them in the window to chase away the ghosts and the undead. Wear them around your waist to make your womb as fertile as summer. Burn them to burn the devil. Braid wreaths and throw them on the roof. This is the night to peer into your future. If the wreaths cling to a tile, you’ll get married this year.




Claudia Serea’s poems and translations have appeared in Field, New Letters, 5 a.m., Meridian, Gravel, Prairie Schooner, and many others. An eight-time Pushcart Prize and four-time Best of the Net nominee, she is the author of Angels & Beasts (Phoenicia Publishing, 2012), A Dirt Road Hangs From the Sky (8th House Publishing, 2013), To Part Is to Die a Little (Cervena Barva Press, 2015) and Nothing Important Happened Today (Broadstone Books, 2016). Serea is a founding editor of National Translation Month, and she co-hosts The Williams Poetry Readings in Rutherford, NJ. Her latest project is Twoxism, a poetry-photography collaboration blog with Maria Haro.
 
 
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