Sign In using your Campus Account


and if I had to build myself a past here
this must be the ministry where years later they processed my papers
here is the museum I walked around hung-over that one day I spent in this city
over there the apartment Andrei told me about that night walking through
where his mother hid him in the revolution
if I look hard enough through slanting light and snow I never saw
will I ever see a shadow of what we would be if he had stayed
and now I must build a past for myself
here is Cișmigiu Park where I remember from that one day, such greenness in
the trees and in the lake, and in the rowing boats and that I walked with
this Vlach heat inside me for
a boy, Alex, I´d met the night before from Târgu Mureș, for a few days in
Bucharest, like me
on holiday, like me
Romanian, as it may happen that I may be
how nothing happened but an exchange of unanswered e-mails and one
escape from a man of power who told me he
was only there because his boyfriend or his bodyguard was gay
who knew which he meant with that accordion so loud
how we escaped cu mașina across town
to a club where all they played was karaoke songs
toate în limba română
and it may have been a Tuesday
and my debit card had been blocked with darkness through the Bucharest night
as they took me back towards my hostel
towards the place we would remember having such a row coming out of the
cinema into the snow
towards a whole afternoon spent searching for documents for the apartment
towards the ministry where they may one day process all this ancestry for a
piece of paper
for bureaucracy to process and to judge the memories of the heat of that night
to build myself a past here
after my dad had driven through the Carpathians to Pitești and then I took the
to Bucharest and sat sweating over my luggage that acest om with his taxi from
the Gara de Nord
would be the one who’d rob me
and he wasn’t
but still I’d feel the heat and sleepless nights until I was with Jelver in the mall in
Botafogo to transfer his mobile number to my name, signing all
the paperwork in person
in the week half a country had turned its back on me and it felt
that everything was sinking and all I wanted to do was sink with it
and I got the e-mail from the consulate that yes I only need speak limba română
and bring them all these pieces of paper that may be burnt or lost or
never have existed to document myself and my existence
then I could go back acasă across the sea
and how I slept that night all self-taught and on the floor and still so hot with
memory of nothing from the night before
but ideas of so many people I would never meet in the street
and whether I could look hard enough through slanting light and snow
would I ever know if my great-grandfather ever came to this city
before he left forever
left such greenness in the trees and in the lake and in the rowing boats that
appear in a novel I would never write
about a young couple in the 20s rowing on this lake
and how the political climate turned
and emigration to Rio and fumbling at other men’s flies on all the back streets of
and still I must build a past for myself here
around these things that may not be or never happen

Rob Packer is originally from London, but has spent the past decade living in countries including Kyrgyzstan, Colombia and, currently, Brazil. He has been published in Lighthouse, The Moth, Orbis, Honest Ulsterman, among others. His translations of contemporary Brazilian poets include Glory Box, a pamphlet of Thiago Ponce de Moraes’ poems (Carnaval Press, London), Tróiades, translations of Guilherme Gontijo Flores’ Jabuti-nominated project ( and a selection on his blog.

“I’m the right age and temperament for my great-grandfather’s Romanian origins to be important: I’ve always been fascinated by maps and atlases and was seven during the 1989 revolution. This heritage is too distant for memory or any contacts, but is close enough to claim citizenship. And this year so many of us have been thinking about history, migration, nationality. Maybe it’s not surprising when prompted to write about a mythologized city, Adam Zagajewski’s trip to Lvov struck such a chord that the city I mythologized was Bucharest.”

Add your Reply

Image Credits: