Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 55

Yannis Ritsos

They had left years before
and returned afterwards
as strangers
without luggage
without bandages
Saturday evening in the square
soldiers high school kids
small girls
lovers and the man
with undone laces
stumbling over invisible stones
the train grows late
the dead waited around
tossed their cigarettes on the street
the mud puddles
were all shining
from a single moon.

Agrinion—May 30, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 368]

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 54

Yannis Ritsos

Water and coal
song and stone
the bird and its cage
it and its shadow
in love
everything falls
for the unattainable—
O deprivation O negation
antistrophe acceptance

Kalamos—May 26, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 367]

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 52-53

Yannis Ritsos

On the beach
torn nets
urchins and herring bones
yellow gourds
an oar
yourself and the sea
and overhead a seagull—
on his shoulders we place
the happened-upon words
and Euphranor's chisel.

note: Euphranor of Corinth was a 4th-century BC Athenian sculptor and painter

Calls of birds
Calls of swimmers
both blue green
daisies on the hill
undergarments on rocks
and those that blend into the off-white
calm inconspicuous
until night comes
then from your window
you listen
to the discourse of stars.

Kalamos—May 25, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 366-367]

The Shadows of Birds: 51

Yannis Ritsos

A pot of geraniums
at the gas station
a young man
with black hair
and muscular arms—
O what nurtured gentleness
what promised dreams
that pass by and depart
immovable within us.

Kalamos—May 20, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 366]

The Shadows of Birds: 50

Yannis Ritsos

The day was filled with cicadas
an old water diviner
carried a basket
of fresh white eggs
he wasn't selling them
he took them to his son
on the hill
where the woodcutters
fell large trees
near the river
all night
the homeless birds called out
the women who listened to them
found their beds filled with
large pinecones
and daisies.

Kalamos—May 19, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 365-366]

The Shadows of Birds: 47-49

Yannis Ritsos

Outside the wooden huts
a pack of dogs
tearing apart the dolls
of dead children—
meaning is evasive
in the clamor of the day
in the clean undergarments
hung out to dry on the rooftops
while Nikias
waves a white towel
from a window
and is lost inside me.

Athens—May 18, 1980

The quicksilver of the moon
went down slowly
a violin case
left by musicians
remained on the chair
two sailors stayed late
behind the statues
where the lights of passing trains
transfixed them.

Everything was done
without arbitrators
their hats
hung in a line
in the corridor—
the sun was shining
a gas station attendant talked
with a girl—
these and those
concealed the most essential
but I searched for it.

Kalamos—May 18, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 364-365]

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 44-46

Yannis Ritsos

The wing on the right
the other on the left
Saturday mid-afternoon
springtime leaves
the locked-up mirrors.

Athens—May 17, 1980

The cup of coffee
the teaspoon on the plate
three cigarettes
he tapped the table with his fingernail
tap tap and then another
will the drowned man
ever answer
from the garden well?
unless he's the one
who's tapping the table
with his one fingernail?

Athens—May 17, 1980

Scorpions on the floor
tiny wheels
drips of wax
the house smells
of feather down and perfume
the women
stand in front of the mirrors
using the combs of
the murdered.

Athens—May 17, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 362-363]

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 43

Yannis Ritsos

In the piazza of the church
the beautiful the downtrodden
a moonlit night
with his crutch he struck
his shadow on the marble—
the Metropolis clock
without any suspense
struck Twelve
unpoetic and

Athens—May 16, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 362]

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 42

Yannis Ritsos

Discreet lights of avenues
beneath the trees
a bicycler talks
with a soldier
a drinking glass breaks
on the pavement
the orange juice sketches
a broad-shouldered angel
with one foot missing.

Athens—May 15, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 361-362]

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Shadows of Birds:41

Yannis Ritsos

I'm not listening to you—he says—
I find the hill beautiful
the tree beautiful
the shadow of birds on the grass
and myself
beautiful—he says—
in the water or in the mirror
whatever you say
my part isn't diminished
in the river
or in a rose.

Athens—May 14, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 361]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 39-40

Yannis Ritsos

He laid his hand
on his knee
close to the river
a large strong
the river flows
filled with eels.

Something large
causes us to be quiet
something nearly unallowable
won't look us in the eye
a little derision on its lips
a little bitterness
it's May
and the street is full of
itinerant fruit sellers
and paper boys.

Athens—May 13, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 360-361]

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 34-38

Yannis Ritsos

The shadow of your body
upon the earth
takes up more room
than your body
I dress in your shadow
dark invisible
photographic negative—
tomorrow it will appear
all in white
with a black fingerprint
outside the frame.

They gather in his hair
winds bulls sparrows
an oak tree
its roots out of the earth
wind around his shoulder
cross the river
leaves fall from his lips
onto the water
cover up my reflection.

three porters
large timbers on their shoulders
with the sea in the background—
in secret fellowship
with the lights of the bar
with the departing ships
with the sad young boys
with the women in make-up
the one wearing
a long purple dress
is outlined keenly
on the white pavement
perhaps through a fault of my own
or for my own benefit.

Two old black pots
from a soldier's mess kit
among the nettles
near a heap
of white cuttlefish bones
and the shifty lizard
its one eye half-closed
is instructional
in this chance encounter.

Athens—May 12, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 358-360]

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 29-34

Yannis Ritsos

Time passes
colors fade
already a swarm of bees
obscures your face
your breast
I hear the buzzing of bees
of their shadows
when it pierces the regularity
of the music.

We waited—
it was almost too late to shave
but he went to the bathroom
healthy good-looking
with wet hair
dishevelled only partly combed
shining here and there
perhaps from the gleam of the mirror
only at the very tip
on his left ear
a white dab of dried lather
betrayed our impatience
and his own guilt.

Kalamos—May 11, 1980

The young people stripped
stayed a while in the sun
then lunged into the sea
the day was a blaze
it no longer had
or telephone poles
on the only stone
a pair of black sun glasses
that nobody wore.

The boys grew
their clothes became so tight
the bloom of their bodies
was revealed—
in chance encounters
at night
on the lighted streets
after they had wished us a good evening
they acted as if they had sinned
or as if we sinned against ourselves
looking with bowed heads
at their brown shoes.

He now knew
the other didn't have to
wait alone for night to come
in front of the three statues
he threw his jacket on one
his pants on another
his shoes on the third
and naked he pretended to be
the perfect statue—
except for that small glint of saliva
at the corner of his mouth.

A small white shirt
forgotten in the changing room
the wasp's tiny earthen turret
on a column
the guard on Stadiou Street
took a sour apple
from his basket
bit it
stood looking at the sunset
from the last shuttle
I watched him
the wasp and I.

Athens—May 11, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 355-358]

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 26-28

Yannis Ritsos

Despite your willful refusal
what do you consider beautiful?
three clothes pins on the wire
two women's slippers
in front of the bathroom door
or this one hand
raised to the forehead

May 9th the murdered
May 9th the flags
and Tasos Tousis
upon the wooden door
in the middle of the street
and the mourners
and an ant that walks
across his forehead
the slow wandering ant
that adds poetry
to the history of
May 9th.

Small islands float
though the golden evening
perhaps clouds
perhaps ideas—
on one a chair
on another an oil lamp
on a third nail clippers
that belong to the young acrobat
that are nickel colored
I hid them in my pocket
looked far off to the mountain
the silver colored mountain
silver like me.

Athens—May 10, 1980
Kalamos—May 10, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 354-355]

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 25

Yannis Ritsos

Maybe deaf-mutes — we said—
speak in a different manner
hear in a different manner
for instance
an insect sometimes stops
but doesn't fly off
suspecting us of
a secret intimacy
or how forgotten toast
burns in the kitchen
but blackens the entire house
with its odor.

Athens—May 9, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 349-353]

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 16-24

Yannis Ritsos

The field covered
with small yellow apples
the shadows of birds pass
over the apples
old newspapers
float on the river
among the ducks
and opposite the mountain
in love—
I shall arrive.

They stare at others
they glance at him
the town is pale
barbers grocers
stationers painters
two dancers
like one huge electric refrigerator
each and every night.

You went away
the night
flooded with horses
red and black ones
coffee-colored ones
and one that was white
entirely white.

The moon had
covered your hair
with golden leaves
I took them
secretly placed them
beneath my pillow
I didn't go to bed
I undressed your shadow.

Where did all these bubbles come from?
they burst on your fingertips
they left letter shapes
and other designs on my papers
a few like tiny television
one like a statue in a park
of a young pianist.

He bends one knee
lights five matches
led us astray
nevertheless I
have my shoes
well polished
I retreat before
he witnesses his victory.

Evening bar
dimmed lights
tall stools
a paper bag
of violet peaches
a red hand
on the nape of my neck
precisely because of this
I listen much more deeply
to music.

Clop clop clop
the stars fall down
General Kolokotronis on his horse
Kolokotronis at Palamidi Castle
A stone rolled into the sea
made a great splash
the door opens
I go inside
and stand before your portrait
I take off my shirt.

Mutual forgetfulness
he and death
after the rain
the women went out
to gather snails
they cooked them
for their supper
through the sky light
a yellow cloud entered
I didn't say a word.

Athens—May 8, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 349-353]

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 8-15

Yannis Ritsos

I saw the shadow of the bird
I didn't see the bird
because it was within me—
c o m r —it said
c o m r a d e —I finished
it spoke to me
you and I
are alike.

You asked the water
you asked the tortoise
you knew
they wouldn't answer
your question that
they were the answer.

A bucket of dirty water
the mirror in the elevator
an umbrella
drops of blood on the marble—
so many gutted fish
the words they didn't speak.

The women weren't around
I cut a rose
and put it on my jacket
later in the evening
the women came back
I said your name inside me
I have the rose.

I wanted to say to you
I forgot
always I forget
that which I want
however the mirror
in the barber shop across the way
is blue
and the bicycler
jumped on his bicycle
and rode away with
this blue.

a rembetika song
the soldier
lights his cigarette
the woman
came back without a sound
things you can count on
even if you changed them around
they wouldn't change.

Surely they left the trowel
on the top step
on purpose
I didn't step on it
I opened the door
I opened the window
with the circus was across the way
the lion might hear me
if I whistled
therefore I'll be handsome
with a black watch
on my left wrist.

In his pocket
a tiny river
five green leaves
and the stolen lipstick
with which a girl
first colored
his lips.

Athens—May 7, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 345-349]

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 5-7

Yannis Ritsos

in the empty room
the work boot standing upright
the other bent over to one side—
what passion do they point to?
what future?
the one standing upright
the other bent over.

He held
a leaf in his teeth
the river sang
a lizard glanced
I listened closely for
the breath of the horizon
I couldn't measure it.

The cement worker the carpenter the bricklayer
work in the heat of the sun
the house goes up—
out of clay
he fashioned
the statue of the bird—
it didn't peck at the grass
or fly away
yet it sang all the same.

Athens—May 6, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 344-345]

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 4

Yannis Ritsos

I hear a rabbit
nibbling leaves
its eyes light up
the night—
where I've found
I have a friend.

Athens—May 5, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 344]

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 3

Yannis Ritsos

A backpack
hung in a tree
I searched through it
neither bread nor feathers
hung it back up
the hunter didn't show up
a bird
landed on my shoulder
and spoke to me:
If you flap your wings
I'll take you to him.

Athens—May 5, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 344]

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 2

Yannis Ritsos

A small flower girl
gathering jasmine blooms
from the green pine needles
one by one—
little did she know how well
she struck the boundless
for the two of us.

Athens—May 5, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 343]

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 1

Yannis Ritsos

A sparrow walked by
across the flat roof
its one leg clean
the other muddy—
ahh this wonderful world—he says—
with its one thing and the other.

Athens—May 5, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 343]

Thursday, May 1, 2008

ID Card

Yannis Ritsos

The man that moves through immovable time with his hat
pulled down over his eyes and a piece of ice in his mouth—you recognize him
by his right hand which he keeps in his pocket
as though it might be wooden or hiding a brand new glove
or clutching an ID card he hopes he never has to show.
Though perhaps it's only the nail used to hold up that painting of the sea,
the one with the life preservers and the large lemon tree.

Athens, May Day 1972

Note: Ritsos was born on May Day. What could be more fitting?