Monday, February 23, 2009

Old Man Mitsos

Yannis Ritsos

Old man Mitsos slept.
Over his flinty mustache
passed the lamplight of Panagia.

Gone are his three children to the struggle,
gone are his small house and his vineyard.
There's nothing else left. All of his life is gone.

Old man Mitsos had one joy: that his children were members of the Communist Party.
Old man Mitsos had one sorrow: that he himself wasn't a member.
Old man Mitsos wouldn't sign a confession. So they killed him.

Old man Mitsos sleeps.
Three clouds in the shape of calves
drink water from the stone trough of the moon.

Old man Mitsos sleeps.
A large red bird is in his dream,
and a holy relic of the struggle sewn into the lining of his jacket.

If we searched his pockets perhaps we'd even find
a small field of corn
or the shade of a poplar tree beside a river.

Inside his tied-up handkerchief he had kept
a wedding ring and a newspaper clipping
that announced the execution of his eldest son.

Old man Mitsos tell your son it's ok.
You know how you'll tell the others of Roumeli,
tell him it's ok. We take in everyone we believe in.

We're not asking much—just wiggle your mustache a little.
So that we know he knows. Goodbye old man Mitsos.
He'll understand. So long old man Mitsos.

Leave your cane here. It's needed.
We'll use it to fly a red flag.
Depend on it, old man Mitsos, dark dark red.

Good bye Mitsos—it will be red
like the blood of your children who were killed by the fascists
like the blood of all those who struggle in the world.

So long old man Mitsos.
So long comrade Mitsos—don't worry.
Your application has been accepted by the Party.

And today the light is very great,
great as the oath of a Revolutionary
who's committed forever.

from Petrified Time (1949) [Collected Poems: Τα Επικαιρικα --- pg 283-284]

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