Poems of Romania  

 by JoAnne Growney



Looking for Words

Our land and words are one,  Romania explains.

To help me understand, friends take me

through Transylvania, land of Dracula

and ancient painted monasteries.

To help me understand, friends take me

in a van with sleeping bags, a store of food,

to visit ancient monasteries painted

with sacred stories to last forever.

We travel in a van, carry picnic food,

marvel at unfading lapis on concrete walls—

sacred stories saved to tell forever—

pastel lift to heaven, red descent to hell.

We marvel at unfading lapis on concrete walls—

spiritual instruction for those who have no books:

pastel lift to heaven, red descent to hell—

and,  at the nuns’ clear windows, bright geraniums.


Instructing those who have no books—

through Transylvania, land of Dracula

nuns brighten  clear windows  with red geraniums.

Our land and words are one,  Romania explains.






















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Letter from Romania 

I must write before I once again forget

all this:  concrete stairways—broken, steep, unlit—

bare, grey entryways to homey flats.


But for a daybed near the door, Ana’s flat’s

the same—its twice-locked door, fragile porcelain

on the shelf, curtains drawn, dripping bathroom tap.

Each night at nine we sit on Ana’s porch,

with tuica—toast her, the night and day ahead—

I tell of marriage, children, and divorce,

see pictures of her family.  Her husband’s dead;

she worries over Nic, who loves money,

shrinks from  work. The city’s pale concrete glows red

from sunset’s slant across tile roofs.  Day’s done—

heat lingers, lifts to us the roses’ rich scent.

Hear me into understanding.  I own a home


and have more wealth than these can dream to spend,

yet they fete me with delicious, ungrudging spreads—

each day I follow some parent to the end

of a dark stairwell to a room where narrow beds

make benches beside a dining table.

Through the meal we smile our lack of common words—

in classrooms with the children I am able

to speak my English and be mostly understood.

We read verse by Whitman, who took a full

deep breath of freedom and wrote it, who could

contain multitudes.  But these prefer Dickinson,

whose careful, stingy lines show she also stood

behind fences and locked doors.  Jobless inflation

flattens hopes—though children see a television

world they want, timid dreams meet daily life and run.

To balance drab Deva with a fuller impression

of Romania, Ana finds a driver and a van

to take us north from city heat through mountains

Transylvania—legendary homeland

of Dracula—to monasteries painted

and ancient.  Stories on concrete walls teach man

know his God.  The patriarchs and saints

in regal colors, sinners’ banishment to hell

in flaming reds, Christ in mild blue tints. 

From the monastery nuns our hosts buy prayers.

I don’t voice my doubt.  This land has my heart; this twin

of my childhood Pennsylvania—after so many years.