Claudia Serea is a Romanian-born poet with poems and translations published in Field, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, The Puritan, Oxford Poetry, and elsewhere. She is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Writing on the Walls at Night (Unsolicited Press, 2022). Serea won the Joanne Scott Kennedy Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of Virginia, the New Letters Readers Award, and the Franklin-Christoph Merit Award. Her poems have been translated in French, Italian, Russian, Arabic, and Farsi and featured on The Writer’s Almanac. Her collection of selected poems
translated into Arabic, Tonight I’ll Become a Lake into which You’ll Sink, was published in 2021. She is a founding editor of National Translation Month, serves on the board of The Red Wheelbarrow Poets,and co-hosts their monthly reading.
Ode to spoon
Spoon shaped like a cupped hand
small enough to fit between lips
our daily broth,
praise to you, most useful tool.
Whether you’re made of steel, silver, pewter,
plastic, tin, or linden wood,
you measure, mix, and stir
the stew of our lives,
the sweet with the bitter,
Praise to you, silhouette of a woman
carrying rice and medicine
in the exact amount
that fits into a mouth.
And if the year is a bowl
of bone marrow soup,
each day is a sip
you lift to feed the hunger.
Praise to your lip
scented with cinnamon and chocolate,
best licked clean
before throwing you in the sink.
Praise to you, spoon that makes a perfect doll
when one doesn’t have dolls.
Once, two wooden spoons
turned into a mother and a daughter.
I dressed them in kitchen towels
and they walked on the edge
of the tablecloth.
I sang to them
and sheltered them from knives.
Praise to your scoop that digs tunnels out of prisons,
bringing freedom to captives,
and carves in dirt
a small nest for seeds.
Praise to your deep sleep
in the drawer, wrapped in velvet,
imitating a human embrace.
The blue bowl
The simple blue bowl, filled
with tomatoes and peppers still warm from the sun,
in my mother’s arthritic hands.
She carries it carefully
as if the bowl holds her life.
She places it on the white tablecloth,
and its reflection throws
a spray of light
on the summer kitchen wall.
Squat and calm,
with the upward curve of its lip,
the blue bowl rules the table.
Its perfect shape is the shape of this Sunday
when we’re together again
in the August shade,
far away from the world
and its news of war,
when everything is round and ripe:
the peaches, the fat plums,
this moment when all we want
is to cut into the soft, salty cheese,
break bread and the flesh
of a large tomato,
Over there, Mom said,
I couldn’t see the bird,
small and brown as a sparrow
hidden in the brush,
but I could hear its song filling the valley
with rippling whistles, gurgles,
tweets, and trills
while everything else fell silent,
even the poplar leaves.
I still hear Mom’s voice.
The poplars are long gone,
and it’s not my mother tugging at my sleeve,
but the branch of a bush,
as if that moment wanted to relive itself,
as if the nightingale felt the need
to sing for me again.