Prime Number Magazine
is a publication of 
Press 53
PO Box 30314,
Winston-Salem NC 27130
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Issue 43, October-December 2013
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
2 Poems
by Claudia Serea
Followed by Q&A

The secret room where all the creatures go

Come with me, 
I’ll show you a secret room
with furniture borrowed from trees.

Arthritic hands are knotted into chairs.

Knuckles twist 
into headboards and tables,
and a piece of bark holds the mirror.

The winds blows 
through empty eye sockets
and whistles through the tiny holes
in flute bones.

Don’t be scared.

In the back of the room, 
the old milliner lady sits on a stump
and fashions felt hats
with ears and horns.

She sews fleece and skin
and leather.

Behind her, on wooden pegs,
squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks
beg to be set free.

You can sit 
and watch her needle in 
and out of 
the shiny button eyes.

Her hands are quick.

In this room no one speaks,
not a peep, 
or squeak,
or an open beak.

Dust falls
on the furniture of time.

She says,
You’re next, dear, 

and makes me a hat 
of grass roots
and sunrise.

When it rains in Rutherford

Skinny as sticks,
two shadows share 
one breath.

He’s an old heron 
that won’t die

even though spring has awakened
seeds in his belly 
that eat 
and grow when it rains.

She’s a mute nightingale
too scared to talk,
to think the thoughts.

It rains in Rutherford for days,
for weeks.

They cling 
to every moment,
the way water clings to the leaves
and tears
to the throat.

By clinging, 
they prove they’re alive.

In the small, white house
on Maple Street,
two birds listen
to the rain on the roof.

It rains in Rutherford,

and they can hear 
angels walking in the backyard,

Claudia Serea is a Romanian-born poet who immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. Her poems and translations have appeared in New Letters, 5 a.m., Meridian, Word Riot, Apple Valley Review, and many others. A two-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she is the author of Angels & Beasts (Phoenicia Publishing, Canada, 2012), The System (Cold Hub Press, New Zealand, 2012), and To Part Is to Die a Little (Cervena Barva Press, forthcoming). She co-translated The Vanishing Point That Whistles, an Anthology of Contemporary Romanian Poetry (Talisman Publishing, 2011) and translated from the Romanian Adina Dabija’s Beautybeast (Northshore Press, 2012). Read more at


Q: You are both poet and translator – how do you approach the words of a poet working in another language, and what can be gained as well as lost in the translation?
A: I approach every translation with a mental rolling of the sleeves. When translating a poem, the satisfaction is similar to what you feel when building something with your hands, a useful object, something that works. There are difficulties, of course. Some of the musicality and the sounds of the original language might be lost, hopefully replaced with new sounds and a new musicality. Rhyme and meter are always hard to reproduce. But, in my view, the gain is far greater than the loss. The translated poem opens a door to a new landscape and takes the reader on a trip to, say, Romania. How fun is that?

Q: You offer a surprising image of “angels walking in the backyard, barefoot.” We think of angels as lifted by wings, not earthbound. What else can you tell us about the nature of your angels?
A: When my daughter was very young, she taught me that angels (and monsters) are real, and not necessarily connected to religion. They walk among us, disguised as people, even as animals. That’s how my book Angels & Beasts was born. The angels eat, sleep, love, and make mistakes. Their wings are merely accessories they can take off and put back on as they please. I continue to write about angels, and they don’t mind showing up in my poems. They are cool like that.

Q: What do you hear on first waking at your house?
A: Birds, lots of birds in my backyard trees. Then, the alarm goes off, always too early.