POEMS

POEMS

  • 1984

    A Prison

    A prison

    --how did they reach us there? -- 

    a prison

    my life a prison.

     

    Without a sentence

    -how did they reach us there?-- 

    or judge

    my life a prison.

     

    At Makriyannis

    before you could even speak

    a British volley brought you to your knees.

    You looked at us sadly

    I suppose you were thinking

    how little the day lasted.

     

     

    In the squares,

    each one sitting by himself

    you stamped our fateful loneliness

    with your sad look

    who will tell the secret

    in our lost life?

     

  • 1981

    Acclamations

    Acclamations  (1981)

     

     

    The Acclamations were inspired by a lively conversation I had with the daughter of a customs official many years ago, during the German occupation.

     

    Her name was Kallistheni. She had two brothers: Vlasis and Polydoros. They lived on the opposite block, facing Dyrrachos Street. We met in front of the Gestapo barbed wire, at the Nea Smyrni turn-off.

     

    “Why don’t you speak?” I asked her

    “What is there to say in all this absence?” she replied. “You’re busy now. You’re mixed up in all sorts of things. You have your regular trips from Athens to Patras.”

    “And you are on the road to Calcutta. North-South-East-West,” I say, “have no meaning for us.”

    “And music?”

    “It was there before before you. It existed with you. And it exists without you. After you. But I am preparing the Acclamations  and what’s going to become of them?

    In forty years when they are played I want them to be played for you.

     

    But now:

     

    I have nothing else to give you

    not even to go to jail for you.

    My mind is two black wings

    to fall and to hover like a hawk

    above the barren earth.

    And you, I think, do not expect me to give you

    anything else.

    You took it all. And I think you buried

    it deep.

    Better that way. Not to see it

          and remember

    the great pain I planted

    once in those days gone by.

     

    Kallistheni would recite a poem to me

    and now I think:

     

    We used to get drunk on tsipouro 

    and rough red wine.

    Now they douse us in all sorts of stimulants.

    Polydoros died and Vlasis is a minister.

    Truly, how could you see me behind

    so many tall tales?

    How could you hear me through all

    the shouting?

     

    Perhaps our meeting was an accident.

    Just as, for example, two ships meet suddenly on the oceans

    and as suddenly disappear again

    into the night

    of the deep horizon.

    I don’t know..........

     

     

    *   *   *

     

    What’s more, I knew  I would never

    be able to erase

    the betrayals of others.

     

    *    *    *

     

    You have a cloud with holes in it

    for an ally

    a poor useless dry tree

    rooted in yourself.

    In your soil, without a name.

    It cannot uproot itself

    without being slaughtered

        by an axe.

     

    *    *    *

     

     

    Every second I will breathe fire.

    If you don’t know how to cry

    don’t look for your tears.

     

    Sotiris

    Somewhere in the blind alley a false door

    will be painted.

    A door that will open very slowly

    after the walls have disappeared.

    If they manage to disappear

    before the complete asphyxiation.

     

     

    *    *    *

     

    There in the Circus in Syngrou Avenue

    the clown called out:

    “Superfluous hours -- superfluous time

    paradisical hells

    refreshing conflagrations

    prudent miracles.” 

     

    *    *    *

     

    You passed by on the next street

    and you knew it all.

    The night made a mistake.

    It forgot its formal black clothes.

    It forgot its false mysteries

    and choked on desire.

    They found her at dawn

    but didn’t recognize her.

    Anyway it was all the same.

    You were asleep.

     

    *    *    *

     

    Walking on the hill of Philopappou

    Suddenly I think that:

     

    When the paper was a tree

    then it spoke correctly.

    Athens is different.

    It is not the Athens we know.

    It is some other.

    For example, in Athens there are no

    cars, supermarkets

    worthy fools.

     

    There is, let us say, an uphill road

    full of warm rain

    that finally ends

    in a river.

     

    I saw you there in 1943, during the Occupation

    with its wooden nights

    and from then on I search for you in each note.

    On Syngrou Street

    the churches are hanging

    from the peppers.

    On the 26th of March the doors

    open

    for the ACCLAMATIONS to enter.

     

    Each Acclamation another girl

    each girl another dead boy.

     

    What are the ACCLAMATIONS ?

    A round disk

    just as the nights are round

           on a round earth...

     

    We were walking on Euripides Street

    and the smell of sardines and kippers 

    hit our noses.

     

    The Security Police were following us.

    You said

    “The air is ashamed

    The stifling is ashamed

    The words are ashamed 

    The silence is ashamed...”

     

    What could I tell you when I knew that in

    thirty-eight days they would execute you

    on a chair

    with your back to Mt. Hymettus. 

     

    You see how much

    the void coexists with the void

    the hours with the minutes

    outside place and time

    on the dark ocean.

     

    Message in a bottle.

    Dishonest game!...

    I put it there and I find it...

    Only myself I can’t find.

    Because its exists nowhere...

    Only the Security police know it

    and now they are following us.

     

    At Patsias’s place, the cellar

    in Harileos Trikoupis Street

    together with Pavlos

    came Petros

    and my father

    who bought us all cod in garlic sauce.

    My mind

    was fixed on the park

    of Nea Smyrni...

     

    And now your house

    has become an apartment block

    and from the one next door

    a baby is crying.

    But millions will take comfort

    in dirty, guilty embraces.

    Petros has been caught.

    I’ve been caught too.

     

    How can you hear the ACCLAMATIONS

    in the prison....

    They’ll be searching for me for a lifetime.

    They’ll die in a car

    accident

    of cancer -- of influenza

    of unfortunate cowardice

    of cowardly misfortune.

    They’ll sleep deceived each night.

    And I who found you

    will not sleep again

    I’ll take root in song.

    And where will I take all that

    song?

    If only my friends could hear it

    at least, wherever they happen to be

    after our snack

    at the Patsias’ cellar in 1948.

     

    If you wish to know

    behind the music

    under the music

    silence can be heard.

     

    And don’t let the fact escape you

    that ghosts

    make painful jokes

    about themselves.

    On the surface of the

    explosive calm

    there is a pin.

     

    *    *    *

     

    Now Athens is full

    of luxurious

    aristocratic

    distant

    pain.

     

    With words sticking to the smog.

    The streets are full

    of superfluous hours

    superfluous years

    paradisical hells

    refreshing conflagrations.

     

    Our girls are filled

    with fantastic novels

    fantastic works of art

    neighborhood cinemas

    with perfumed loneliness.

     

    Our boys play

    with obedient miracles

    with illegal ravings

    at the root of their voices.

     

    We don’t play.

    They played us.

    And from all the playing

    we arrived at the zeibekika 

    and now at the ballads

    and now the symphonic pieces

    and we keep on running

    to make it on time, because it’s not only

    all these who are chasing us:

    gestapo -- Security Police - army thugs -

    agents of the junta - messiahs - ghosts.

    It is you

    who laugh and have rotten teeth

    but you also have a Saint for an uncle

    with a certificate to prove it and his own parish.

     

    And everyone reads you

    and they all see you

    and all speak with your mouth

    and see with your eyes

    even if you have trachoma.

     

    So there are your zeibekika

    and your ballads

    and bouzoukis and guitars

    and flutes

    in case somewhere, someday, something happens.

    Even though something

    will not come out of nothing.

     

    *    *    *

     

     

    And so you can learn.

    Or rather suddenly know.

    Know everything.

    Know every word.

    THE word: unbearable.

    THE word: sickness.

    THE word: hell and all who still fear

    the law of Silence.

    THE word: torture

    and THE word: sacrilege.

    Satanic dance without an end.

    Motionless circle.

    The iron circle must break.

     

    So that words will fly.

    Swim. Drown.

    So they’ll die.

    Until they find you.

    Become air.

    Become a bubble

    and without you being aware of it

    they’ll sleep in the palm of your hand.

     

    Dissolve and form

    another word without any trap

    without paper and pencil

    without your all-powerful Absence

    without the Night that cannot

    end

    and that will, nevertheless,  end,

    overcoming any resistance

    without the rivers of tears

    without the sacrilegious guilt.

     

    One word that will not contain

    silence.

    So as to learn.

    To know it all! Now!

    Now that somewhere you are writing

    and the pencil gets drunk.

    You read and the pages get drunk.

     

    You stretch out your hand

    and the furniture

    secretly shakes.

    Without your knowing

    that everything is crazy.

    You don’t know it.

     

    And I am drowning

    in all the rivers of the night

    Goodnight.

     

  • 1944

    Anonymous Phrases

    They embraced and danced a languid waltz.

     

    Later they paused, squeezed each other tightly

    and kissed for the last time.

    Strange thoughts oppressed them.

    They kissed again, mechanically, so as to extend

    who knows what.

    But their lips weren’t aware of flesh

    and their arms twined in absent-minded embraces.

     

    *        *       *

     

    Now I take the form of a mouse

    and appear before them. I dip my tail

    in ink and write on the window pane:

    “Destiny calls to life.”

    It seems they became aware of me immediately. 

    They soon recovered and became distracted again.

     

     

    *     *     *

     

    I open the door and see the mouse

    lounging about. The revolver has been forgotten

    on the desk. I look at him and say:

    -Did you commit this rash act? 

    He runs and puts his head

    in the barrel so as to block the bullet.

    But I waste no time and move away.

     

    Very carefully I collect a little of the blood 

    that was there and cover

    the anonymous phrases with it.

     

     

    Athens, 1944

     

  • 1969

    Battle-hymn

    Magestic mountains embrace

    the rocks, ravines, people, fir trees.

    They have seen hordes of Turks and others, conquerors; 

    they received the bodies of heroes

    and the curses of the brave.

    They are still here, the trees that shaded

    the sleep of Perdikas 

    and the cuckoo that Kolokotronis  never heard

    has come to nest in Zatouna.

    In vain the guards try to cage my song ;

    the ravines carry it on their shoulders

    and swiftly lead it to the olive groves.

     

    The mountains of Arcadia are so tall

    they dominate the sea

    and Pan’s pipes drown out the snarls of the barracks.

    Boa constrictors, orangutans, monkeys,

    they wear togas, carry scepters

    archbishops and commanders-in-chief  shout “Forward” 

    and birds’ wings rise behind them.

    Terrified heroes abandon the marbles

    run away from the verses of poets

    hide again on the banks of the Lousios,  in the springs of Mainalos

    sharing the shadows with the larks.

    Mountain guardians of your valor, my Homeland

    the battle-song is your dream and the rifle, your song.

     

     

     

    Arcadia VI

  • 1970

    Because I did not conform...

    Beyond the blue sea

    the blue sky

    a mother is waiting

    it’s years, now, since I saw her.

    Because I did not conform to regulations.

     

    Time comes, time goes

    I walk behind the barbed wire.

    Black days will pass

    before I see you again.

    Because I did not conform to regulations.

     

    Halicarnassos, Partheni

    Oropos, Korydallos 

    the fearless young man waits

    for the light of freedom,

    Because I did not conform to regulations

     

  • 1962

    Betrayed Love

    Midnights when the hours merge

    my betrayed love

    midnights when our hearts merge

    my betrayed love.

     

    Ding, dong, ding, dong, dong,

    marks the end of our love.

    Two birds, two doves

    journey amid the stars.

     

    Midnights when the sun is far away

    my betrayed love

    midnights when our lives are close

    my betrayed love.

     

    Ding, dong, ding, dong, dong

    marks the end of love.

    Two birds, two doves

    journey amid the stars.

     

    Midnights I’ll wait for you

    my betrayed love

    when the moon disappears in the darkness

    my betrayed love.

     

    Ding, dong, ding, dong, dong,

    marks the end of our life.

    Two birds, two doves

    journey amid the stars.

     

  • 1961

    Brave Lad

    The trees weep, 

    the bells and your friends weep.

     

    Manly at work

    manly at home

    you spoke and our neighborhood

    was full of birds.

    You stretched out your hand

    and plucked the moon

    just as Death plucked you

    like a flower one night.

     

    The fishing boats weep

    the waves and your friends weep.

     

    A stalwart at the oars

    a fine fellow at a party.

    Secretly the girls embroidered

    dreams, the sun, the moon

    for you, they embroidered their love

    and set sails on it.

     

    The sailors weep

    the clouds and your friends weep

     

    Brave lad, your mother wrapped herself in black,

    storm and cloud wrapped your friends

    the harbor was deserted, the sea abandoned

    and the sun stood still and moves no more.

     

  • 1973

    Dead Season

    i

    The great avenue,  the great avenue

    full of well-fed people was shining

    on the right the buses, on the left, the pedestrians 

    the gutters in their turn waiting for spit

    and the pee of moribund dogs

    the moribund pedestrians buying death

    ice-creams pumpkin seeds condoms

    right there under the sign

    “Shoe Shop”

    I stopped suddenly to look

    or rather without looking at anything in particular

    maybe looking inside myself

    and not finding anything

    nothing at all

    not lights nor shop windows nor sales

    not even gutters

    I thought about the great mistake

    the great mistake is that I thought

    the great avenue the great avenue

    the bus the dogs

    and the moribund.

     

    ii.

     

    Our age is maimed * it began proud as a peacock

    with flags and drums

    it breathed to death * it scattered jasmine and honey

    it caressed delighted intoxicated

    crowds of former slaves * now prisoners

    it deceived.

     

     

    iii

     

    The other person I was, I became again

    the moment when I met you

    when I believed that I met you

    while in reality I was living the dream

    of a Cyclops

    in love.

     

     

    iv

     

    You didn’t believe me * and I find that quite natural

    because I know that my voice * disappears

    on large horizons

    in dark rooms  *  and in mirrors

    and that saxophone

    you strangled

    looking over my shoulder * my forgotten life

    like some garment  * beside the red boat

    of July.

     

     

    v

     

    The flags the flags who’s holding the flags

    who’s holding the flags

    the banners the cherubim

    the many-colored placards

    with the passwords and the keywords

    the hot air words?

    They move on deep into the crowds

    into the crowds who are suffering too

    they retreat rejoice shout

    explode.

    And from the thousands of conflagrations

    conflagrations

    nuclei

    cloudbursts

    history is remade

    and out comes our familiar fellow

    the familiar fellow

    Mr Papadopoulos

    the one we all know

    and nobody expected.

     

    So much wisdom so much wisdom we had

    that we didn’t see

    we didn’t see

    --maybe we still don’t see--

    our most precious creation

    what cost us so dearly

    it cost us so dearly

    dearly and conclusively.

     

     

     

    vi.

     

    To learn to wait

    and to wait

    always learning

    and always waiting

    to hope

    and always hoping

    to wait

    learning

    bitterness.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    vii

     

     

    But when in the night the darkness recoils

    wounded by the flash of distant lighting

    in my lost life, lost in crowds and flashes

    came a distant light with the power of the end

    to signal the beginning of my life that died and lived again

    always ready for the great deaths that lead us steadfastly

    to the bed where all things end and all begin.

     

     

    *    *    *

     

     

    And so I suddenly the amazing vision again

    the beautiful procession which was nothing other than tongues of fire

    a fire that burned and was rekindled from itself

    and went on,  proud and meaningful

    always against the wind of the stars

    that whirled in the primal chaos

    and sank into the crucible of the great night

    that was my own soul.

     

     

    *       *     *

     

    How could I remain indifferent to this flaming crash

    made up of my elements, elements of dream and anticipation

    I was the crucible and the astral wind

    I was the crash a little before the crash

    and the fire and the march and the absence and the void

    so that in the end I was nothing

    and yet a glorious nothing

    a nothing much more glorious than a thousand deaths united

    almighty and splendid

    while they stamp with their bloody seals

    the blue vulva of life ever ready

    to accept the spear of the sun which is my other self.

     

     

    *     *     *

     

    I saw nothing, I learned nothing, I forgot nothing

    from all the nothing I now make my new face

    that, too, will be a new nothing but worthy

    like the bread they throw to the dogs of the highways

    a moment before they smash into the wheels

    and they’ll stay on their backs, stretched flat 

    after they writhe for a while but that is meaningless

    since the bread became blood I became blood

    and the wheels and the earth  dry me, and the wind

    of the huge trucks that drive steadily on paying no attention

    loaded with deception and bodies, the indifferent passers-by

    of our dead age.

     

    Finally I saw you

    it was always you first and last.

    You were death precisely in order to erase everything

    and so the alpha and beta could be written again

    but with a new meaning, unheard of, unknown and threatening

    which will finally call into question all that we have seen and not seen

    whatever we have learned and above all whatever we have forgotten forever

    so much so deeply and so bitterly that our memory has become the only

    the memory of our mountains covered in thyme and lentisk

    nests of snakes with ashy spots on green scales

    that look so much like unwritten words full of dark significance

    ready to spell out the meaning of love yet incomprehensible

    colorless scentless invisible and moving.

     

     

    *    *    *

     

    You came and yet you were the same

    as you would be if you were not you

    exactly as you were then when I met you

    and when I didn’t meet you

    and I will never meet you

    because I know you because I knew you and forgot you forever

    so you would stay in my memory forever

    shining absence and pain.

    And all that became a great wound

    big as a red plain

    with earth of hard blood-red clay

    with scant vegetation tormented by the great west wind

    because the wind of the great west

    that steadily murders the suns and the innocents

    those who, like me, remained with their eyes wide open

    bewitched by the azure in the red and in the orange

    waiting in vain for the colors to speak

    or to sing and be silent forever

    creating the Symphony of Silence

    with melodies made of silence

    rhythms and harmonies from silence and tearful five-stringed instruments.

     

     

    *    *   *

     

    And then on the plain of my bloody sound

    scorched on a thousand bulls

    came the plough which has the shape of your absence

    and passes and re-passes,  tears me apart and casts me down

    to the last extreme of feeling and not feeling

    so that everything changes and the vegetation becomes one with the earth

    so as to receive the seed of the first tree

    the tree that will bear the first fruit

    and nourish the first person

    and the first knowledge.

    They call you glory.

     

    And perhaps you will never know what you  always knew

    precisely because you knew it before its beginning

    and you will know it after its end

    and so on forever and forever.

     

     

    Buenos Aires, 1973.

     

     

  • 1984

    Dionysos’ Defence

    Greetings to you my pure white judges

    I stand before you.

    Out with your nails and fires!

    the terrible punishment

    must emerge from this assembly.

     

    Burn the verses, every magical melody

    that carries us to unknown, visionary places.

     

    Greetings to the mighty of this world

    I stand before you

    Out with your nails and spleen!

    like the mountains they hold hard metals

    and they make holes in them

    and wound their heart 

    but the heart slips from their nails and sings.

     

    antistrophe A'

     

    Armies prowl

    the summits of Dionysos

    to set fires

     

    They want to burn the god

    with his brides at his side

    and the boys at their dancing.

     

    antistrophe B'

     

    My Dionysos

    with your gallant feathers, bold lad

    you lead off the procession

    my Dionysos, 

    look who is following you

    Greeks and foreigners.

     

  • 1970

    Don’t Forget Oropos

    The father in exile, the house bereft,

    we live in tyranny, in thick darkness.

    And you, tortured people, don’t forget Oropos.

     

    The mother cries alone, the trees and birds weep;

    in our homeland night is falling, empty embrace.

    And you, tortured people, don’t forget Oropos.

     

    Penned behind barbed wire, but our hearts sound

    Always the same vow, freedom and progress.

    And you, tortured people, don’t forget Oropos.

     

     

    Oropos, 1969-1970       

  • 1984

    Don’t Weep for the Greek Spirit

    I’ll speak to you with a different tune

    don’t make me too angry please

    I’m trying to find the Greek spirit

    and this obsession makes me mad.

     

    “Weep for the Greek spirit now

    so you’ll get used to saying it.”

     

    In my uncertainty I look for an answer

    they avoid me, take me for a fool

    the Greek spirit is married

    she’s happy and pregnant.

     

    “Weep for the Greek spirit now

    so you’ll get used to saying it.”

     

    These words are paranoid;

    since she’s pregnant she must be fine

    with Karoudas for a best man 

    “Out with the Suda bases!” 

     

    “Weep for the Greek spirit now

    so you’ll get used to saying it.”

     

  • 1948

    Elegy

    For Agamemnon Danis

     

    A hundred raised hands wave

    and disappear in the dusk

    and you, lost comrade,

    greet and hearten them, as you sit

    on the knee of the sun.

     

    (Silence sinking with loosened hair --

    above the deep sigh of the earth;

    beneath the olives a cry

    of lament that’s been forgotten).

     

    From far-off Chios, in Petropoulis

    and from Asia at Ay Ilia

    we felt the sky bend

    and kiss our wound

    and you, lost comrade, 

    were a thousand birds

    flying South!

     

    And girls came from Daphne

    and from Steli, bitter mothers;

    from Arethousa and Vrakades, folk in black,

    and from Armenisti came old fishermen

    with hearts salted by sea and tears

    and they sat all round us

    and a shrill lament began.

    And you were the sigh of the people

    the wing-beat of a vulture

    that pounces!

     

  • 1943

    Everything Will End

    A day will come when the sun will not set
    the shadows will become light
    and the leaves of the trees will drip
    flaming blood like tears.
    Everything will end.

    God will appear covered in lilies and roses
    with mud and tears.
    Around him angels will shout hosannas
    and worms will raise their heads to the light.
    Everything will end.

    Men and beasts will quiver with happiness
    they won’t see each other
    hands will forget touch
    and the soul,  flesh.
    There will be a great light
    and the universe will ignite like dry grass.

    Suns and lights, thoughts and desires
    voices and silence, creature and creator.
    Everything will  end.

    Athens, 1943

  • 1973

    Fickle Bird

    You came in my dream

    fickle bird;

    in the darkness,

    East.

     

    I held out my hand to you

    I can’t you told me

    I want to fly

    to another sky.

     

    The years passed

    you left too

    darkness all around me

    and soft rain.

     

    You don’t value

    my love

    eagerly you fly 

    to the high balconies.

     

    You thrust a knife

    into my heart

    but my love

    always seeks you.

     

    Look into my eyes

    kiss me sweet

    and let your heart

    sing to me.

     

    They called you East

    and angels nurtured you.

     

  • 1973

    Fires, Fires

    Fires fires deep in the heart

    you suffer you suffer my darling son

    Fires fires because you know how to speak

    you suffer you suffer my brave boy.

     

    They took you on a journey,

    the boat sank;

    they took you on the oceans

    and the sea dried up.

     

    You were sun, you were day

    you were sweet dawn

    now fear has shaded them

    and white has turned black.

     

    The birds ask me

    what to see and what to say;

    only you, my son, know

    the pain of my heart.

     

  • 1963

    Five Soldiers

    Five soldiers set out

    to paint the mountain, they set out

    to paint the mountain, they stopped

    to paint the mountain, they slept.

     

    Five soldiers slept,

    the mountain eats them, they remembered

    the mountain drinks them, they dreamed

    the mountain spits on them, they were done for.

     

    Five soldiers were done for,

    the mountain blooms, they dreamed

    the mountain snows, they slept

    the mountain sighed, they loved one another

     

    Mother…Mother…Mother…

    Five mothers…Mothers…dear Mothers

     

  • 1946

    Five Soldiers

    (War Diary  )

     

    How did I find myself suddenly so distant?

    (I could never understand

    how much the moment when you sit

    between two fires can be annihilated).

     

    I had to defend myself so as to live.

    It had slipped so mysteriously from my body

    and scattered around me

    so that I was inseparably tied

    to reality and to my companions.

     

    We went on together

    bound tight by necessity

    with hearts changed

    from breast to breast.

     

    We weren’t permitted to speak

    to ourselves.

    We turned our eyes almost as one:

    on the far horizon

    a thousand birds were lost in disarray.

     

    We had already covered

     a great distance on foot.

    At that point where we found ourselves

    we could make out

    a red signpost.

    We wondered if it could mark

    the border that separates

    the past from the future.

    At that point we tightened the straps of our helmets

    at the cheek, trying to breathe 

    with the frigid air

    some thought that might hold up

    in this sad landscape.

     

    The roofs of the houses

    echo the sounds

    of our footsteps in fear.

    We see our tired shadows

    mirrored in the cloudy eyes of the sky

    as we move carefully ahead

    holding each other by the hand

    across the line that etches

    the brow of war.

    Behind the dark apartment building

    waits the hairy hand

    of Polyphemus.

    We are five companions

    holding each other by the hand,

    our hearts leached

    in the snow of night

    and the painted fields

    of spring.

     

    Soon it began to grow light.

    At first my eyes watered

    then I got used to it and I could make out

    my mother’s hand

    as it came to moisten my eyelashes.

     

    Sunk in the mud

    I hold my rifle tight in my hand.

    For a moment I felt my head 

    detach itself from my body

    and go to another body

    and then to another and another.

    The landscape was full of headless bodies

    and only my head moved around

    from body to body.

    What had happened, then,

    to the heads of my companions?

     

     

    Someone pulled the screen of rain across

    and I felt as if I were alone

    so I tried to take advantage

    of this moment to look at myself.

     

    (The clouds are not far above the earth.

    They have moved down.

    I believe that by morning

    there won’t be anything left.

    They’ll begin with the tall apartment buildings

    and the smokestacks of Piraeus.

    The walls will buckle and break bit by bit.

    Then it will be the turn of the houses.

    Finally they’ll demolish the slums

    and the wooden hovels at Dourgouti).

     

    Then, on the opposite corner

    five men appeared.

    They were five men of ancient Athens

    in heavy winter tunics.

     

    It was high time because the earth

    had become liquid and stormy.

    We crawled towards them

    and we all saw

    our City

    tossing about,

    rudderless and drunken.

     

    Slowly, completely unexpectedly

    beside these men

    we discovered we were human

    and we had a heart in our breast.

    The German helmets

    pulled low on the forehead

    no longer prevented us from seeing our eyes.

    My Beloved

    greeted me at the entrance to the park

    with her blue scarf.

     

     

    But it was futile.

    A noise began to rise

    from one side of the city to the other.

    All five of us immediately dived

    into the stormy sea.

    As we swam

    we felt our hearts bending

    for the first time like a cypress.

    We reached the avenue and could see

    the endless row of those who’d been hanged

     

     

    My Mother and my Beloved

    My Mother and my Beloved

    My Mother and my Beloved

    A thousand times.

    My Mother and my Beloved.

    And the shells passing overhead 

    from the boats at Phaleron

    formed a multicolored

    festive arbor. 

     

    The five companions were anxious when we were late

    but they held on strongly to our position.

    In the momentary flashes of the rifles

    one could make out

    the thin red thread that linked our hearts.

    The sky and the clouds

    descended towards the city.

    Around us the sea swelled

    and the waves

    burned the eyes in our faces.

    From the hill of Ardittos

    a loudspeaker could be heard cutting out:

    “Athens never dies. It is victorious.”

    But the dawn seemed as if it would never come.

    As they descended, the sky

    and the clouds rested on some high buildings

    and the smokestacks of Piraeus.

    And the sea rose up from below and caught us.

     

    Suddenly in the storm a light appeared

    and your voice echoed loudly

    before the wave could snatch it.

    It was strong enough to bear us up

    for quite some time on the surface.

     

    But it was already too late.

    Now, just as our hearts

    opened their doors wide

    to the love of the earth

    the vast sea suddenly dried up

    and the waves became black birds.

    Your voice was useless now

    that we found ourselves lying stretched out

    among the ruins

    with the others passing by and trampling on us.

     

    We struggled with the waves and on the sea

    day and night

    but we didn’t learn any more

    than what a crumb of earth knows.

    Ask the smallest leaf on the tree in our courtyard

    that plays lightly in the wind

    and it will tell you why

    we five beardless soldiers of December

    straddled the border of death

    with so much love.

     

  • 1982

    Gloria

    Link arms

    join hands

    mountains and valleys, take up the song,

    cities and harbors, enter the dance.

     

    Today we’ll wed the Sun,

    to his one-and-only bride, the lilac.

     

    Our Easter lilac, our girl,

    our fields, seas, mountains,

    mothers, daughters, slain brothers, fathers,

    a tree with one root, one source, one spring.

     

    Today we’ll wed  the Sun,

    to his one-and-only bride, the lilac.

     

    Longest  day – Defender – Defender! 

     

  • 1984

    Good Mountains

    My good purple mountains, cloud-dressed 

    Why do you look at me solemnly, heavy and depressed?

     

    Now I take the path of life alone

    However you search you’ll never find how pain hurts.

     

    And you, solitary children, don’t look at the world,

    just walk alone in your hidden arcade. 

     

  • 1976

    He Was Alone

    He was alone in the crowd

    he was alone in the cell;

    Late, you sang for him, too late

    too late, too late.

     

    He doesn’t hear your voice

    your love is dead to him

    your words are dead, your sobs;

    late the memory, late your kiss

    too late, too late.

     

    He was calm and handsome

    he was alone, an orphan,

    he was righteous and boundless

    like the sky.

     

    Now you call his name,

    you swear a fierce oath on his blood

    and wait for the hour of death;

    he is leaving us now like the rain

    like the rain, like the rain.

     

  • 1968

    High in the Snows of Russia

    High in the snows of Russia
    where the north wind blows
    the poor serf has been waiting for centuries
    for the blond race to come.

    They send us love, songs, 
    flowers and burning words.
    Others send men-o-war
    to the snouts of Phaleron.

    Slaves suffer and sigh.
    This generation’s finished too.
    Everyone’s promising us paradise in 1999.

  • 1969

    I Had Three Lives

    I had three lives;

    the wind took one

    the rain the other

    and my third life

    shut in behind two eyelids

    was drowned in tears.

     

    I was left alone

    without a life, without lives

    the wind took one

    the rain the other

     

    I was left alone

    I and the Dragon

    in the great cave.

     

    I hold a scimitar

    I hold a sword

    I’ll drown you

    I’ll kill you

    I’ll wipe you out

    I’ll toss you

    over my life.

     

    Because I have three lives

    one to suffer with, one to wish with

    and the third to win with.

     

  • 1946

    I Love You, There’s No Way Around It

    A

     

    I have black soil, pale soil

    blood-red suns,  white suns

    hearts with roots,  roots with wings

    cities with tombs, tombs with life.

    I hold hate in one hand

    love in the other.

     

    I am not some mythical creature.

    I live in pale blue islands

    and scarlet passions.

    You know me... You sense me

    more than you know me.

      

     

    B

     

    You know me.

    You sense me more than you know me.

    Oh, you will tell me

    it’s been a long time since we buried Bethlehem

    and the anemones on their tombs chatted

    to the pale girls of Sion.

    I have no demands. I have no demands at all.

    Only that you let me see

    the sunset in your eyes.

     

     

    Athens, 1946

     

  • 1973

    In the East

    In the East, in the East

    in the East, it sings so sweetly

    Ah! The little nightingale

    sings so sweetly.

     

    And it tells me, it tells me

    with bitter sorrow

    it tells me, it tells me

    a secret.

     

    In the East, in the East

    a dark boy

    cannot cry

    he just keeps singing.

     

    In the East, in the East

    in the East, the son of Theodoris

    opens my door

    and it is Sunday.

     

    In the East, in the East

    in the East say a prayer,

    the swallow has come to the courtyard.

     

  • 1962

    In the Orchards

    In the orchards with their flowering gardens

    like the old times, we’ll raise the dance

    and invite Death 

    to drink and sing with us.

     

    Take the clarinet and oboe

    and I’ll come with my little baglama ..

    Ah, and I’ll come too...

    You took me in the fire of battle, Death,

    let’s go to the orchards and dance.

     

    In the orchards, with their flowering gardens

    if I beat you, Death,  at the wine drinking

    if I beat you at the dancing and singing

    then grant me a night of life.

     

    Take heart, sweet mother

    I am the lad who returned for one glance from you.

    Ah, for one glance...!

    When I left for the Front, mother

    you didn’t come to see me.

    You were working for strangers and I took the train alone

    the one that carried me out of life....

     

  • 1973

    In the Tavern

    In the tavern you sit now without speaking

    the longing falls drop by drop in your heart

    you remember when you flew on broad wings

    now everyone kicks your heart about.

     

    Take your soul out again to stroll through the neighborhoods

    let your life be filled with sweet voices and lilacs.

     

    You were handsome as you passed through the neighborhoods

    at the windows a thousand hearts quietly melted

    in your heart you carried all hearts

    in your dreams the nightingales built their nests.

     

  • 1968

    I’m European

    I’m European, I have two ears,

    one to hear with, the other to listen.

     

     

    If a Czech, a Russian, or a Pole sighs

    mankind suffers, the sky falls.

     

    If a Black,  a Greek, an Indian suffers

    it doesn’t bother me! Let God worry about it.

     

     

    (High up there on Hymettos, there’s a secret).

     

     

    I’m European, I have two ears

    one only hears, from the East.

     

    Fascism knocks again on my door

    but I’m completely deaf to such sounds

     

     

    I have one big ear, the other’s very small

    and so I calmly reap joy, civilization.

     

  • 1962

    Lament

    MOTHER
    They’re bringing me my son, my slain son
    They told me they’re bringing him from the creek bed
    and I’ve come out to meet him.
    Do you know his name?
    CHORUS
    We know!
    MOTHER
    Do you know how old he was?
    CHORUS
    We know!
    MOTHER
    Do you know how tall he was?
    CHORUS
    We know how tall he was and how handsome and how good.
    MOTHER
    When did they see him for the last time?
    CHORUS
    High on the hill!
    Where his heart was he had a bird and it was singing!
    And they’re taking him to his friend the sun!
    MOTHER
    My son was wearing clean clothes,
    he changed them this morning before he left.
    CHORUS
    He knew he was going to a wedding. That he was going to a festival!
    MOTHER
    The festivals and joys of death.
    CHORUS
    He was handsome as a tree! Tall as a castle!
    Sweet as milk! Calm as death!
    MOTHER
    My son had some small change in his pockets. I gave it to him last evening.
    CHORUS
    He knew he was going to drink and have a good time.
    MOTHER
    The wine and celebrations of death.
    CHORUS
    He was stronger than life and more righteous than the right.
    MOTHER
    My son had love; they settled his score this morning.
    CHORUS
    Today they settled his score because he had so much love!
    MOTHER
    Do you know how the world will be without my son?
    CHORUS
    We know.
    MOTHER
    How will the sun and the day be?
    CHORUS
    The day a viper and the sun pain and the world an incurable wound.
    MOTHER
    They’re bringing me my slain son.
    They told me they were bringing him from the creek bed.
    I couldn’t bear to go any further.
    Do you know his name?
    CHORUS
    Jesus
    MOTHER
    Do you know his name?
    CHORUS
    Petros, Hans, Yuri and Liu Tse!
    He tied the sun to the end of a string and played with it like a kite.
    MOTHER
    But is it true? My boy was poor. He didn’t know how to read.
    CHORUS
    A, B, C, D,
    He’ll learn the alphabet now, counting the stars
    taking the bullets out of his skin.
    MOTHER
    Bullets, my sweet bullets,
    go sweetly into his flesh.
    Don’t hurt him too much.
    Go gently, so he won’t notice you and wake.

  • 1946

    Little Narcissi

    My chest expanded

    to hold the small jasmine 

    you sowed tonight with your thin fingers

    on my heart.

    I didn’t see you at all --

    I couldn’t make you out

    in such darkness.

    But I felt your eyes

    running over my entire skin

    and I could even sense

    the little narcissi fallen over

    on their blue-green water.

     

     

    Athens, 1946.

     

  • 1946

    Love Song

    All my thoughts are a flowering almond branch

      hanging at your window.

    My voice speaks to you with a thousand colors and a thousand

    secret shades, but you remain deep

    in the dream of your life, brightened

    by a blissful flame.

    (See the moons that melt in tears

    see the tears that flame like stars

    see the stars that resemble the countless hopes

    of those hearts whose denial of life

    has revealed their destiny!)

    And don’t wake up! You’d find nothing more here

    than you already know

    since even pain that marks the thoughtful brow

    of life with a star has denied himself

    and even he, tonight, has turned 

    to joy!

     

     

    Athens, 1946

     

  • 1973

    Mountains, I Bid You Farewell

    Mountains, mountains, I bid you farewell

    I’m going far away

    on a great journey

    without departure, without return.

    Mountains, mountains, I bid you farewell

    I’m going far away.

     

    I didn’t balk, I didn’t bend

    and I disdained life.

     

    Only one heart I hurt

    only one heart

    just one will feel

    the hard pain of parting

    only one heart I hurt

    only one heart.

     

    I didn’t balk, I didn’t bend

    and I disdained life.

     

  • 1962

    My April

    My fair April

    and perfumed May

    heart, how can you bear up

    amidst so much love

    and so much beauty.

     

    The neighborhood is full

    of songs and kisses

    my girl is called Lenio

    but I keep it a secret.

     

    My pale star

    my moonbeam

    my heart hangs

    from your delicate brow

    like a bird from

    a limed twig.

     

    My flower, my sweet flower

    and perfumed rose

    I’ll come to your mother

    to ask for her blessing

    and for the mate I love.

     

  • 1969

    My Name is Kostas Stergiou

    My name is Kostas Stergiou

    descendant of the Vizigoths

    the Ostragoths, the Mavrogoths.

    I live in caves,

    I trim clubs,

    I drink water out of skulls.

    My profession is death

    but for the time being I’m serving

    the big dragon who has sent me

    to Arcadia.

    Over my skin

    I wear a uniform,

    I have two gold stars on my shoulders,

    I hide my club carefully

    under my cloak.

     

    My name is Kostas Stergiou,

    descendant of the Marmelukes,

    Mavrolukes and Sosolukes;

    I’m a cross between

    Neanderthal and wolf

    but for the time being I ride in a jeep

    terrorizing women and children.

    I’m a specialist in searching --

    I search for children’s souls

    and distill fear.

    I impose the law

    the law of the big Dragon

    who has sent me, for the time being, 

    to Arcadia.

     

     

    Arcadia X   

  • 1968

    My Son is Nine Years Old

    My son is nine years old,

    nine winters nine summers

    we put thunder in his gaze

    he holds the seas in his two hands.

     

    He raises his hands high

    his back pressed to the wall

    they measure the sound of his breath

    and poke about in his small heart.

     

    As if we were living in a Jewish ghetto

    with monstrous German guards all around.

    Zatouna1968: we are living my third exile.  

      

     

    Arcadia I

  • 1947

    Night Song

    And while you were still in the Light,

    Night stayed awake beside you...

    And the wild winds raged above you

    when the still torn melody of Calm

    lulled you to sleep, ever so sweetly...

     

  • 1978

    Now that the Flowers are Dying

    Now that the flowers are dying

    now that the birds are quiet,

    the songs stay on my lips,

    forgotten love of my heart.

     

    Our ways parted one day 

    burdened with heavy clouds

    our life anguish and blight

    now in the frozen roads.

     

    We wait for the miracle now

    behind the dim window-pane;

    our pride has become a lament 

    a stifled cry of pain.

     

    Our ways parted forever

    don’t wait on the corner tonight

    spring is only for others

    our life is anguish and blight.

     

     

     

    Included in Journey in the Night, 1978

     

  • 1943

    Odysseus

    I return! I return! I return!

    My pores opened on my voyage through the sea

    that came and took root in my heart.

    And my heart passed through my body

    and spread wide, sowing in the ocean’s heart

    the sweet melody of return.

     

    I return! I return! I return!

    Behind every flower, every island

    and every lovely thing

    the divine vision extends towards me

    the one, inimitable, unchanging Ithaca.

    You could say that all nature was made only to hide

    its beauty like the thin clouds

    that cover the sun at sunset

    making its beauty more intense.

     

    Around me, in me, everywhere, the sea,

    laughing and beloved,

    mirrors the sun, the stars and the passing gulls.

    Every wave that passes

    brings me closer to you.

    Every single thing is sweet, so sweet,

    even the most unbearable pain

    when it brings me closer to you, oh my country.

     

     

    Athens, 1943.

     

  • 1968

    Oh Ancient Mountains

    Oh ancient mountains,

    mountains of Arcadia,

    proud mountains,

    intractable mountains,

    honorable mountains.

     

    Honor became dear,

    honor became scarce,

    honor is dead.

     

    A child suffers, my child

    and fettered, I look at the fir trees;

     

    I have no other hope except the trees.

     

     

    Arcadia I

  • 1984

    On the Tenth of December

    They’re sending the boy off in the bitter cold

    his hands are crossed on his chest

    he has no name, no family

    he’d offered his youth to the spring.

     

    On the tenth of December, a fantastic procession

    of dead boys and girls

    pass happily by in spring

    and spring covers their hopeful bodies

    joined in brotherhood with flowers

     

    As I look at the pale boy

    he begins, in my mind, a different journey

    for all of us who lived through those days

    and whose beliefs have remained buried.

     

  • 1962

    One Evening

    One evening

    they bound you to the cross.

    They drove nails into you,

    they drove nails into my entrails;

    they bound your eyes,

    they bound my soul.

     

    One evening

    they tore me in two.

    They robbed me of my sight

    they took my touch away

    they left me only my hearing

    so I could hear you, my son.

     

    One evening

    like the golden eagle

    he soared over the seas

    he soared over the fields

    he made the mountains bloom 

    and all people rejoice.

     

  • 1962

    Pavlos and Nikolio

    They’re taking Pavlos and Nikolio

    on a voyage

    in a boat without rigging,

    on a ship without shrouds.

    Fire burned the rigging

    a storm took the shrouds

    and the journey of death

    has no return.

     

    Together the mothers

    of Pavlos and Nikolio go out;

    they ask the earth to tell them

    and it drips blood.

     

    Those are not groans

    that come out of the earth,

    only a spring that invites you

    to drink and quench your thirst. 

     

  • 1976

    Red Rose

    Each morning we’d set out

    for work

    we’d laugh on the bus

    we were two young men.

    Red rose

    red evening.

     

    We set off one morning

    together for the war

    all of us sang together

    we all fought together.

    You were killed in May

    your blood was mauve

    it painted the sky black

    the season red.

     

    Everything was killed with you:

    dreams, ideals -

    we all became ghosts

    we live conventional lives.

    Our flags have become

    goods for sale

    our dreams commodities

    of consumption.

     

  • 1946

    Schubert’s “Unfinished”

    Three capsized moons

    in a handful of water.

    A broken boat  full

    of larks and violets

    I passed you and you were

    yesterday’s rain.

    I’ll come and find you holding

    a taut string in your hand.

    My name is Phaidon.

    I have nothing more

    beyond my raveled sleeve.

     

    I no longer suffer the voice of the birds.

     

     

    Athens, 1946.

     

  • 1947

    Seas Surround Us.

    Seas surround us

    waves close us in

    on the wild rocks

    they guard our youth.

     

    They sent our people

    the best young men

    to weigh them down

    with heavy bonds.

     

    We’ll stand up

    to the  guards’ spite

    steel in our hearts

    fire in our soul.

     

    Mother, don’t sigh,

    mother, don’t lament,

    the thrones are falling

    and the earth trembles.

     

    Dawn is breaking

    on the mountain,

    the enemy cowers

    freedom has come.

     

    Strike them brothers

    strike hard.

    When Markos  strikes

    the earth shakes, the dry land.     

     

  • 1943

    Small Fantasy

    You came like a gentle breeze and planted Paradise
    on our lips with a kiss. Then you moved on.
    Ecstatic, we watched you dissolve
    in the infinite light!
    Now nothing is left to remind us of your passing
    but our kissed lips
    that became nightingales flying, sighing, toward every gleam of light
    in case it might be you and your kiss.

  • 1949

    South Wind

    We’ve grown so hard,
    pieces of ash-green rock
    covered in barnacles and seaweed;
    all around me flew a song
    the smell of your body
    a little higher, a little lower
    almost one with the azure air.
    Look, now I’ll come back to see the spring roads
    the smoke merging with the little white clouds
    of sunset
    our small garden with its enormous suns...

    Are your eyes really as large as they were
    on the days when you disappeared
    in your green sweater, in the big harbor?
    How it seems to me as if it were yesterday
    as if it were centuries, as if they never existed.

    I am surrounded, almost free
    at night the bare branches of the fig tree
    point to me with your name
    the shaken roots call me
    Ostria, South Wind
    every morning she’s waiting for me outside my door
    with her ebony hair thrown over her shoulders.
    How can I only forget you so completely
    as if you didn’t exist
    as if nothing existed beyond you....


    *      *      *

    I feel like the sun
    as it caresses tired brows.
    How can I get used to the fever of the eyes?
    The seas encircle only our hearts,
    there are no islands, no loneliness.

    *    *    *

    How can I forget myself so much,
    become so much myself...?

    You disappeared behind the tall freighter 
    as we glided into the big harbor
    that was sinking, bright green, in your big eyes.

    How to cry out when I don’t want to?
    I was lost from every thought , every memory
    I didn’t exist except in your imagination
    except in my imagination where I didn’t exist any more.
    And now I remember the last red carnation
    in the violet carpet of the sky
    among the thousands of shining points some light
    must be protecting the quiet voices of your memories
    (on the garden verandah your father is reading
    his afternoon newspaper).

    *     *     *

    I sow myself in the trench of the sea
    on whatever shores, whatever suns
    my chain remains apart from me
    I have no boundaries
    to whatever suns, whatever winds
    South Wind, South Wind
    to the tired brows -- to the feeling of the sun
    to the deep pain of nature -- to the fever of the eyes
    to the bright green flag of humanity!

  • 1987

    Stop Laughing, Beatrice

    You forget me, your eyes closed

    lips sealed

    and I lose my way in the streets

    stop laughing, Beatrice.

     

    You laugh at me, your tears, water

    your laugh empty

    as the air.

    stop laughing, Beatrice.

     

    You hurt me, shadow in shadow

    you scatter like smoke

    and disappear in the streets.

     

    Rain, one Sunday

    when you bound me forever

    in your golden hair.

    stop laughing, Beatrice.

     

  • 1945

    Tell Me, Branches

    Tell me, branches,

    speak trees

    and clear streams, 

    tell me, before he died 

    did the partisan who fell

    wounded in the battle

    speak his mother’s name

    a mother who waits, wasting away

    who endures, suffering?

     

     

    Five Sailors, 1945

     

  • 1973

    Ten Brave Lads

    Ten brave lads from Athens took a boat to sea

    they headed for sunny parts, boat at sea.

     

    They set out at dawn, boat at sea

    they sailed the calm waters.

     

    Black eyes, black brows, and on their lips, boat at sea

    and on the lips, flowers, boat at sea.

     

    Thunder surrounds them now and a sword, boat at sea

    and a sword mows them down, boat at sea.

     

    All ten used to sing and laugh, boat at sea

    they were ten fine lads, boat at sea.

     

    But now the tanks surround them and a cannon, boat at sea

    and a cannon mows them down, boat at sea.

     

  • 1984

    The Bear

    A chain tied around my neck

    I’m a bear; I dance a gypsy dance.

     

    In the stadiums they train me

    to greet the angry crowds.

    Together with monkeys

    they make me bow to the fierce crowds.

     

    Silent angels enter my cell

    the end has come, the beginning is still to come.