Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Yannis Ritsos

We don't speak anymore.
We don't even utter our own song.

Kept behind our voice the noise of a parade
winding its way past a thousand doors,
while the people proceed waving their songs in the air
while the handicapped wave back from tenement windows,
it's then our hearts are flown with a thousand other hearts
like a shout among a thousand red banners.

Later, again, the cannon fire at first light
scattering the sparrows out of the cypress trees.
Transport planes loaded with fighters,
heading for the battle grounds,
cutting the sun in half with their propellors.

Comrades, they stopped our mouths.
We didn't have a chance to utter our song.
Again, a lot of dust remained in the afternoon,
dust raised by the black dresses worn by mothers,
as they return from Averoff or from Hadzikosta Hospital,
or from the department of transfers,
mothers with black dresses,
with their hearts wrapped tightly in handkerchiefs
like a dry piece of bread that even Death isn't able to chew.

Comrades, they locked our mouths shut.
They locked away our sun.
We couldn't utter our song—
that one that starts out simple, strong, and bitter:
Workers of the world, unite!

Nights when an illegal, mute moon rises above the horizon,
the shadow from a huge crutch is cast on the rock of Makrónisos.
We must make this crutch into a ladder,
Vangélis said bending to the ear of Petros
as though he pronounced the first line from our song of tomorrow.

Comrades, we're late. We're very late.
We need to let out that song.

from Petrified Time (1949) [Collected Poems: Τα Επικαιρικα --- pg 279-280]

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