Romana Iorga: “Mieluța”


The lamb was sick. Everyone said so—
grandma, my uncles, the neighbors.
Even my friends, who, I had thought, cared.
Don’t give her a name, they said.
I knew that as soon as I went to sleep
they’d all start sharpening knives.
The whole neighborhood plotting to slaughter
a scrap of a lamb, barely any meat on her bones.
I waited until grandma’s moonshine
hit home and the singing began.

In the sheep-pen, dark hillocks made way,
bleating. A sea of wool. Merciless, dumb.
The lamb stood alone, swaying
on spindly legs. Her mother had shunned her,
soulless beast in soulless darkness.
I picked her up like a sack of midnight fleece.
Carried her out of the yard. Into the field.
And up the hill, where the cornstalks
whispered their sharp, papery secrets.

It was a slow climb. She was good
in my arms, and quiet, as if she belonged there.
We pushed the air back and forth
between us, one tortured breath into another.
When I tripped, she breathed out
this delicate, raspy bleat that splintered
the remains of my heart. I loved her
even more then, with the kind of helpless,
unbearable love that, no matter how young
you happen to be, you know will tear you apart.

I heard the shouts, saw shadows
galloping in the moonlight, swallowing the field.
The cornfield was a wall of spears
I plunged into headfirst, face hidden in her wool.
Serrated blades tongued my arms.
The echo carried my name in my uncles’ voices.
I held her tighter, as tight as I could, and she
remained silent. She felt heavy and cold
and already dead. I wept as my uncles
wrestled her from my arms.

I never forgave them. I never forgave
grandma, or the neighbors, or that village,
or those friends I saw less and less.
I don’t even remember their names.

Originally from Chisinau, Moldova, Romana Iorga lives in Switzerland. She is the author of two poetry collections in Romanian. Her work in English has appeared or is forthcoming in Bellingham Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, American Literary Review, and others.

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