The Last Day

We present this work in honor of the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death.

09-20 Seferis
Giorgos Seferis
Greek
1900 – 1971

 

The day was cloudy. No one could come to a decision;
a light wind was blowing. ‘Not a north-easter, the sirocco,’ someone said.
A few slender cypresses nailed to the slope, and, beyond, the sea
grey with shining pools.
The soldiers presented arms as it began to drizzle.
‘Not a north-easter, the sirocco,’ was the only decision heard.
And yet we knew that by the following dawn
nothing would be left to us, neither the woman drinking sleep at our side
nor the memory that we were once men,
nothing at all by the following dawn.

‘This wind reminds me of spring,’ said my friend
as she walked beside me gazing into the distance, ‘the spring
that came suddenly in the winter by the closed-in sea.
So unexpected. So many years have gone. How are we going to die?’

A funeral march meandered through the thin rain.

How does a man die? Strange no one’s thought about it.
And for those who thought about it, it was like a recollection from old chronicles
from the time of the Crusades or the battle of Salamis.
Yet death is something that happens: how does a man die?
Yet each of us earns his death, his own death, which belongs to no one else
and this game is life.

The light was fading from the clouded day, no one decided anything.
The following dawn nothing would be left to us, everything surrendered, even our hands,
and our women slaves at the springheads and our children in the quarries.
My friend, walking beside me, was singing a disjointed song:
‘In spring, in summer, slaves . . .’
One recalled old teachers who’d left us orphans.
A couple passed, talking:
‘I’m sick of the dusk, let’s go home,
let’s go home and turn on the light.’

from The Baths at Hamat Gader

Aelia Eudocia
Greek
c. 401

 

I have seen many wonders in my life, countless,
But who, noble Clibanus, however many his mouths, could proclaim
Your might, when born a worthless mortal? But rather
It is right for you to be called a new fiery ocean,
Paean and parent, provider of sweet streams.
From you the thousandfold swell is born, one here, one there,
On this side boiling-hot, on that side in turn icy-cold and tepid.
Into fountains four-fold four you pour out your beauty.
Indian and Matrona, Repentius, holy Elijah,
Antoninus the Good, Dewy Galatia, and
Hygieia herself, warm baths both large and small,
Pearl, ancient Clibanus, Indian and other
Matrona, Strong, Nun, and the Patriarch’s.
For those in pain your powerful might is always everlasting.
But I will sing of a god, renowned for wisdom
For the benefit of speaking mortals.

The Free World

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 100th birthday.

07-05 Valaoritis
Nanos Valaoritis
Greek
1921 – 2019

 

The situation in Vietnam
is worse than the situation in Indonesia
which is worse than the situation in Guatemala
which is worse than the situation in Haiti
which is worse than the situation in South Africa
which is worse than the situation in Portugal
which is worse than the situation in Spain
which is worse than the situation in the Argentine
which is worse than the situation in Pakistan
which is worse than the situation in Persia
(which is not good in any case)
and which is worse than the situation in Bolivia
which is worse than the situation in Brazil
which is worse than the situation in Rhodesia
(which is not jolly either)
and which is worse than the situation in Costa Rica
which is worse than the situation in Honduras
which is worse than the situation in Santo Domingo
which is worse than the situation in Korea
which is worse than the situation in Ecuador
which is worse than the situation in Uruguay
which is worse than the situation in Peru
which is worse than the situation in the Congo
which is worse than the situation in Panama
which is worse than the situation in Angola
which is worse than the situation in Greece
which is worse than all these other situations
because it happens
to me.

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.