Monday, February 16, 2009

Old Man Karas and His Son

Yannis Ritsos

Old man Karas has been sick for days.
His mustache ages and withers.
In his eyes it drizzles as at dusk in Thessaly,
a cloud from Bralos drags across his forehead.

His hands holding his head
are like the silhouettes of two fir trees in the mist.

Old man Karas has one son of flint-colored stone.
His son has two black pigeons hidden in his patched shirt,
because now and then his smile becomes like a saddle out in the rain,
when a broom of sunlight sweeps the new grass,
because in his eyes graze four cows
and a colt with a blue bead and bell.

We hear that bell at day break,
when the son of old man Karas heats up his tea,
when he takes hold of his father's hand and leads him out in the sun.
That son rolls up his father's rough blanket
and straightens his father's mattress,
like a small energetic puppy caring for an old sheep dog,
he changes the water in the bowl
he picks the burrs and thorns.

Old man Karas gets better—
because he hears that bell in the eyes of his son,
because the son hears the bell of birds beyond the mountains,
because we too are the sons of old man Karas, his son's brothers,
because we're all comrades.

Every evening, the shepherd's star tolls inside the tent
and the bells of the mountain sound noisily above
and old man Karas sleeps peacefully,
and we sleep peacefully,
only the son of old man Karas stays up and attends his father
lighting a lamp of doves above the rocks of our dreams.

Old man Karas, nothing frightens you as long as that lamp burns.

from Petrified Time (1949) [Collected Poems: Τα Επικαιρικα --- pg 290-291]

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