Romana Iorga


Julia Bethan

Hell Hath No Fury

Romana Iorga

          After Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden
          of Earthly Delights, triptych, right panel, c. 1510

          Pretend I’m an ear.
A pair of them riding the edge
          of a knife. A flesh-and-blade
phallus, if ever I saw one,
          though possibly less vindictive.
Pretend I can hear your screams
          in that hell you devised all
on your own. Even pierced
          by the shaft of a spear, I listen.
At least for now, I stay
          open, rejoice in the music
tattooed on your backside.
          While you’re at it, pretend
that I take a particular interest
          in the score you wrote for the lute.
The very same instrument
          pinning you under its bulbous
body, on top of that book
          you spent half of your life
scribbling. Pretend that even
          in hell I give you a hand.
I pull you out of the muck to fondle
          or slap, though, most
likely, to take you straight to the gallows.
          Pretend I’m all mouth, afraid
of my own teeth, which have
          no conscience. I stand
by your side, decked in pink, a prelate
          of lust, a wannabe artist.
The music goes on & my tongue, this
          carnivorous rosary of taste buds,
lolls out of its cave to caress
          your unbearable, eloquent pain.


I ate a pear today. It tasted like the crisp,
tough-skinned and bulbous fruit, more
tuber than fruit, hanging from that
stunted tree in her back garden,
the one I had to walk through nettles
to get to. Besieged by tent worms
three years in a row, it couldn’t be saved
and was burned down one summer,
long ago, in what now seems like someone
else’s childhood. Decades later, that tree
burns on my tongue, smoke curling off
in a language grandma never spoke.
Not one word, yet I pull her through
each smoke ring like a warm scarf,
smelling of earth and sun. The nettles
have bred more nettles, a whole
neglected Romanian garden—and under
its stinging carpet, my grandmother’s
creased face awaits. Her mouth
is sewn shut, her eyes are open.
They ask for nothing, those dear to me
eyes, brown irises rimmed with blue,
a pale and gorgeous blue, the blue
of deep snow that would eventually blot
her world away. It did so gradually,
removing first the monthly jaunts
back to the village, the weekend sprees
into the chaos of the farmers’ market,
the slow-paced strolls in the park,
and, finally, the mere sitting
on a bench in the sun, where she greeted
the oblivious passers-by she could
no longer see, until all that was good
in her life was reduced to the soft
food we left by her bedside and the lined
notebook in which she wrote with blue
ink her secret memoirs—in one
direction, then backwards, the lines
climbing on top of one another, biting
their own tails, chaining themselves
into illegible knots.      Wait
to read this until after I’m dead,

she’d say. You’ll laugh and maybe
      I waited. A year. Then another.
New deaths replaced hers, new births
that made me crave a different kind
of pain. Until today, when a pear
madeleine urged me to reach for that
notebook I had carried with me
from country to country to country,
the guilt heavier with each passage.
I had pledged myself to look in
one day, expecting something,
a confirmation, perhaps, of how much
she had loved me—like no one else
before or after—expecting an aha
moment of sorts, but not one like this,
not one in which I open it to find
pages and pages of scratch marks—
a silent, gaping field, where her blue
ink had finally run out and no one
even noticed.

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 various journals, including New England Review, Gulf Coast, Redivider, as well as on her poetry blog at