Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Yannis Ritsos

The flapping of the tent over our sleep—
sleep cut to pieces by the wind:
a landscape half black, half pale,
an amputated limb in search of its body
and a diviner rapping against the stone—testing it;
death rapping against our hearts—testing it.

Someone mutters in his sleep.
Another cries out as if wounded in battle.
The others don't hear him. They're sleeping.
Have they not died as well?
Then the same voice crying out, Water, water.

It's nothing. Go back to sleep.
Tomorrow I'll carry you a well in my arms,
I'll carry you a river, tomorrow. Go back to sleep.
It isn't a ship. It's only the wind.
The corridor with tiles, half black, half yellow
and the crutches of night in the corridor.

It's nothing. It's the wind. Go back to sleep.
The resistence of stretched rope.
The rope holds—the resolve holds.
It doesn't break in half. Panagia of the Moon
walks barefooted through the tent.

In such wind what do you want?—someone mutters.
The words of the dying are cut off in the middle.
What do you want? What do you want?
What could the moon want in a tent of old men?
The moon has a pocket knife
in order to harvest grape leaves from old man Mitsos' wooden chest.
The moon with two small Sabbaths in her eyes.

What shall we use this knife for?
There's a vein in the wrist above the hand—it's not there—
deep within is a pulse, deep within,
and the rope that fights with wind—
oo—oo, oo son—old Moon,
don't cut these ropes
put down your knife—and be gone,
go to the sick children to sell your silver crosses.
Inside those wide shoes are your slender feet.
Your feet aren't able to drag
the heavy shoes of comrades.

She bends over and measures them
to calculate the distance they have traveled,
the distance they have still to travel,
the distance that has no end.
These boots, patched and heavy,
aren't for your feet, Moon.
These boots traveled through pain,
traveled through death, old Moon,
without stumbling.

So be gone, moon, traveler from a distant place.

from Petrified Time (1949) [Collected Poems: Τα Επικαιρικα --- pg 281-282]

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