Victor Pambuccian

the dried-up


you don’t want
to look inside
the closed drawers
of that wooden box
we took turns
to carry
across rivers
for what’s inside
is bringing up
fallen leaves
dry butterflies
old poems
an obsidian sphere
of certainty
and a hollow one
of loss
you’re afraid
to touch and feel


life doesn’t live
in a drawer
you’re telling
nor in an attic
on Christmas eve
it’s not distilled
in stone memories
or in lonely letters
crowding out daylight
nor in a parent’s
goodbye kiss


with hurried steps
you move away
from it all
to look for
the now
the inescapable
leaving no trace
no unfinished love
no old trees
with their hanging branches
in which you could
get caught
for you can never
be careful enough

Victor Pambuccian is a professor of mathematics at Arizona State University. His poetry translations, from Romanian, French, and German, have appeared in Words Without BordersTwo LinesInternational Poetry ReviewPleiades, and Black Sun Lit. A bilingual anthology of Rumanian avant-garde poetry, with his translations, for which he received a 2017 NEA Translation Grant, was published in 2018 as Something is still present and isn’t, of what’s gone, Aracne editrice, Rome.