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The System by Claudia Serea

 We are proud to present three poems from Romanian-born poet Claudia Serea’s  The System, a cycle of poems inspired by her father’s experiences as a political prisoner in Communist Romania, which will be published by Cold Hub Press later this year.

The Interrogator

The skin doesn’t talk.

Muscles don’t talk.

The back doesn’t talk.

Eyes don’t talk.

Hair doesn’t.

Only the bones.
The bones talk.

The Second Witness

I thought I saw
this man
giving food
to a shadow.

I didn’t see a face,
only the bread
and cheese.

Everyone knows
he feeds shadows.

Everyone knows.

The System


The small
toothed wheel
and makes
another steel
wheel spin.
They hum,
and click
the machine
that crushes,
makes paste,
and delivers
the new man.


—Where’re you going, lamb?
— Nowhere, Ma’am.
—What do you remember, lamb?
—Nothing, Ma’am.
—Lamb, who slaughters you?
Who skins and sells you?
—The masters, Ma’am.
— Lamb, who buys you?
Who roasts your ribs into a crown
and eats you?
—Everyone else, Ma’am.
The whole world, Ma’am.


Rumors travel
from mouth to mouth.
I hear there are fields
where I can lie in the grass,
press my ear
to the mouth of the earth,
against its clay lips,
and listen
to the thousands of voices
murmur and pray
in the wind.

Claudia Serea is a Romanian-born poet who immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. Her poems and translations have appeared in 5 a.m., Meridian, Harpur Palate, Word Riot, Blood Orange Review, Cutthroat, Green Mountains Review, and many others. She was nominated two times for the 2011 Pushcart Prize and for 2011 Best of the Net. She is the author of To Part Is to Die a Little (Červená Barva Press), Angels & Beasts (Phoenicia Publishing, Canada), and A Dirt Road Hangs from the Sky (8th House Publishing, Canada). She also published the chapbooks Eternity’s Orthography (Finishing Line Press, 2007) and With the Strike of a Match(White Knuckles Press, 2011). She co-edited and co-translated The Vanishing Point That Whistles, an Anthology of Contemporary Romanian Poetry (Talisman Publishing, 2011).

© 2012 Claudia Serea