A Poem For Saturday


Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

The exiled Romanian poet Nina Cassian died peacefully at her home on Roosevelt Island in New York City on Monday, April 14th, at the age of 89, having watched as usual Jeopardy, her favorite television show. That seems perfectly fitting for this witty, stalwart, and profound woman whom Stanley Kunitz called “a world-class, high-spirited, fierce, intelligent, uncompromising, and wonderfully nervy poet.”

Margalit Fox wrote the obituary for the New York Times, which tells the story of Nina’s coming to and remaining in this city she loved. I had the privilege of accepting a round of poems by her—four in all—and printing them on a single page in The New Yorker in 1990, including “Ballad of the Jack of Diamonds,” translated by Richard Wilbur and featured in the Times obituary.

Today and in the days ahead, we’ll post poems from Continuum, the last book of hers to be published here from a list of more than forty the world over, including poetry collections, novels, and translations into the Romanian of Shakespeare, Brecht, Celan and others.

“My Father” by Nina Cassian:

My father now fills the world
with his being. I presume
he grew immensely in approaching
the supreme hour, DOOM . . .

His baldness is the moon itself
as he steps from shore to shore.
He was never so saintly
and he’s more earthly than ever before.

My father abandons my flesh.
I keep his eyeglasses instead,
to wear them when the dream comes by,
not to be blinded or fall out of bed.

(From Continuum: Poems © 2008 by Nina Cassian. Used by permission of W.W.Norton & Company. Photo by Phil Roeder)