Thursday, January 1, 2009

Toward What?

Yannis Ritsos

With age he’s begun to speak bitterly (which is strange—you’d expect
better from one so dedicated, loyal, and obedient) never sure,
about faces and events—somewhat general and vague, awkward at any rate,
perhaps even somewhat frightened. His hands
twisting, like tree roots in a strange cavern,
some deep place, not unlike our own. No one
believes him any more; they won’t look him in the eyes—let him say whatever he wants.
Not that they feared what he feared—not at all. A window pane,
high up, on the fifth floor, gives off a gentle brilliance,
it lights up his face as though he put on a mask of glass. And we
lift our hands to our faces as if they could hide us
or become part of a wall. Bits of plaster,
stones, dirt, small copper coins fall from between our fingers;
we bend down to gather them—we’re not kneeling down before him.

And in the mirror, opposite, something white, boundlessly white—
an old ivory comb inside a glass of water,
and the calm glow of the water in the glass, in the mirror, in the air.

May 24, 1968
Partheni concentration camp

from Stones [Collected Poems:I ]

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