Say, then, I navigate the language with two clock dials, and the numbers appear at random, as if skipping time and falling into the future, concurrently

by Diana Damian Martin


a dispărea. 1. When a clock breaks, when (time) breaks. 2. My body does not sense it. 3. We all float, in limbo, in between the ticking of the clocks that did not break, the ones that stopped working, and the ones that still move slowly, as if at an impasse. 4. The village dates back to the fourteenth century, but disappeared sometime around the nineteenth. For a while, the it was a geographically delineated terrain with judicial importance, no inhabitants, and no ruins to tell the story.  In its place, remains a bell tower, guarding the valley, but it is unclear who it is attributed to. On Ottoman occupied land, first documented under the Austro-Hungarian occupation, this area was known, in Saxon, as Untergegangen, meaning disappearance, sinking. 5. I stand by the bell tower, documenting the passing of time. 6. In Romanian, disappearance captures the absence of a body, but not the absence of land. 7. We also say: “a pieri”, to perish, as if through a charm. Sometimes, to perish is also to steal oneself.


a mișca. 1. Mladen Stilinović says: “as an artist, I learned from both East (socialism) and West (capitalism).” 2. When we were growing up, capitalism and socialism were tangled up, graffiti-ed on the walls of blocks, lost in between textbooks, in limbo between the movement of economic and political forces. 3. Move is intransitive, reflexive and transitive. 4. I no longer translate, but my body is as translation, when words stand on opposite sides of the border. I think about forgetting, a lot. I dream in multiple languages but I cannot always carry the politics across, and the direction of movement seems vital. 5.  In Romanian, moving is about leaving rest, shaking, changing location, beginning to function. It also means giving a tip.  Tipping someone.


vatră. 1. The title reads: “an ageing woman lives alone in a missing village, swallowed by the forest.” I do not understand, why the village is missing, but I love that she belongs to a communities of trees, and they are of place, together.   2. An ageing woman lives on the land, and perhaps a village was never there in the first place. Age is too allegorical here, as if bodies keep time. 3. A woman lives on the land and we lost her village. 4. A woman lives on the land and there never was a village, we just etched it on the map around her house to mark her judicial borders, and lost the chalk. 5. A woman lives on the land where there was once a village, and her body is the only witness of the forest that swallowed it. 6. A woman lives on the land on top of a village that is no longer, and time has swallowed all memories and her body keeps them safe. 7. A woman aged, once, and everyone wanted to watch. 8. There is no storyteller, only a spy. We do not laugh about spies because they are everywhere. 9. Say, for example, that the body is their own translator. 10. In Romanian, vatră is both oven and fireplace, where wood burns to heat up a surface that travels away from it. It is both cooking surface and sleeping area. In Romanian, an old meaning of vatră is an area of land that sets itself apart by a different, or absent, vegetation.


bloc. 1. A solid mass, made up of one piece. This is not true. This is not how I remember it. 2. An ensemble. Yes, this feels closer to the truth. Here, they use ‘tower’. There, they use ‘bloc’. A community, perhaps, would be more accurate. 3. The lyrics went something like this: “behind the grey blocs, we stand, the majority.” Later, it went something like this: “behind the blocs, we stand, to understand us better. Behind the blocks, we stand, we make you. Losers should shut up, we write every day, because the dealings in the  neighbourhood are based on balls”. Later: “bribe gets you out of shit, a police officer, a prosecutor, a senator.” I don’t think I want to translate this. It’s just been in my head, as of late. 4. When translation does not work it might be, for example, a misrepresentation. Although of course, I am not translating, simply, time is passing, I am witnessing. 5. Later: “behind the blocs, we stand, so you can look in”. A kind of sentence reversal that works geographically, too. 6. In Romanian, a bloc is a unique mass, but it is also a cardiovascular disruption, a part of the Earth’s crust, a literary style similar to the grotesque, an ensemble of stamps.


camarad. 1.In my first textbook at school, someone had diligently cut across the word tovarăș with black ink. The word was used as a prefix to names and any references to others, meaning, comrade. 2. In Romanian, tovarăș is the language of communism; comrade, meaning, camarad, is defined as a comrade of arms, of class, of studies, for example, friend. Comrade contained comrade but by means of the other word for comrade. 3. I don’t remember when the textbooks changed, but for a while, we simply learnt not to read it out, as if it were invisible. 4. The definition for comrade, that is, camarad, points to its French origins, but not to social erasure. We’ve always been a Francophile country. 5. Tovarăș is defined as a person considered to be in raport with another, or connected to another by means of the commonalities of their life, or by means of fighting for the same cause. It is linked to the ukranian tovaryš, and the russian tovarișci. 6. In the new dictionary, tovarăș is classed as out of use. 7. Comrade is also a form of solidarity, or maybe fetish, depending on who you speak to, but I forget, this is not really about language.


limbă.  1. Mladen Stilinović says:an artist who cannot speak English is no artist.” 2. My English is that of bootlegged Disney videotapes interrupted by white noise and textbooks that describe interior spaces with domestic specificity. 3. To swallow your tongue, to chase with your tongue out, to hang your tongue outside the cot, to be with tongue, to have a tongue of honey, to be of longue-tongued, to be of free tongue, to catch a tongue, to loose a tongue, to pull tongue, to be in many tongues,  to bite one’s tongue, to fall on tongue, or rather, these should read “language”. 3. In the story, he became a prisoner, then used as an informant against the opposition army. 4. The first time I travelled to Turkey, I was so disappointed to find out that ciorbă, the sour soup, meant exactly the same thing. Then two maps collapsed into one, and I remember occupation as if it were my own, and understood Muslim heritage in land then occupied by Germanic monarchs. 5. We do not know how to speak of ethnic identities in discourses of identity, quite. Like, when language falls in between the political entity and the social border. 6. In Romanian, language is tongue, that is, it is also of the body, rolling out.



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