Friday, June 27, 2008

Midday Summer Dream: 5

Yannis Ritsos

WE HAD made a cart out of a walnut shell. We used a spool for wheels. We harnessed up two ants and heaped it full of clover. Please don't tell anyone where we are going.

The echo in the well listens and the caves repeat the sound our voices.

The sun burns the stone and a number of smokestacks send up plumes from the white cities of chamomile.

Wagtails steal our straw hats and wear them.

Now seated on the highest balcony of our mulberry tree they make fun of us. And we make fun of the wagtails.

We enter the whitewashed pen that is filled with weeds and a wooden cross, and we look for wild violets to braid into a crown for the girls' hair.

The road from here to there is straight, and the mule drivers sing grape harvesting songs under the immense midday heat of the sun.

from Midday Summer Dream (1938) [Collected Poems: Alpha ---pg 343]

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Midday Summer Dream: 4

Yannis Ritsos

BRING OUT the wooden pony with the red saddle, we'll pursue the shadows of waters before evening catches up with us with its long fairy tales and wintry fires.

Time doesn't apply when the sun hangs gold fringes on the doors of the forest.

Bushes take their green aprons off and bathe secretly in the river.

Afternoons, when the grownups slept, the children left the houses, rolled in the grass, bit the chaste-tree leaves and embraced the trees.

Everywhere, the woods was scented by naked women.

Large butterflies revealed the secrets of spring and lizards with emerald eyes eavesdropped strangely from behind the stones throughout the night.

We didn't notice the fences.

We prayed later that the jackdaws wouldn't say anything to our mothers about what happened among the resin-dripping trees.

from Midday Summer Dream (1938) [Collected Poems: Alpha ---pg 342-343]

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Midday Summer Dream: 3

Yannis Ritsos

NOBODY knew that we whispered in the ear of a butterfly.

Nobody remembers how it spoke to the dawn or that the flowers knew its voice or that the birds raised banners and trumpets and marched past like toy soldiers upon the road of morning light.

We almost remember when spring opens the windows and rustles the sheets of sleep with light.

The sea appears from somewhere.

Even the field draws closer like a green tortoise just waking.

Later the field goes back to being a field, and we the children that play in the field.

from Midday Summer Dream (1938) [Collected Poems: Alpha ---pg 342]

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Midday Summer Dream: 2

Yannis Ritsos

LAST NIGHT the children didn't sleep at all. They had placed a number of cicadas in their pencil box, and the cicadas sang from beneath their pillows a song the children knew from long ago but that was forgotten each morning.

Golden frogs, sitting up on their toes and not noticing their shadows on the water, were like tiny statues of solitude and tranquility.

Then the moon tripped on a willow tree and fell into the thick grass.

A great flurry of leaves flew up.

The children ran and picked up the moon in their round hands and all night they played in the fields.

Now their hands are golden, their feet golden, and wherever they step they imprint small moons in the moist soil.

But lucky for them most of the grown ups didn't suspect a thing.

Only mothers were a bit suspicious.

So the children hid their hands, their golden hands, in empty pockets to avoid being scolded by their mothers for secretly playing with the moon all night long.

from Midday Summer Dream (1938) [Collected Poems: Alpha ---pg 341-342]

Midday Summer Dream: 1

Yannis Ritsos

WE RODE the wings of swallows gathering flowers from the sky.

For us the summer wind had no secrets, as we walked barefooted on the grass and spoke to cicadas in the language of sun.

The fire burned completely and became fire again.

We wove flower rings and pretended to marry trees, the air, the first silence.

Every pebble knew us just as we knew ever star that slept in water.

At night, the acacia trees passed by outside outside our windows, they reached across our open windowsill and left a flowering branch in a glass.

We drew the cheerful god of the vineyards back to the large green fields, his beard dripping juice, his feet like those of the goat, and his glance like that of Christ, compassionate and kind.

Yesterday and the day before that, all night, we tried to count the stars.

The stars are so numerous, as numerous our hearts, only our hearts are even more numerous than the stars.

from Midday Summer Dream (1938) [Collected Poems: Alpha ---pg 341]

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 64

Yannis Ritsos

He saw the shadows of birds
upon the grass
he tried to measure the distance
between the bird and its shadow
an uncertain distance
later on
he set his keys on the table
closed his eyes
gave up measuring
he smiled to himself
inside the immeasurable
the obedience and devoutness
of mortality.

Athens—June 8, 1980

note: This is the final poem of this sequence. The Shadows of Birds, like other such sequences that Ritsos wrote, resembles a string of beads or a deck of cards, the small poems producing a cumulative effect as they arc through different themes and the poet's daily preoccupations. S.K.

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 374]

The Shadows of Birds: 63

Yannis Ritsos

Distant indecisive
hushed conversations
the head-lamps of miners
benches in the deserted square
a soldier
a soccer player
night comes
with monstrous fake
he hammers in a nail
he hangs up his clothing
lies down
the poem is left naked
at the corner of Koraki
and Papanastasio.

Athens—June 4, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 373]

The Shadows of Birds: 62

Yannis Ritsos

He dug a hole in the ground
planted the three nails
it was already summer
so many student rooms
stood vacant
nights on the avenues
the trees and two green lights
played leading roles
perhaps that's why the statues
squinted their eyes
when watching
the hookers
the sunburned sailors
the three young performers
one dressed as Iphigenia
another as Electra
the third as Persephone.

Athens—June 3, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 372-373]

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 60-61

Yannis Ritsos

Gray morning
Thessaloniki gray
two boys with bicycles
one without
the old woman with a basket
the fisherman stone-still
one ship two ships
gray to the fifth
gray woman
shelling chestnuts
one bites into an apple
gray —
oh saint of gentleness
after death

The others talked
scheme after scheme
Petros got mad
made a gesture at the sky
the rain picked up
the large posters were soaked
it poured off the band shell
in front of the microphone
the rain
recited your poem
not half bad
but rather beautifully
with small pauses
without running everything together
while the sergeant
and the five soldiers
left in the open jeep
for the airstrip.

Thessaloniki—June 2, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 370-371]

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 59

Yannis Ritsos

Beneath the trees
an evening of secretive birds
and their tiny whispers
a bed sheet
stretched out on the street
very white
still the boy from the restaurant
placed a glass of carnations
on the table
and another
climbed from the lake
sat at the empty seat
and ate
with the usual quiet motions
as you add up the dead
and forget.

Agrinion—June 1, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 370-371]

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 58

Yannis Ritsos

The musicians left
the last spotlight was shut off
over the stage on Stadio
there were only
flocks of paper birds
paper boats
and we with that restraint
hands in our pockets
so many stars on the street
so many cigarettes
Vassilis Panos Giannes
after midnight
the silent and the dead
folded blankets
under their arms
cast a glance down Stadio
and left once more.

Agrinion—May 31, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 370]

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Shadows of Birds: 56-57

Yannis Ritsos

Faces hands feel their way
eyes feel their way secretly
they had promised the others
on the street they lit matches
looked at their watch
already it was evening
an evening with posters and rental signs
with lit up street lamps
and the youngest dead
at the bus stops
along with Paskos
barely old enough to grow a mustache
what do you want? — he said —
I no longer sleep with women
I kicked the dry branch
I entered the house
very white very dark
not even one lamp.

The moon in the puddle
passing headlights of automobiles
trees suddenly splashed with light
a fragrant dampness
all stopped
at the same time
nothing their return unforeseen
only that beneath the plane trees
red chairs are present
red tables
and lamps in leaves
and still fluttering from the balcony
your mother's black handkerchief
my child — she said —
he embraced the tree
and wept.

Agrinion—May 30, 1980

from The Shadows of Birds (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 368-369]