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      Translated by Yannis Goumas
                                                If anyone in the audience wishes to stay
                                      with the birds and have a good time
                                      from now on, let him approach.
                                                          -- Aristophanes, "Birds".        
First the muse
Then I too began
        to write
Word after word
for a poem to be
Poem after poem
for me to fade into them
        as a muse
But when I write
without recalling
that I too was a muse
I am really crushed
and I recall
the reason for writing
that I no longer exist
as a muse
        I think 

October mist
boding winter
Gifts given me
melt the ice
There’s sorrow in my heart
older than my heart
older than the ages
Tell me why it should now sink away
I’ve loved you these many years
without ever seeing you
October mist
you screen the age

I want to say something
To say something again
Write another sketchy poem
Because, how shall I put it,
I no longer know why I suffer
I no longer have anything to forget
A glorious Monday evening
When does the moon wax?
I too received an invitation
I may come
        or I may not
Whichever way
        I love you
I’ll observe all goings-on
As tonight speaking
        from Karneádou Street
where news from Hades
        jarred my soul
My feeling tells me
it’ll be a lovely evening
Your other side beckoned me
        from beyond
Soirée packed with angels and demons
I see the connoisseurs’
        vacant look

The image of my early years
had the greyness of rain
Toys I never played with:
trash of the ages
And earlier still and farther away:
the monotony of city planners
My snow-white chapel
you couldn’t erase ugliness
It had the greyness of rain
though the sun shone often
and lit the scenery
where lay dead
        the friend

Effective method
Both old and wise
Everywhere and always mum’s the word
An all-time classic recipe
And be you sweet-voiced as they say
and men fall for you because of your voice
again opt for silence
Else read to them ordinary things
phone bills, electricity bills
package tours
and all sorts of throwaways
distributed in Attica
But should you need to talk
about matters of real importance
save your souled words
for people worthy of being chosen
Of the chosen, choicest
is your brief life
Since early morning the trumpets blared forth
It is finished
The king was forced to abdicate and another will come
to take his place from the western royal officia
It is the dawn of the West
So declare famous and/or faceless
of a tiny nation lacking memory
And there is such a hush, I dread
the moment the ex-king arrives at the palace
Of the ladies-in-waiting, I can see half of them fainting
and those plucky deathly-pale ones
hastening to sort out the ex-king's belongings
The give-and-take ceremony will take place in one hour
In about fifteen minutes the new ladies-in-waiting will arrive
all ready for a good beginning that is half the battle
that is, getting rid of the ex-king's courtiers
Silence reigns supreme
The ex-king's statement is heard
He is reading a short address by his predecessor
which in his fluster he forgot
to discard
In the absence of efficient peers
it was the ex-king's sleuthhounds that found it
The ladies-in-waiting had changed the names, the dates
and added a few lines
for their benefit:
"Being so very fragile
my dear ladies
I shall pack you prematurely
among the fragile
furnishings of my palace."

Left right
At a slow
sad pace
Friends send you to sleep
my love
I too kiss you sleeping             
The course of the sorrowful leaves you
pale in the earth’s depths
Left right
             Don’t be afraid of the crowd
Left right
             I’m also in the crowd
I ask
        who drives the oblivion of your loss
I ask
        and forget what they say
Left right
             I break away from the crowd
Left right
             I cast my present into the future
I approach two stone lips
longing for a luscious kiss 

And on reaching danger
I was in less danger
Our past days’
kisses in flames
Our statues’ lips
effaced by ice
How are you to wake
a pale marble body
Gush of lava you’ll say
Play for what
        and fail 

Hasty spring’s
decisive and branded fault
A flame you were that blew out
miracle of early youth
Who reckoned I’d see the outcome
        and succumb
I have another half a century
to wipe out
        your writing

I feel worn out just by hearing about
diplomas, further education and linguistics
not verbally but on paper
Cambridge proficiency if you please
and Kleine and Sorbonne and Superiore
and above all doctorates
years of study in Northern metropolises
et cetera et cetera 
Diplomas, certificates, decisions and guarantees
And so on and so forth
This poem is deadly dull
But there’s a tailpiece which may be of interest
I’m also aware of trips to your other Europe
for fucking and shopping in London 

Country of origin: the furthermost
Time of delivery: morning
Melodious chirping day and night
Songbirds sing sweetly even in the deepest
Countless years have passed
but I still recall it
They’ll call post-modern
what we’re struggling with for sixty years
It is both modern and old
They’ll go to study it in
        London and Paris
And many volumes will be written
by grown-up boys and girls
Emotional songs of every time 
        and place
You’ll be favoured with the criticism of repatriated
Whether talented or not
for years I’ve been hearing your name
I know whom you know
and your dreams flicker

Fasting of meat, eggs and all fleshy
Wednesday and Friday: no olive oil
The final week, the Holy one: ditto
However, olives without oil are not excluded
Seafood is also allowed except for fish
Please beware of side effects
They drive bodies to male seduction
And bye-bye to sense and bye-bye to senselessness
Better not talk
Better alone at home
I’d even say better not breathe
That’s what you call obedience, humility, submission
And come you wanton spring
I’ll fight it out with you
I’ll cross swords with half of my acquaintances
Iron-willed, nothing will make me break my fast
I’ll stick to my guns

Weeks of drought
Wintry weather
Christmastide is over
Mardi Gras has arrived
A sun of angels
amid the sun of demons
makes us shine without it shining
in this populous city
where people come and go
where people live and suffer
praying for rain
to come down in sheets
Weeks of drought
Wintry weather
Mardi Gras is over
Spring is in the air they say
And in spring it’ll
piss down
a mixture of two types of tears
the angels’ crystalline
and the demons’ spittle
The beginning of dampness
an odd rain
on the populous city
that maintains us pallid

A small world
of colours and words
Myself a dot
among the earthly experts
Wan emigrés
of mother earth
my touch’s continuance
I’ll be seeing you on Tuesday
A small world
a trivial trio
and I see no reason
for bidding you “Good-bye”
And he photographed the photographer
And he made a poem of the poet
In the end he presented his mistress
As an X film
My, how shameful!  

It’s been ten years
since with the best intentions
I saw him being introduced
after due selection
as a promising
young poet
It’s been ten before the ten years
of the honorary introduction
that with the best intentions
I read his poems
in the Sunday press
It’s been ten plus ten years
if not more
that with the best intentions
he has become all the more known   
as a promising young poet
It’s been twenty plus ten years
and the now middle-aged poet
has learned to his chagrin
the synonyms of “young”
the harrowing phrase being
“Poet of juvenilia
who aged a juvenile”

-- And for poetry?
-- What about poetry?
-- Who won it?
-- Prize-winning hatred dreams glory life
-- Did we inspire you or did you
   forget us in the light?
-- My breath, look
   in the depth of your memory
   it faded away
   Such was the cost of such harm
   I write You write
   Songs of sorrow
   Tell me do you want
   shattered unanswered words
   from yesterday
-- And poetry?
-- Yes, poetry was to find
   what you forgot though it hurt you
   whether you like it or not

YEAR 3003
-- Officia in the land of snakes
Vast land
I quiver
Which poet are you honouring now?
-- Someone who died late
We had almost forgotten him
-- The lights went out tragically
Whose turn is it to grow old?
-- Numerous tributes
Generations of late century decades
-- What a mad panic this is
Who is flirting me from inside his grave?  
-- The lover The poet
Who else do you know
-- My dying good man
I’m making a dress for the big hour
and stand, pretty-pretty,
covering you with handfuls
of earth

-- The other day something
sneaked into
the lechers' bedroom
crying for joy
-- It left no trace on the scene
-- Might this have happened in a dream
and all is pure
as if irrelevant?
-- You delude yourself Look at
the wretched faces
in the other spaces
The back stairs lead
to the irrationals' lust 

What I’m going through
What we’re going through
Life of my dreams
Are you taking us or do we take you
White skirts of my artless
Along with you rusted my chastity
Truthfully, there was a time
when I was no monster
but a staunch friend
Mysterious though it seems
        I'm telling the truth 
when I say that I didn't always drip deadly
My white skirts
how black you have become
What sorrow wore you
which wears me out at night
What I’m going through
What we’re going through
Life of my dreams
You are taking us not we you

There was a time
in my life when I’m sorry to say
I was afraid to consider
        my resistance
They’d say “What a mousy creature!”
to my lover
I said “I’ll find justice
in my psychoanalyst
What I once envied
how it scares me now!
Is it serious doctor
that I crave for you here and now?”
And as you rightly guessed
he ceased psychoanalyzing me
and made me his mistress
How shall I say it… It was for the best
There was a time
in my life when
I even feared being afraid
        of my being
They’d say “What an insecure creature!
What a neurotic being!”
Till in my great panic
my extreme fear
I saw your ashes 
in the mirror
What I once loved
I no longer recognize
Isn’t it serious doctor
that I hate you here and now

All women are alike
Holier-than-thou on their first dates
making sure there’s no inkling
of unchastity or churlishness
And you sharing
divine moments with one
My, what passion overflowed
sating your life
But happy days
don’t last for ages
And if you think seriously about it
how long can they last
For two months you were sweet on a woman
for three you laid siege to her
and on the fourth
you have it off with her
You think passionate
love affairs recur?
One day you’ll tire of her
and maybe she of you
Not all ahs and ohs
will be sincere
That’s why don’t be surprised
if she asks you for a solitaire
trips abroad and marriage
If she wants to ramble in illuminated Athens
and not wanting, no longer desiring
to be with you
she'll feign a back pain or a headache
Such are all of them and methinks
I’ll about-face
and become an opinion maker
and gay… if I like it  

From the source of discontent total silence
No look of mine glum
No desire unfulfilled
Decades of a wonderful life
Insincerely I continued writing verses
Insincerely you read them too
I hadn’t a single pain in my soul
My only pain was
                         that without pain
I wrote poems of pain

The same woman The grey woman
Of grey love afairs Of grey times
With grey dresses
and grey hats
Without the support of grey men
The same woman The other woman
snow-white of olden days 

A breath away from the monster
And no fire from his mouth
Neither a ghastly sight
Nor sound or silence
On the contrary
And when he looks you in the eyes
make sure you remain calm
He doesn’t cause fear
he doesn’t scream or rave
How shall I say it, he doesn’t hurt you
he simply sucks your toil
day and night
And it’s true what they say
that he’s a good-looking monster
A look that on seeing it you forget
the words of our National Anthem
how you are paid
your childhood prayers
who’s to go and who’s to come
who died who so hated me
Mundane essentials
via inessentials:
You instantly stretch out on the floor
        to be screwed
the reason for his presence on
                   - And when a pall passes who are the most serious-looking?
                   - The pallbearers.
                   - Exactly.
                                      - JEAN GIRAUDOUX
You can have with interest the monies
        of my happiness
Like saying transformation made me
I cash, that is, people's insensitivity
And bye-bye to feelings
And long live callousness
Is this what it takes to cry and feel sorry?
An unbecoming way of passing the time
Look at all those attending the function
What if you see them puffed up with conceit
They made a thousand phone calls
to bum recognition
As regards reporters, no comment
You seem a clever girl to me
I don't expect you to rant and rave
about their tasteless writings
nor about perceptive
varsity professors
If you have no talent
need you also study it?
Will inspiration come to you
on your return from London?
Be it solemnly
be it pompously
I see scant commemorations
when you'll be on high
Now what?
Now whom?
And if at length you happen to say “nothing”
I’ll say “what do you mean nothing?”
You think lunatics
don’t make plans?
That they don’t logically cope  
with the torment
you call life?
You copy slogans
and write poems
whenever you have a thin time
Futile setbacks
old sins
The same old reason
for years and years
-- Now what?
-- From the beginning
-- Now whom?
-- The old one
-- A good life
   Together again
   And silence   

And I decided to change life
by changing mine
Eighteen working hours per week
fifty four of sound sleep
and every other day
a two-hour libido
Since I haven’t forgot it
I’m a woman
Loving, Tuesday’s lover
Rough, Thursday’s but
        an old flame
And Saturday’s bed
my glad rags on the floor
And I decided to change life
Not easy
It is a tragedy
if I’m not with you

My dear one
of last month
when I met you yesterday
walking with a slouch 
I felt really sorry
that you looked so pale
escorting in the evening
a bow-legged bluestocking
Apparently she exerts much influence
on your artistic traits
With such she bleeds white
both you and your lovely children
And how are you to say how lovely she looks
when you haven't even touched her
It's not that you are a specialist
in plastic surgery
You made the best choice
let’s not discuss it further
As regards your paleness
we’ll start again tomorrow…

Here we are, this is my flat
Half a life, useless writings
My lorgnette and perfume
Newly-arrived and tired
A tried friend of yours
Memories and regrets from nought
I stood up to death; I’m no stranger
I may have shocked you with suicides
But I said I’d be back
And don’t believe what you hear
I was a ghost before; now I'm alive
If you waited for someone better
I warn you again:
I suffered hell; but I bought you
Whatever art you practise
This year you’ll perform only if I want to
You’ll be published only if I say so

Whatever is to happen 
will happen
Why are you angst-ridden, madam?
Your route will be traced
once the ships are moored
Verses of another bard
will be heard throughout the nation
Your sorrows will be forgotten
New gifts of a former love
All ends well and everyone’s well
Your heart will bear no hate
No memory a right beginning
A whole aeon in front of you  

Distant again; far, far away  
something will happen in my absence
The fiasco will be forgotten
Other harlequins will arrive
A stumbling-block for the good
of the universe and me
Tomorrow I’ll embark
anew upon my libel
I gambled and I lost I’ll say
plus all the rest
A deplorable fait accompli
And there’s more to come

Neither do you surprise me
nor do you scare me
Before I met you I knew
What futility
My concealed wound
        of our early life
Has anything changed in the story’s
It’s probably the turn
        of absence

My sad poem
        of yore
do describe the outcome
        of a useless life
Any time now will sound
        the finis
of my entire being
They’ll say Ah another death
which is and isn’t
My sad poem
never to be revised
or yet written
Whose verses are they?
        they’ll ask
who is and isn’t
and O my life you’ll be
        lost sight of

Life’s dark veil is drawn
From afar I see
the non-dazzling light
Music is again playing old tunes
my heart is no longer mulish
Limpid seawater
End of celebrations
and no more fear
Flesh’s last bathe
Spring’s first rose
Papalexandrou Aristea

Translated by Yannis Goumas