The Triumph of the Water Witch
“The Triumph of the Water Witch” is a major work. -- Robert Murrey Davis
Born at a time when “the century was breaking in half”, Ieronim narrates, mostly from a child’s perspective, the unsettling tale of Communism’s rise in her native Romania. She effectively conveys youthful fear and confusion in the midst of political upheaval through poignant vignettes filled with cinematic detail: all the sights, sounds and smells of the child’s limited world here subtly and powerfully evoke the bigger picture of vast societal change. -- KIRKUS REVIEWS
All the texts are a search for the possibility to keep one’s interior freedom and truthfulness while the world around is falling apart. -- Ute Rill
Ioana Ieronim’s “Triumph of the Water Witch” is an extraordinary book. A verse novel which is also the autobiography of a community “at a time when the century was breaking in half. It is a narrative device which allows the epiphanic, the sensual, the incomprehensible and the fabular to co-exist. -- Fiona Sampson
The author felt compelled to write the book out of a deep, inward moral need to bear witness to the degradation of human individuality and integrity in her terrified, disintegrating country. The poems trace a personal narrative, a girl's rite of passage, thrown into sharp relief by this national tragedy. -- Adam J. Sorkin
The Judges wanted to make special mention of “The Triumph of the Water Witch” by Ioana Ieronim, whose haunting prose poems offer a kind of resistance to the grotesquely impoverished "here and now" of her existence in Romania. -- Nomination for the Sir Weidenfeld Prize for Translation from a European Language, Oxford University, UK, 2001)
Airy structures glide on pulleys, in transformation—
walls arch over lives ever more alien.
Here and there a god crouches elbows on knees on the lintel spanning a gate
a little transparent god who must serve many houses for some time to come.
Since they’ve departed from the house, every last one of them—in the deserted household, the ancestors now gather like a braid of water of shadow, in empty spaces as lofty as domed centuries. Back to the oldest and most remote of them—they who had come to serve as sentries at the farthest edges of Europe, on horseback in carts in wagons, pleased with the peace they found pleased with the rich soil.
They who in the most obscure angle of the Carpathians proudly raised in Brașov a magnificent Black Church.
The air is heavy with remembrances as if its volume were of earth. The wooden frame gives a sign from the foundations. Bats unfurl themselves from sleep, from their velvets. As though issuing from the nothing of an ancient bell, a humming emerges, round as a child in the womb.
On this night the angel of the house comes down among them: out from the door of the hay attic, launching into motion with a single beat of the wings. Wrinkled robes, one long straw clinging to the hem. A loose sheet from a child’s ABC fluttering, fluttering.
Before the Journey all of them gather for the last time (oh, the aroma of lily and vanilla . . . below, in the cellar, a door bangs by itself).
They are together, all of them under the roof which—after tomorrow—will give shelter to others:
Blessed be this house once more which now becomes disentangled from our ways.
O Lord, grant us this day a sign of recognition.
With His arm, He had made a circumference around the children’s sweet-diseased world: they sat at the edge of that kingdom. Prepared to depart. A tear, migratory, huge, descended as a guide—a lens fit for several lives thereafter.
Then the long abandoned well resounded with the last stone thrown down.
We summoned forth the last echo at the wall of the old fortress.
We still tasted the leaves of sorrel, one last petal.
We measured our being, the tallest and freest, against the high crown of the castellated wall.
We came by sledge from the heart of the mountain down to where it lost itself and flattened into the fields.
Yes, and we were put to rock in our cradles under the barn roof—once again, with our bodies as shuttles, we wove a swatch of sky above a swatch of earth worn smooth by play.
And of course we hid: shadow after shadow, the game’s counting off left us fully visible in the light—with a forced smile on our face.
Aunt Edith baked me a pie: but no longer could I hold the mixing bowl to help her with the crust. So I ate, ate in farewell, so as to remember with body, with soul.
Sweet-diseased summer, autumn, young winter—oh, we were shedding like leaves everything that was no longer our own. Totally naked suspended in the moment.
From above the circles of the resounding world, slowly He withdrew his arm.