Thursday, April 17, 2008

Twelve Chapters for Doftana Prison: 1

Yannis Ritsos

Here the rain's speech stops.
Here the glass barbed wire of a fruitless sorrow stops.
Here the fortune teller of silence stops
in the open palm of a yellow leaf. On this leaf
I saw the dry veins of a dead sensitivity branched
like the octopus of an underhanded courtesy pressed out of history.

Here the delicate hesitation stops.
Here the moaning of the sick stops.
Here words lose their uncertain sound.
A wall becomes a wall.
A comrade becomes a comrade.
The world is kept inside the comrade.

Thought is vertical—a line drawn across the ground
extending into the sky like a blade
drawn across bread, like the resolve of justice
drawn across the hearts of the wronged, like
the belief in communism drawn across the blood of heroes and martyrs,
like the sun's sword drawn across the night's heart.

Note: Doftana is a Romanian prison. Built in 1895, it was used in the 1930s to detain political prisoners. It is situated close to the village with the same name, in the Telega commune. During the communist regime it was transformed into a museum, which has since been deserted, due to lack of funds. The facility is currently used as a paintball arena; there is no evidence that the irony of this was intentional. Yannis Ritsos visited the prison in 1958

from The Architecture of the Trees (1958) [Collected Poems: The Timely ---pg 347]

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