Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Small Occurrences

Yannis Ritsos

Diseases arrived—diarrhea, tetanus—
we placed the sick on stretchers bound for the sick wards
we placed the dead on tables in a long row at the sea's edge,
from there, just at dusk, they loaded them on boats bound for Lavrios.
The exiles take off their caps, clench their teeth, and stare out to sea.
They don't say a word, just stare for a long time beyond Sounios.
Night falls and the wind starts by shaking out a dead man's blanket.
The never ending wind that throws itself against this dumb vault of stone,
that tosses up the camp's thorns and waste paper,
that starts far out beyond the ships, that fills its pockets with pieces of lint,
that strips flesh from bone, an immense wind
that loosens the knots in the starts and lashes our hearts.

One bed, two beds—how many must go empty?
The silverware of those who have been killed is thrown into the corner
like a handful of stars, stars without names.
The pockmarked moon moans in fear all night long over the sea
like the creaking of an old shutter opening and closing in the dark.
Night drops its bundles beside the kitchen and its potato peels
and grief stricken beside fear, close to our hearts.

Later on the wind quiets down
so we can hear the stones tumbling from the mountain,
so we can hear the boots of the dead
and farther off, the boots of freedom
marching uphill as though from beneath the world.

from Petrified Time (1949) [Collected Poems: Τα Επικαιρικα --- pg 274]

this translation was originally published in the Great River Review

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