from The Distaff

06-15 Erinna
Erinna
Greek
c. 500 B.C.

 

…From white horses with madcap bound into the deep wave you leapt: “I catch you,” I shouted, “my friend!” And you, when you were Tortoise, ran leaping through the yard of the great court.

Thus I lament, unhappy Baucis, and make deep moan for you. These traces of you, dear maid, lie still glowing in my heart: all that we once enjoyed, is embers now.

We clung to our dolls in our chambers when we were girls, playing Young Wives, without a care. And towards dawn your Mother, who allotted wool to her attendant workwomen, came and called you to help with the salted meat. Oh, what a trembling the Bogy brought us then, when we were little ones! – On its head were huge ears, and it walked on all fours, and changed from one face to another!

But when you went to a man’s bed, you forgot all that you heard from your Mother, dear Baucis, in babyhood: Aphrodite set oblivion in your heart. So I lament you, yet neglect your obsequies — my feet are not so profane as to leave the house, my eyes may not behold a body dead, nor may I moan with hair unbound, yet a blush of shame distracts me…

Unexpectations

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 90th birthday.

06-06 Dimoula
Kiki Dimoula
Greek
1931 – 2020

 

Lord what’s still not in store for us.

I’m sitting here and sitting.
It’s raining without raining
just as when a shadow
returns to us a body.

I’m sitting here and sitting.
Me here, my heart opposite
and still further away
my weary relationship with it.
So we might seem many
whenever emptiness counts us.

Empty room blowing.
I hold tight to the way
I have of being swept off.

I’ve no news of you.
Your photo stationary.
You stare as if coming
you smile as if not.
Dried flowers at one side
incessantly repeating for you
their unadulterated name semprevives
semprevives—eternal, eternal
in case you forget what you’re not.

I’m asked by time
how I want it to pass
exactly how I pronounce myself
as edging or ageing.
Foolishness.
No end is ever articulate.

I’ve no news of you.
Your photo stationary.
Just as it rains without raining.

Just as a shadow returns to me a body.
And just as we’ll meet one day
up there.
In some lush sparseness
with shady unexpectations
and evergreen rotations.
As interpreter of the intense
silence that we’ll feel
—developed form of the intense
intoxication caused by a meeting
down here—will come a void.

And we’ll be enraptured then
by a passionate unrecognition
—developed form of the embrace
employed by a meeting down here.
Yes we’ll meet. Breathing fine, concealed
form attraction. In a downpour
of heavy lack of gravity. Perhaps on one
of infinity’s trips to ad infinitum;
at the ceremony for loss awards to the known
for its great contribution to the unknown;
guests at destination’s starlight,
at cessation’s galas on behalf of dissolving
causes and the skies’ farewell
importances once great.
Expect that this company of distances
will be somewhat downcast, cheerless
even if non-existence finds cheer from nothing.
Perhaps because the soul of the party will be absent.
The flesh.

I call to the ash
to disarm me.
I call upon the ash
by its code name: Everything.

You’ll meet regularly I imagine
you and the death of that dream.
The last-born dream.
Of all I had the best-behaved.
Clear-headed, gentle, understanding.
Not of course so dreamy
but neither worthless or mean,
no toady to all and sundry.
A very thrifty dream,
in intensity and errors.
Of the dreams I raised
my most loving: so I’d not
grow old alone.

You’ll meet regularly I imagine
you and its death.
Give it my regards, tell it to come
too without fail when we meet
there, at the loss awards ceremony.

Love me as long as you don’t live.
Yes yes the impossible’s enough for me.
Once I was loved by that.
Love me as long as you don’t live.
For I’ve no news of you.
And heaven forbid that the absurd
should show no signs of life.

Of Happiness to Mortal Man

Bacchylides
Greek
c. 518 BC – c. 451 BC

 

Of happiness to mortal man
One is the road, and one the goal
To keep unburthen’d, all he can,
From loads of care the tranquil soul.
But whoso toileth night and day,
Nor day nor night permits sweet rest.
To steal him from himself away,
Or still the fever of his breast,
Nought will it profit, though he bear
On gloomy brow the stamp of care.

Marina of the Rocks

We present this work in honor of the 25th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Oddyseas Elytis
Greek
1911 – 1996

 

You have a taste of tempest on your lips—But where did you wander
All day long in the hard reverie of stone and sea?
An eagle-bearing wind stripped the hills
Stripped your longing to the bone
And the pupils of your eyes received the message of chimera
Spotting memory with foam!
Where is the familiar slope of short September
On the red earth where you played, looking down
At the broad rows of the other girls
The corners where your friends left armfuls of rosemary.

But where did you wander
All night long in the hard reverie of stone and sea?
I told you to count in the naked water its luminous days
On your back to rejoice in the dawn of things
Or again to wander on yellow plains
With a clover of light on you breast, iambic heroine.

You have a taste of tempest on your lips
And a dress red as blood
Deep in the gold of summer
And the perfume of hyacinths—But where did you wander
Descending toward the shores, the pebbled bays?

There was cold salty seaweed there
But deeper a human feeling that bled
And you opened your arms in astonishment naming it
Climbing lightly to the clearness of the depths
Where your own starfish shone.

Listen. Speech is the prudence of the aged
And time is a passionate sculptor of men
And the sun stands over it, a beast of hope
And you, closer to it, embrace a love
With a bitter taste of tempest on your lips.

It is not for you, blue to the bone, to think of another summer,
For the rivers to change their bed
And take you back to their mother
For you to kiss other cherry trees
Or ride on the northwest wind.

Propped on the rocks, without yesterday or tomorrow,
Facing the dangers of the rocks with a hurricane hairstyle
You will say farewell to the riddle that is yours.

A Knock at the Door

Lili Bita
Greek
1935 – 2018

 

A distinctive knock
on my door.
I pay no attention.
I’m surrounded
by permanent visitors.
They lie on the table,
the floor,
jostling each other
for room,
sprawling shamelessly
resting their bent spines
and broken backs.

The knock gets louder.

I expect no one.
The tiny harbor
circles its bay
like a slack, half-opened mouth
where the only sounds
are the cicada’s drone
and the endless rehearsals
of the sea.
Even the mailman
is under house arrest.

Peevishly, I open the door.

No one’s there.
Only down the street
two white-sheeted nereids

skirt the precipice
of my childhood.

I Stand for Anarchy

Katerina Gogou
Greek
1940 – 1993

 

Don’t stop me. I’m dreaming.
We’ve been through centuries of injustice.
Centuries of loneliness.
Not now—don’t stop me.
Now here forever and everywhere.
I’m dreaming of freedom.
Gorgeous unique anyone,
let’s restore harmony to the universe.
Let’s play. Knowledge is joy.
It’s not mandatory schoolwork—
I dream because I love you.
Big dreams of the sky, of
workers with their own factories
who contribute to the
global chocolate industry.
I dream because I KNOW and CAN.
Banks give birth to “robbers,”
prisons to “terrorists,”
loneliness to “misfits,”
products to “needs,”
borders to armies.
Ownership gives birth to all of it.
Violence gives birth to violence.
Don’t ask. Don’t stop me.
It’s on us now to make justice
the ultimate act.
Let’s make a poem from life.
Let’s make life an action.
That’s my dream and I can I can I can
I LOVE YOU
Don’t stop my dreaming. Live.
I open my hands
to love to solidarity

to freedom.
24/7, from the very beginning,
I stand for ANARCHY.

The Women Tell Me Every Day

Anacreon
Greek
582 B.C. – 485 B.C.

 

The women tell me every day
That all my bloom has past away.
‘Behold,’ the pretty wantons cry,
‘Behold this mirror with a sigh;
The locks upon thy brow are few,
And, like the rest, they’re withering too!’
Whether decline has thinn’d my hair,
I’m sure I neither know nor care;
But this I know, and this I feel,
As onward to the tomb I steal,
That still as death approaches nearer,
The joys of life are sweeter, dearer;
And had I but an hour to live,
That little hour to bliss I’d give!

Because You Loved Me

Maria Polydouri
Greek
1902 – 1930

 

I only sing because you loved me
in the past years.
And in sun, in summer’s prediction
and in rain and snow,
I only sing because you loved me.

Only because you held me in your arms
one night and you kissed my lips,
only for this I’m beautiful as wide open lily
and I still have a shiver in my soul,
only because you held me in your arms.

Only because your eyes looked at me
with the soul in the glance,
proudly I dressed the supreme
crown of my existence,
only because your eyes looked at me.

Only because as I was passing you noticed me
and from your glance I saw to pass
my lissome shadow as a dream
to play, to suffer,
only because as I was passing you noticed me

Because you called me shyly
and you reached after my hand
and you had in your eyes the blurring
– a complete love,
because you called me shyly.

Because, it liked only to you
that’s why my passing remained beautiful.
It was like you were following me where I was
as if you were passing somewhere close to me.
Because it liked only to you.

I was born only because you loved me,
my life was given for this.
In the graceless, unfulfilled life
my life was fulfilled.
I was born only because you loved me.

Only for your unique love
dawn gave to my hands roses.
So that I light your way for a moment
night filled my eyes with stars,
only for your unique love.

Only because you loved me so well
I lived in order to increase
your dreams, beautiful man that you set
and thus sweetly I die
only because you loved me so well.