asking too much? :: marin sorescu

translated by michael hamburger

‘Suppose that, to give a few lectures,
daily you had to commute
between Heaven and Hell:
what would you take with you?’

‘A book, a bottle of wine and a woman, Lord.
Is that asking too much?’

‘Too much. We’ll cross out the woman,
she would involve you in conversations,
put ideas into your head,
and your preparation would suffer.’

‘I beseech you, cross out the book,
I’ll write it myself, Lord, if only
I have the bottle of wine and the woman.
That’s my wish and my need. Is it too much?’

‘You’re asking too much.
What, supposing that daily,
to give a few lectures, you had
to commute between Heaven and Hell, would
you take with you?’

‘A bottle of wine and a woman,
if I may make so free.’
‘That’s what you wanted before, don’t be obstinate,
it’s too much, as you know. We’ll cross out the woman.’

‘What do you have against her, why do you persecute her?
Cross out the bottle rather,
wine weakens me, almost leaves me unable
to draw from my loved one’s eyes
inspiration for those lectures.’

Silence, for minutes
or an eternity.
Respite. In which to forget.

‘Well, suppose that to give
a few lectures you had to commute
daily between Heaven and Hell:
what would you take with you?’

‘A woman, Lord, if I may make so free.’
‘You’re asking too much, we’ll cross out the woman.’
‘In that case cross out the lectures rather,
cross out Hell and Heaven for me,
it’s either all or nothing.
Useless and vain my commuting would be between Heaven
and Hell.
How could I even begin to frighten and awe
those poor creatures in Hell –
without teaching aid, the woman?
How strengthen the faith of the righteous in Heaven –
without the book’s exegesis?
How endure all the differences
in temperature, light and pressure
between Heaven and Hell
if I have no wine
on the way
to give me a bit of courage?’