Routine Cover: What is it about?

Artist Ciprian Buzila spent two years in Rome with a scholarship at the Romanian Academy (2012-2014). It was an important trip for the advancement of his career and he holds fond memories of it. As Italy became an international case for its Coronavirus outbreak, Ciprian felt for the dramatic situation that soon became a global scenario. Ciprian has been collaborating with us since the very beginning of the Purple Ink Collections (our logo for instance is his invention). When we asked him to create a cover for our issue, exploring the pandemic’s impacts on people’s daily lives through the concept of “routine,” he chose to portray the tangled streets “of Rome as he remembers it.” The drawing is watercolor on paper, size ~ 50x70cm.


Routine comes from the French term route — road. Tangled paths, a network of streets, crossed lines, connected dots. The term routine might evoque all these images. These days in particular, routine brings to mind daily habits, recurrent actions and, for better or for worse, monotony. Therefore, a time of repetition. Does repetition convey a sense of safety? Does sticking to a routine help in uncertain times? These questions inspired the choice of routine for our fifth issue of Purple Ink.

We investigate this theme through nine poems that allow diverse perspectives. Eritrean writer Ribka Sibhatu, for example, guides us to a new land, a “foreign land” where one does not feel at home, and only the presence of the moon, “Grandmother Moon,” that routinely appears is reassuring.

The weekend poem by Maria Stepanova shares its serene and peaceful flow of uneventfulness, hailing the thoughtlessness of the resting body. However, the Sunday mood awakens the consciousness reminding it of the body’s finitude and brevity of life. The Sunday stanzas, although rendering the same morning images, highlight the poet’s resistance to the tension of the upcoming weekdays and epitomizes the significance of personhood and individual freedom. In the pandemic, the poem sounds nostalgic yet resonating with the contemporary fear of devaluation of the uniqueness of human life.

Both Camila Melo Parra’s “Castle’s of Ash” and Andrea Cote’s “In the Clorox War” look at routine’s power to drive compulsion, fascination and obsession as forces of distraction, focus and desire. Particularly throughout the past several months, as many of us find ourselves confined to the home, passing the time has become a great concern as well as confronting loneliness and solitude. As Cote focusses on acts of cleaning as part of daily routine, she speaks to humanity’s tendency to rely on repetition in times of boredom and even fear as a coping mechanism. Melo Parra, like Zoila Forrs in “I Discover You,” employs similar themes of yearning in her depiction of the search for a love lost, whereby search, just as cleaning, channels our focus into a productive force of routine in moments of solitude.

In a similar vein, Mostafa Ibrahim’s poem, “A Feature Film” along with Ahmed Mohsen’s untitled piece look at time as a fundamental aspect of routine. Echoing Cote’s concern with how to pass time and fill one’s day in an era of monotony, Ibrahim discusses how repetition pushes time into cyclic motions, making past, present and future one and the same, later underscored by Mohsen who offers time as the most fundamental manifestation of routine itself.

Leena Kellosalo tackles the potential pitfalls of time as routine in her pair of poems through a rumination on predestination. Ultimately, she encourages engagement as a means of spiritual and bodily awakening in order to challenge the original sin’s deterministic view of humanity. By emphasizing the importance of choice as a pillar of life, she frames routine as both influence on and influenced by the human condition.

Ibrahim, Mohsen and Kellosalo’s poems are accompanied by a mediating translation from their original languages into Spanish, then from Spanish into English. Because the English translations were composed with the Spanish as referent, we felt it important to lay bare the multilayered process of translation throughout which multiple refractions of the same piece are produced. In doing so, we hope not only to underscore the importance of collaboration inherent in the works, but also to engage a larger audience through a multilingual approach that de-emphasizes English as the singular target language or lingua franca of readership.


Maria Stepanova

Utro subboty. Utro voskreseniia

Все окна раскрыты, все шторы колеб-
-лются, и желтее чем дынные недра
Июльское солнце на плечи и бедра
Намазывается как на хлеб.

Лежать поперечно кровати,
И знать, что не надо вставати,

Что воздух напрасно готовил
Укрытья, ходы, колеи,
Чтоб я в эти пазухи вставила-вставил
Шаги и колена свои.

Равняясь в безмыслии с липовой веткой,
Лежать-розоветь неприличной креветкой

В морщинах пустой простыни.
Как будто не чуя ни тренья ни тленья,
Простым матерьялом без сопротивленья,
Бельем, а его простирни.

Движенье заразно, столетье железно,
Тем более буду
Под грузом субботы лежать бесполезно,
Качая свободу,

Как черную нефть из промасленной почвы –
Из долгих гудков, неотвеченной почты.


Все окна раскрыты, все шторы колеб-
-лются, и желтее чем дынные недра
Июльское солнце на ветхие бедра
Намазывается как на хлеб.

Не помню, мы женщины, или мужчины,
Иль мы разнополы, и кто – вещество,
Ловящее воздух во рты и морщины
И трещины тела едва ль своего,
В морские морщины сухой простыни.

Деталями в масле грядущего тленья,
Простым матерьялом без сопротивленья,
Бельем, а его простирни,

Лежим поперечно кровати,
Пустые сосуд,
Сознав, что не надо вставати,
И так унесут.

Что воздух напрасно готовил
И впрок размягчал колеи,
Чтоб мы в эти пазухи вставила-вставил
Болты и шарниры свои.

И как паровозы на ветер – пол-порции дыма,
В мельчайшее зеркальце, бьющееся невидимо
У старческих губ, проверяя концицию, –
Свою выдыхаю петицию:

Последнего воздуха маленький груз
(На зуб, на зерно, на мышиный укус)
Отдам дорогому заводу.
Сама же иду на свободу.

На волю, на вы, отрясая печати,
Иду воскресенье как мышцы качати;
Как нефть из промасленной почвы –
Из впредь неотвеченной почты.

Retrieved from: public domain

Saturday Morning. Sunday Morning

The windows open, the curtains bil-
lowing, and the July sun, yellower than the depths of a melon,
Spreads itself upon shoulders and hips,
Like on a slice of bread.

Laying crosswise on the bed,
and knowing there’s no need to get up,

That the air in vain prepared
Shelters, paths, and tracks,
So that I might place into their hollow
My steps and knees.

Thoughtless as a linden branch,
laying, turning pink like an indecent shrimp

In the folds of empty sheets.
As if oblivious to the friction and decay,
The simple material, offering no resistance,
The bedlinen and its stretch.

Movement spreads like a disease, a century of iron,
All the more reason
to lay uselessly beneath the weight of Saturday,
Pumping my freedom,

Like black gasoline from the oleaginous earth—
From ceaseless buzzers, unanswered letters.


The windows open, the curtains bil-
lowing, and the July sun, yellower than the depths of a melon,
Spreads upon broken down hips
Like on a slice of bread.

I don’t remember – are we women or are we men
or are we different sexes, and who is matter,
Trapping air in mouths and wrinkles,
In the cracks of bodies barely theirs,
In the saltwater wrinkles of dry linens.

Trivia in the oil of approaching decay,
Simple material without resistance,
Of bedlinen and its stretch,

We lay crosswise on the bed,
Empty vessels,
Knowing that there is no reason to get up,
We’ll get swept away anyway.

That the air in vain prepared,
And in anticipation softened the tracks,
So that we might place into their hollow
Our latches and hinges.

And like locomotives in the wind – fragments of smoke,
In the smallest of mirrors, beating imperceptibly
On senile lips, assessing the conthishons, –
Exhaling our petition:

Little load of the last bit of air,
(of a tooth, of a grain, of a mousebite)
I will give to the beloved factory.
And I myself am breaking free.

Towards volition, towards you, shaking off seals,
Sundays I walk like swinging muscles;
Like gasoline from the oleaginous soil –
From future mail unanswered.

Translated by Alexander Dumanis and Natalia Vygovskaia

Maria Stepanova is a contemporary poet, essayist, and editor in chief of the online newspaper Colta. In 2018 she was awarded the Bolshaya Kniga (The Big Book) Award for In Memory of Memory, a project focused on history of cultural memory. She is author of ten poetry collections and two books of essays. Her poems have been translated into English, Italian, German, French and Hebrew.

We have chosen this poem for our collection because it leaves the reader with the feeling of nostalgia for the time of pleasant, careless leisure, when being secluded in one’s home was the utmost degree of the desire to forget about the triviality of working week. Stepanova’s weekend poem includes two parts that describe Saturday and Sunday on a hot summer day. Saturday morning is revealing itself in the motionlessness of the body and the consciousness that is eager to dissolve in the lightness of existence. Sunday morning brings in the feeling of nostalgia and decadence when the awareness of brevity of life begins to overshadow the delight of physicality in its happy ignorance.

The visibility of poetic language that compares regaining the individual freedom to pumping oil communicates so well the hardship of preserving our personhood in the uncertainties of the precarious post-COVID world. This poem beautifully encapsulates that semi-conscious awareness in the morning of bed as sanctuary, the sweetest kind of nonbeing in a space uninhibited by burden or necessity. Stepanova’s images and associations stream across her mind, untethered, and remind us of something we too once imagined, caught up in a war between movement and idleness.

Prepared by Natalia Vygovskaia and Alexander Dumanis


We are delighted to present the fourth collection of Purple Ink dedicated to Fear. It seems that fear is universal, and poetry is the most desirable dimension to render it. Imagination allows feelings to spread incessantly through words and turn into symbol, acquire a newly born form, while hiding the potentiality of meaning. In the collection, we seek to show how distinctive fear can be, how personalized it becomes, how it is impossible to make one emotion a pan-cultural signal.

In the Argentinian poem by Alejandra Pizarnik fear allows the poet to break free and realize the tragic split between the everyday and the creation of the self: “Fear of being two
road of the reflection: / someone asleep in me/ eats me and drinks me’’. The poet is afraid that her poetic ego will devour her personality. Inspiration here is shown as a predator’s hunger for details, feeding the poet’s imagination. Marea (‘’Tide’’) by a Colombian poet, Carolina Rodríguez Mayo, approaches the same theme but addresses the fragility of the poetic world: “Don’t want to stumble and fall that merciless sky blue is in my dreams’’, she says and blinds her eyes in black, so ‘’it won’t rise, it stops dreaming.’’ José Martí, a nineteenth-century Cuban poet, a symbol of Cuban independence, resists his fear of physical pain by writing his verse, ‘’sweet consolation.’’ He proclaims that the power of the pen can stand against the violence of sword. Fear growing into terror, created by the disturbed mind, is what the Maupassant’s poem narrates, taking the same steps in poetry, as Edgar Allan Poe in prose. The Italian poem by Ada Negri is about the panic feeling a woman has, starting her new life after separation during WWI, yielding to its overwhelming nature.

And the days and nights to come
appear as impenetra-
ble masks; the livid past and present
weigh like a massive stone
on my heart.

The Russian contemporary poet, Alia Khajtlina, created a poetic narrative that looks to pause maturation and transform a poetic meditation about the brevity of life into a hide-and-seek game, where the poet reverses the flow of time, by counting from 100 to 1: ‘’Twenty-one – I live alone, twenty – both eyes on fire, legs scratched up, a demon in my ribs, thoughts are running bent down, somebody is waiting for me, somebody from the tenth floor. Ten – I finish the fourth grade, no need to make breakfast. Need to hurry up. In August I will turn nine. Eight – keychain on my neck, melting in the morning sun …’’

Fear manifests as a condition of desensibilization of the outside world and de-temporalization of social time. It is a congestion leading to failure, a psychological and physical sensation of immobility.


Alejandra Pizarnik
El árbol de Diana, 1962


El poema que no digo,
el que no merezco.
Miedo de ser dos
camino del espejo:
alguien en mí dormido
me come y me bebe.

Pizarnik, Alejandra. “14.” Poesía completa. Editorial Lumen, 2015, pp. 116.


The poem that I do not say,
the one I do not disserve.
Fear of being two
road of the reflection:
someone asleep in me
eats me and drinks me.

Alejandra Pizarnik (1936-72) was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina to Ukrainian Jewish parents. She was heavily influenced by the French symbolists, primarily Mallarmé and Rimbaud, whose young restless souls no doubt offered solace to Pizarnik, a fellow adolescent struggling with her self-esteem and drug addiction. Reoccurring tensions in her poetry include loneliness, childhood, pain and death. This poem is included in her fourth collection, Árbol de Diana, published after her travels to Paris. Pizarnik committed suicide at the age of thirty-six.

Pizarnik’s poem is short, but powerful. The poetic voice struggles with identity, specifically the split identity suffered by a being who is simultaneously a human and a poet. The human embodies the corporeal self while the poet murmurs an internal voice looking to break through. Are the human and the poet complimentary forces? Do they reflect each other across the mirror that presides in the reflection of their eyes? As the human walks the earth, the poet grows within, nourishing itself on the human’s life, its lived matter. Fear manifests itself in this tension, this clash between forces. Fear is the poet on the verge of breaking free.

Prepared by Mai Hunt


Carolina Rodríguez Mayo


entrecierro los ojos
para disimular las lágrimas
a hondas bocanadas
aprieto las manos
por tanta sal

miro alrededor
un color azulado
me ciega
me asedia
camino con los brazos estirados
no quiero tropezar
no quiero tropezar
y caerme

aquél celeste inclemente
está en mis sueños
bajos los párpados cerrados
un color azul
-azul de mar adentro-
ahoga mi cabeza

en tonos de cristal
y cielo
nublada en índigo
nublada desde adentro
que no puedo ver

uso las manos
como palas
las entierro en mi barriga
busco encontrar
ese espíritu inanimado
espíritu coloreado de añil

lo sostengo
arranco sus ojos
lo ciego en negro
para que no se eleve
para que deje de soñar
sin piedritas cobalto
sin luz

cegado en la oscuridad
aprenderás a caminar
sin mirar hacia arriba
con los pies cementados al suelo.


I squint my eyes
to conceal my tears
I breathe
deep gasps
I clinch my hands
by so much salt

I look around
a bluish color
besieges me
I walk with stretched arms
I don’t want to stumble
I don’t want to stumble
and fall

that merciless sky blue
is in my dreams
I lower my eyes shut
a blue color
– the blue offshore –
drowns my head

in shades of crystal
and sky
clouded in indigo
clouded from within
I sob
since I can’t see

I use my hands
as shovels
I bury them in my stomach
I hope to find
that inanimate spirit
spirit colored in woad

I hold it
rip out its eyes
I blind it in black
so it won’t rise
so it stops dreaming
with no cobalt pebbles
with no light

blinded in the dark
you will learn how to walk
without looking up
with your feet cemented to the ground.

Carolina Rodríguez Mayo was born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1991. Traveler and writer, she has a Bachelor’s degree in Literature with a minor in Philosophy. She has published her work in online journals from Bogotá such as Sombralarga and Sinestesia. She was chosen as part of an anthology of young poets, Afloramientos, los puentes de regreso al pasado están rotos, by Fallidos Editores. She was awarded the first honorable mention in the 12th edition of the prestigious Eduardo Carranza Poetry Award in Colombia.

Regarding her work, Carolina is emphatic about the openness of her creative process: “Writing is the only thing that comforts me. Everything I write is an invitation to dialogue.” When asked about this poem, “Marea,” she added: “When we want to obtain something, that desire can become overwhelming. This poem was written from the deep fear that dreams can cause.”

Prepared by Nicolas Barbosa Lopez


José Martí
Versos sencillos, 1891


¿Qué importa que tu puñal
se me clave en el riñón?
¡Tengo mis versos, que son
más fuertes que tu puñal!

¿Qué importa que este dolor
seque el mar, y nuble el cielo?
El verso, dulce consuelo,
nace alado del dolor.

Martí, José. “XXXV”. Versos. Editorial Tr’opico, 1942, pp. 93.


What does it matter that your dagger
stabs me in the kidney?
I have my verses, which are
stronger than your dagger!

What does it matter that this pain
dries the sea and clouds the sky?
The verse, sweet consolation,
is born winged from pain.

Cuban poet José Martí (1853-1895) was one of Latin America’s most notable figures throughout the nineteenth century. A writer, translator and political figure, he became involved in the revolutionary impulses of his country and has now become a symbol of Cuban independence. Versos sencillos is the last collection of poetry published before Martí’s death. Composed while he was in the US, Martí’s poems center around themes of freedom, specifically as they relate to the composition of poetic verse, which is affirmed in the collection’s prologue where Martí proclaims that his verses are born from his heart.

This poem is perhaps an unconventional choice for our edition on fear as it does not speak directly of fear itself. The poetic voice proclaims the power of the pen against the sword, affirming the power of verse to fight and stand again violence. Here, poetic forces combat, and perhaps defend, the poet from bodily violence. Written in the years preceding Cuba’s independence from colonial Spanish forces, Martí’s poem can be understood as a cry to arms, a proclamation of action in the face of opposition. Though circumstances might be dangerous, and while the creating of poetic verse may be painful, the prospect of suffering does not impede the poet from his work. The poet does not surrender in the face of fear.

Prepared by Mai Hunt


Guy de Maupassant
Des Vers, 1880


Ce soir-là j’avais lu fort longtemps quelque auteur.
Il était bien minuit, et tout à coup j’eus peur.
Peur de quoi ? je ne sais, mais une peur horrible.
Je compris, haletant et frissonnant d’effroi,
Qu’il allait se passer une chose terrible…
Alors il me sembla sentir derrière moi
Quelqu’un qui se tenait debout, dont la figure
Riait d’un rire atroce, immobile et nerveux :
Et je n’entendais rien, cependant. O torture !
Sentir qu’il se baissait à toucher mes cheveux,
Et qu’il allait poser sa main sur mon épaule,
Et que j’allais mourir au bruit de sa parole !…
Il se penchait toujours vers moi, toujours plus près ;
Et moi, pour mon salut éternel, je n’aurais
Ni fait un mouvement ni détourné la tête…
Ainsi que des oiseaux battus par la tempête,
Mes pensers tournoyaient comme affolés d’horreur.
Une sueur de mort me glaçait chaque membre,
Et je n’entendais pas d’autre bruit dans ma chambre
Que celui de mes dents qui claquaient de terreur.Un craquement se fit soudain ; fou d’épouvante,
Ayant poussé le plus terrible hurlement
Qui soit jamais sorti de poitrine vivante,
Je tombai sur le dos, roide et sans mouvement.

Retrieved from:


That night I read some book until it was late.
It was around midnight and all of sudden I got scared.
What was I scared of ? I do not know, but I was awfully scared.
Breathless and shivering, I understood
That something terrible was about to happen…
And then it seemed I could feel that someone
Was standing behind me, still, laughing a bloodcurdling laugh.
Yet, I couldn’t hear anything. O torture !
I could feel he was bending to touch my hair
And that he was about to put his hand on my shoulder
And that I was going to die as soon as he would speak.
He was still leaning towards me, closer and closer,
And to stay alive, I wouldn’t move or even look away…
Similar to a bird beaten by a storm,
My thoughts swirled, panic-striken.
Sweat cold as death turned my blood to ice,
And I couldn’t hear anything else in my bedroom
Than the noise my chattering teeth were making.

I suddenly heard a crack ; scared to death,
I let out the most terrible scream
That any living creature ever produced,
And I felt down, on my back, stiff and motionless.

In order to fully understand this poem, it is important to remember that Guy de Maupassant is considered one of the fathers of the modern short story. He wrote both realist and fantastic stories and novels, but he’s most remembered for the latter. Short stories such as “Le Horal” describe supernatural phenomena. However, in Maupassant’s work, the supernatural is often implicitly a symptom of the protagonist’s troubled mind. Maupassant was fascinated by the disciple of psychiatry.

In regard of Maupassant’s work and legacy, this poem is quite interesting as it is an illustration of what he is remembered for. This poem depicts someone who is reading late at night and suddenly literally gets scared to death. We do not know what the person is reading – maybe a horror story ? – but all the elements of a traditional horror story are here : the time (midnight, this magical and cursed hour when anything can happen), the setting (the protagonist is all alone in the room), the plot (a threatening presence you can’t rationally explain). It is very reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe, who could have inspired Maupassant to write this poem.

The reader can only see what the protagonist sees, but there is some piece of evidence showing that everything is happening inside the protagonist’s head: someone is laughing but he can’t hear the laugh, he can’t hear anything but his own body, and can’t see who’s here. This poem can be read as an illustration of how horror stories trick your mind and make you paranoid, as well as a mise en abyme of the reader’s own experience while reading this poem, but also in a fantastic or horror story. It emphasizes how one’s mind reacts to this kind of stories.

Prepared by Margaux Renvoise




Ada Negri


Paura della vita, a tradimento
or su me piombi, e il tuo nodo scorsoio
mi getti al collo; ed in me stessa io muoio
senza morire, diaccia di spavento.

Ed i giorni e le notti che verranno
m’appaion come maschere impenetra-
bili; e con peso di massiccia pietra
l’ieri e l’oggi sul cuor lividi stanno.

Da coloro che un dì chiamai fratelli
sì lontana mi sento, che a soccorso
non grido: non udrebbero: ahimè!…corso
troppo ho dinanzi a lor, con piè ribelli.

Ciò che fu non è più—ciò ch’è presente
non vale—sul futuro c’è una porta
chiusa, di bronzo.—Io son fra quella porta
e il mio terrore.—Io son quasi demente.

Pure conviene attender l’alba, attendere
con piè fermo, con fisso occhio, il ritorno
del sole. E il sol guardare, e il chiaro giorno
godere, come un fior—senza comprendere.

Negri, Ada. Esilio, Fratelli Treves Edizioni, Milano, 1914, pp. 29-30


Fear of life, now unexpectedly you overwhelm
me; and with your noose
you tighten your grasp on my neck; and inside
myself I die
without dying, frozen with fear.

And the days and nights to come
appear as impenetra-
ble masks; the livid past and present
weigh like a massive stone
on my heart.

Far away from those who, once, I called brothers
I feel, without calling for help:
they would not hear: alas!…With rebellious feet
I have run too far in front of them.

No residue of the past—and the present
is worthless—at the threshold of the future,
there is a closed door, made of bronze.—I am
between that door
and my fears.—I am almost insane.

Yet we should wait for a new dawn, wait
with firm feet and a fixed gaze toward the return
of the sun. And gaze at the sun, and bask in
the clear day, like a flower—without understanding.

The poem “Pànico” is part of Ada Negri’s volume Exile that was first published in 1914 by Fratelli Treves in Milan. In 1913, after the separation from her husband, Negri moved from Milan to Zurich; it is in this new and foreign city and in the midst of feelings after the separation that she wrote Exile, an autobiographical collection. The volume is divided in four parts, of which the titles trace the interior struggles of the author : “Solitude,” “A river among the rocks,” “Get up and walk,” and “Travel mates.” Within the fear of the war, in 1914 Negri left Zurich to go back to Milan, where she made crucial political choices supporting Benito Mussolini. After several collaborations with the most popular Italian journals, in 1931, she was awarded the Mussolini’s Prize to the career and became an icon among fascist intellectuals. In 1940, she was the first woman member of the Italian Academy. However, despite her success and recognitions, Ada Negri’s poems do not commonly appear in Italian contemporary literature manuals.

Should we remember or forget Ada Negri’s poems, given her political position?

The poems are cohesively organized to represent the process of Negri’s interior rebirth after the end of her relationship. The poem that I have here translated, “Pànico,” is in the first part of the volume. The condition of feeling “fear of life” opening the first stanza develops in the following verses and grows in panic. The leitmotiv of the first stanza echoes the condition of submission of the second stanza, of loss of hope of the third, and, ultimately, of the utter immobility described in the fourth stanza. At the end, panic has led to “not understanding,” which is a status of surrender that the author further elaborates in the following poem, titled “To understand.”

Prepared by Leonora Masini