First December in Lawrence, Kansas I spelled its name in my mind, extatic, eyes on the fresh visa in my Romanian passport: A M E R I C A. I hadn’t foreseen crossing a baseball diamond on foot in Lawrence, Kansas, the shortcut to the University bus station. Early morning. Snow up to my knees. No one told me the first things I needed: a driver’s license, a vehicle, winter tires. I wrap my neck, my chin in the scarf my grandmother knitted, hid in my suitcase. I touch my cheeks, expecting to see blood on the tips of my fingers, after the wind gust that slapped me. I part my lips: A M E R I C A. Each letter sound drops at my feet, an icicle, or a snowflake. Last Christmas tree with Dorin The last Christmas tree in the market leaned against the corner by the window of our living room, in the place of a seldom-watered rhododendron. My dad dragged it drunk by a rope, like a stray dog with patches of lost fur, wrestling weak in the knot. Propped up, we wrapped it in garlands of tissue paper, hard candy hung with white thread. From the top of the dresser, decorations in plastic filigran and tin lace. Dad fell asleep with his head on the table, as we lit up the candles, not too close to the cotton wadding imitating snow. With the lights off we whispered our dearest carol ”Aseară pe-nserate, fecioara Maria, În Viflaim cetate, călătorind venea” My brother’s eyelids droopy, as he nestled with mom on the couch. Out the window, in the golden cone of the street light, an owl stretched out its large wings.
Daniela Hendea is a Romanian-American poet and translator. Her first collection of poetry, Acordor de teremin (Theremin Tuner), was published at Fractalia Press, Bucharest, in 2018. Her poetry and literary translations have been published in Romanian (Familia, Apostrof, Ateneu, Echinox), Italian (Un Posto di Vacanza), English (Asymptote, Entropy, Fragmented Voices). An editor of the Romanian publication Prăvălia Culturală, she lives in Texas.