I'M SMILING

It's not until some overweight shoppers
give me a dirty look
that I realise I'm smiling.
Smiling in the 109 bus, travelling
to work, it goes without saying
that a long drink of water
hanging out of a window
and smiling, doesn't cut much ice.
Nevertheless, the thought of you
brought on the perfunctory smile
like Pavlov's dog.

This morning I woke bathed
in ghastly nightmares of being
flayed alive, needles stabbing
my teeth like teaching a grammar lesson.
The odour of underclothes and petrol
permeates the bus, blocks of flats
are all that the window offers.

I smiled, I must have
kept smiling for some time.
I recalled how we crashed the theatre,
you in your shapeless saffron T-shirt,
muself in one that could have done
with a wash. The vestibule
sported couples dressed to the nines.
We were like something out of Woodstock.

At school the principal laid into me,
the secretary looked daggers.
The dried-out pot-plant had onlu a quarter
of its leaves. Trying to control my class,
I found the smile creeping back
so irresistibly, I had to face the blackboard.

Mircea Cărtărescu

THE BLONDE BEAST

What a blonde beast, pausing at the jeweller's window!
A creature like you simply oughtn't
to be allowed to circulate at your own free will.
Christ, what nipples through your fox-coloured
Coca-cola T-shirt! What an animal lurks
behind the lattice of your blue jeans,
under the padlock of your zip.
What raw meat joints you must be devouring,
purring like a lioness,
you ultra female, you.

Not the ordinary fare of mortals -
not to die from the strychnine of your hair
one would need Citroen sheet-iron armour
banknote bandages.
Now you gaze at yourself among the ladies' watches
you're the sort that prefers quartz.
Men scarcely dressed as men
and two decorators in paint-starred
overalls, caps down over their eyes,
are dazzled by you.

Autumn tempts me to compare
your back to the harvest moon,
in my insignificance.
If I won a Nobel prize it would be
the money that would impress you.
There's no way I can be seen on TV
or be native of Lebanon.
Blonde beast, you glide to the next window,
Casio's for eleven, thirteen thousand.
You have a fine muzzle, cruelly rouged,
your teeth gleam, your eyes are sharp
or foolish, who cares?
You exist in a sprayed, shampooned, aesthetic
labyrinth of fashion and hairy hands.
I harvest from bending over
my typewriter mere disgust.
One of your breasts alone
is worth more than my collected works,
when you drift through the leaves
on the spoor of the Dunhill in your handbag.

Mircea Cărtărescu