Old people in the shade


translated from Romanian by Seamus Heaney

You get tired quickly, you forget easily,
You start talking to yourself,
You move your lips
And come on yourself in the mirror moving your lips.

I have a fair notion of how old age will be for me.
For a day or two every summer, for a week
I am old.
Wrinkled, shrunk like a peach stone
In the kernel of the luscious day.

A Ulysses who keeps drifting off,
Forgetting where he’s going back to,
Why he’s astray on the sea,
Whether the war in Troy is over or coming.
A Ulysses unlikely to kiss smoke from the chimneys
Of home.

Are you straightening your tie there
Or strangling yourself?

40 degrees in the sun. I go into the house
And, with an ultimate effort of memory, remember
My name.
Torrid weather is much the same as old age.
The same sensations.

You trip the rugs
You stumble over the slippers –
One of your nails has turned septic,
One of your teeth seems to be looser.

In the summer, we all come together.
We are all old,
Even the foetus in its mother’s womb.

Excerpted from The Translations of Seamus Heaney by Seamus Heaney and edited by Marco Sonzogni. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright © 2022 by The Estate of Seamus Heaney. Introduction and editorial material copyright © 2022. All rights reserved.