Category Archives: Culture

September reading

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here I am,

sitting on a bench next to autumn

absorbing the last of the scorching sun

and watching the ants

move like clockwork

in a playground we call our own.

here they are,

mapping the maze

with staccato precision.

I am reading a poem,

like every other year.

later, I’ll get up to go home,

pass the picket fence with the tiny

porcelain cats,

walk into a heap of crunchy leaves,

and stomp out

all regrets.

Spirituality, modernity and Brownian motion

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Just a thought…

So many of us feel depleted, drained, stressed out. Our beings flogged from within, our lives – our biggest gift – turned into empty chases. Pursuing a zillion things that we can grab and touch and display, but which aren’t real. We live in societies that prioritize task efficiency, competition, action, and the accumulation of stuff over family, over time with friends, music, celebration, inner peace, or the contemplation of beauty.

The spiritual, once a central component of daily life – that umbilical cord to the divine – has been all but banished, relegated to the periphery, exiled to the realm of the exotic, the archaic, and the ‘oppressive’. The daily recalibration of prayer has fallen from grace and with it we have fallen – literally – from grace. From the grace of communing with the universe and with each other, the grace of transcending and accessing our higher purpose. From peace and vitality.

We bet everything on the card of desire, sleepwalking through life in a state of sterile and destructive arousal, as if remote-controlled via our most basic reflexes and deprived of the light of transfiguration. Do not be fooled that we no longer worship. We do. We worship the idol of self – the crumbling ‘natural man’ – while cutting ourselves off from our spiritual potential – the human person inhabited by holiness, true love, generosity, and joy. 

The unhappiness that brings. 

And how freely available the healing can be.

Old woman praying in the fields at midday, as church bells toll in Rebrisoara, Romania
(Source: infobistrita.ro. Photo taken by Marian Ros in Rebrisoara)

P.S. For more (and better!) on our aimless restlessness, our addiction to illusion and distraction, and our loathing of Eden – take a listen here: https://entitledopinions.stanford.edu/fatidic-power-literature. An episode I stumbled upon today – no kidding – after writing this blog. There are very few coincidences in life.

Discoveries

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Venus – that ancient

goddess of carnal desire – 

has a poisonous atmosphere that might,

just might,

hold the life of a microbe.


Immediately,

the microbes here on Earth

began to show signs

of restlessness.

fighting each other for supremacy

and claiming poison

as their territory.

Copyright A. Sepi 2020. All rights reserved

To Belong

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when she first discovered water

she did not go in.

she stood hypnotized. it was too wonderful.

she was, like the lot of us,

gripped by a fear of drowning,

arrested by the vastness and the gleaming.

to discover beauty is to discover

the heaviness of self and the terror

of irreversible sinking.

but look at her now, floating expertly on her back,

swaying with the waves

in her hair,

glistening like a fish,

all serene smiles and joy

and relaxed muscles.

weightless.

she has not mastered water.

she has mastered herself

(the high art of belonging)

and now water buoys her,

offers her up to the sun

cupful by cupful by cupful.

Copyright 2019-2020. A. Sepi. All rights reserved

Hold them in your hands

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Dear friends,

My poems have now become a thing. A something you can buy and hold in your hands.

You can turn them into paper airplanes and give my words wings, you can write comfort food recipes on their back, or you can put them on your bookshelf for the benefit of generations to come (and to the dismay of whoever it is that must dust them)…

Here they are, eager to keep you company in your self-isolation.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086PMZJKM?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860

If you’re the digital type and prefer the magic of electrons, there is also a Kindle version.

Enjoy!

Behold the searing wind…

Behold the searing wind*

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It is upon us.

Its blistering tongues lurk behind the levee,

They pounce like savage beasts

Mercilessly they wheeze

Blowing the tumbleweeds against my doorstep.

 

A goodbye kiss, crackling dry.

Deserted yards, howling.

 

The yellow earth swelling and swirling,

It is in my eyes, my nostrils, my teeth.

Every time I spit,

I spit grains of sallow sin.

 

There used to be ponds along the river

And fishing nets heavy with fish

The cabins on the lake full of

guffawing and cheer,

There used to be trees and snakes.

The forest playing organ to the gales.

 

It is gone now.

Its birds scattered

like dust from old carpets.

 

The vineyards are dead.

Their grapes, dried up and shriveled,

Won’t be quenching no thirst

Won’t be crowning no wedding

dances

There ain’t gonna be no toasts around here

no more.

Only the sheer shriek of the southerly wind,

Only the curses of the departed still drifting

across the inward-moving sands.

 

*poem inspired by this article: https://www.vice.com/ro/article/9ke3nz/seceta-si-nisipul-au-cucerit-sudul-romaniei

Copyright A. Sepi 2019. All rights reserved

 

Alpes – Provence – Côte d’Azur 2019

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“Ne la laisse pas tomber

Elle est si fragile

Etre une femme libérée tu sais c’est pas si facile…”

Cookie Dingler – Femme libérée

Copyright photos France: A. Sepi & A. Csordas 2019

 

The Calm Place

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I.

Name five things you can see, the app said.

I counted drapes, floors, slippers…

I couldn’t name the truth.

I knew I had it somewhere, but I didn’t want

To slide open the drawers of memory again

(the place was so tidy).

Name four you can hear, it menaced.

I strained but heard nothing, nothing.

The room is dead quiet.

I am alone. The sun is quiet, the floors are quiet, my clothes are quiet.

There are no voices, there is no inner music.

Nor did I smell, or touch, or feel.

There was a vague odor of petrol in my rough woolen sweater, but the place

Was unscented.

 

II.

I went to the river.

Here the air is warm and smells

Of dead things that used to be living.

It wraps around my neck like a shawl.

Here the grass is moist and the leaves

In it dry and rustling.

I rub my palm against thick hedges. They scratch.

The autumn sky lowers it golden gaze like a shy geisha.

Young birches lean with honey-tinged bibs toward the water.

They come alive with black birds.

Like inscrutable lenses, willow leaves swirl through the air

Then alight on an eddy.

You guessed it: there’s a breeze.

 

I went to the river.

It is warm.

It goes places.

It hurtles away, quietly.

An old man dressed all ocher and chestnut sits by it and listens

Then checks his pulse.

It is still there.

The river and me, we walk along in opposite directions.

A bike rolls on by, turning the gravel sunwards.

A handsome young man asks me for the time.

I give him what little time I have on me – and he smiles back, clutching a beer.

I came out here to read some Ezra Pound but the place

Is teeming with poets.

 

III.

Let us make here three tabernacles, said the apostle.

One for thee, and one for Moses and one for Elias.

You’ll never know it, but

I’ve never known happiness until now.

By bringing me here, you brought me into being.

 

 

 

Copyright A. Sepi 2018. All rights reserved

 

48 Hours in London – Plus 3 Misconceptions Gone

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The graduation cap kept slipping off my head and the tassel was getting into my field of vision, occasionally blotting out important surrounding objects, like pillars or toilets. I couldn’t bend down, nod, or even glance at my phone. I was beginning to get an inkling into why all graduands look so dignified – standing tall, chin up, gaze fixed firmly ahead, stiff smile. They must be terrified of dropping the thing…

I hadn’t worn a robe before either, and this ceremony at the London Barbican for alumni of the University of London’s International Programmes was my first British-style graduation, national anthem and all.

So when the lady at the dressing booth carefully placed and arranged the heavy black robe on my shoulders, the eerie weight of responsibility settled on them too.

I was on my best behavior: walked across the stage confidently when my name was called (having wisely ditched my stilettos in favor of more sensible flat-sole boots), bowed imperceptibly to the Vice-Chancellor and the other members, looked proudly (how else, cap was unstable) up into the audience, shook someone’s hand and was utterly relieved to be seated again without any major incident.

I was all too happy to relax and watch the long procession of excited graduates that followed, their enthusiasm, the faculty speeches, and the subtle yet undoubtedly motivating and inspiring pomp of the ceremony.  I barely fidgeted. The fact that I was dead beat after hours of walking through London must have had something to do with it.

Trying to pack this buzzing and fascinating city into only 48 hours and tick most of the major boxes on my to-see list is no small feat. It is, in fact, for no small feet at all. I have come dangerously close to a broken back, but I did manage to get a pretty good sense of the place, if I do say so myself.  Yes, boys and girls, it can be done!

So, as my throbbing, swollen feet are my witness, and in my capacity as surface-scratcher extraordinaire, I feel it is now my duty to dispel at least 3 common misconceptions right off the bat:

1. English food is terrible.

No way. Not necessarily. The gusty winds of healthy living are sweeping through the busy streets and teeming bike lanes of London, with tasty treats, leafy salads, fresh thick soups and vegan sandwiches on every corner. Things like pumpkin or papaya slices on rye bread with seeds, arugula, coleslaw, vegan mayo, vegetables and cheese can make a wholesome yet light and savory breakfast at a fraction of the price of fish and chips. Eat away! The food scene is amazing, and old traditional pubs, local steakhouses, elegant seafood restaurants, or first-class international cuisine are equally sophisticated and delightful. I particularly liked the looks of some eateries around Covent Garden.

2. The British are sticklers for protocol. (You know, stiff upper lip, haven’t been properly introduced type of stuff…)

Well, what can I say, if you marry into the Royal family (new wedding coming up!) most likely, but then you’ve brought it upon yourself. In my experience, however, even during official ceremonies there is the occasional cutting of slack, and guidance is always offered with smiles and in a calm tone of voice.

On the streets, the British are considerate and friendly chaps (and lads), who do not seem at all phased by the bustling crowds and will always take a second to give you directions or duck while you’re trying to photograph the sights. There will be a polite sorry for every brush against your arm, and thank yous are abundant. Never an arrogant snarl, never a condescending eye roll. There is a touch of affability and humor with every interaction. (Oh, I love decorum and a good upbringing!)

And even though the city is as vibrant, diverse and fast-paced as they come (more than 300 different languages are spoken in London schools), I did not get a sense of hectic rage among its inhabitants at all. They are lax and at ease in the commotion (occasional exception: cyclists – no, they are not training for the Tour de France, they’re just pedaling to work). To my complete surprise, most pedestrians don’t pay the slightest attention to red traffic lights. These seem to be optional, as jaywalking is common. So no sticklers there.

The hard focus on discipline and immediate punishment so typical of Germany is oddly missing here, as is the idea that human communities can only be held together by an obsession with conformity and the strict enforcement of procedures.

3. London is outrageously expensive.

Again, if you want an apartment on the riverbank, overlooking the Tower Bridge, or a nice flat in a posh neighborhood (ok, rents are pretty high everywhere) that will bore a significant hole through your bank account. High-life central London entertainment and tickets to most tourist venues will also take a toll on your finances; croissants and hot dogs in the immediate vicinity of a tourist attraction tend to be quite overpriced. But regular food and transportation fares are decent and even a couple of nights in a pleasant hotel not very far from the City are affordable.

You will see the occasional homeless person, and beggars on the Tube. But you will also see great culture and art (Tate Modern has sections with free access); impressive architecture – an eclectic mix of old and new, gleaming glass-and-steel structures cuddling the grimed walls of old churches, townhouses emblazoned with heraldic symbols, and charming little gardens redolent of rhododendrons; garrulous seagulls on the Thames and a buzzing fleet of red double-decker buses that will seem like they’re all driving on the wrong side of the road!

So be careful when you cross the street, pack an umbrella and enjoy five o’clock tea!

I’ll interrupt my reminiscing now and stand for God Save the Queen as my graduation ceremony closes. London, it’s been a pleasure!

Spoiler alert: here are (some) pictures. Don’t forget to also follow me on Instagram, under ipesardna, for more interesting stuff.

 

See you next time!

 

 

The Darkest Hour

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“În vremurile aspre și triste, oamenii liberi pot să se consoleze întotdeauna cu lecția de bază a istoriei, și anume că tiraniile nu pot dăinui decât printre neamurile slugarnice.”

Winston Churchill,

în Humes, J.C. – Vorbele de duh ale lui Winston Churchill, ed. Humanitas, București, 2008.