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Three Poems by Sotirios Pastakas from his new collection “Prayers for Friends”, translated from Greek by Yiannis Goumas)


                                                                                    to Póppi Ganá
Just a suspicion,
not even a promise.
As if walking along Euripides Street,
your nose blocked with the scent
of cinnamon, oregano, basil and mint.
Odour never taste again.
Taste of bygones
turned to spices
and reduced to smell.
No longer touching
to caress, your fingers
leaving behind them colour,
the skin
of a Red Indian chief,
the orange yellow of saffron,
and stick it up your fanny!
A blank look,
seeing only the pothole,
the broken curb,
the zigzagging moped
along the pavement,
unable to sublimate.
Your hearing taking a walk
like the latest stereo model
in the car when you tune-in
to hear in passing all stations,
without emotion,
as if walking arm-in-arm
with my hearing
along Euripides Street.  Euripides Street
with the smell of spices,
an old taste of sin
in the mouth,
a multicoloured touch,
a blank look
and a firm belief in the sixth sense:
tarot cards, fortune-tellers, horoscopes.
As if walking with you naked
along Euripides Street.  Naked and alone.

                                                                        to Yannis Goumas
Born of a Greek father
and a Greek mother,
I woke up one afternoon
in Santiago, like a Greek
who has been taught
that living is not as worthwhile
as travelling,
and indeed like a Greek
making money
with the ease
of the air you breathe.
The seas
and lands once ours,
in whatever place I opened
my eyes, just by blinking
I made deals
worth millions.
From wherever I passed,
Lima, Mar de Plata,
Buenos Aires, Valparaiso,
I left lingering
a fragrance of wealth,
a woman’s trampled flesh,
brats snivelling
and wetting their pants, but
unlike my father I didn’t want
to leave behind me
only the heavy smell
of a cigar.
I woke up one afternoon
in Santiago, Chile,
feeling that I wasted
my day.  Days
are likewise wasted in Recife,
Vancouver, Tokyo
and Adelaide.
So I decided
from now on to waste  
my days in Athens,
and from the antipodes I shouted:
“Greece here I come!”.
So I returned
here, to the antipodes,
which for me is Halándri,
and now waste my days
loving Greece
all the more, and my compatriots
all the less.

                                                                                    to Níkos Lékkas
I look for my grave and can’t find it,
O God,
for fifty years I’ve been asking You to carry me off
but You won’t answer my prayers.
Come, lead me on high
to happy realms,
I have nowhere to rest my head
and weep.
Come, lead me onto the highest path,
let me lean and cry on Your shoulder.
Since so many wished me dead,
so on my part
I wished countless others dead.
I look for my grave and can’t find it.
O Lord,
since I haven’t killed anyone,
it is rightful that someone should kill me,
catch up with me
somewhere along Elefthérios Venizélos Street,
to the sound of Greek
hip hop. Well, they’ve done away with rock,
what’s to them to get rid of Pastákas?
Show me my grave,
merciful God,
that I first
among fellow-poets
bereaved relations
and inconsolable friends
might place on it
a crown of thorns,
before chancing to tell them
how beautiful death is,
how grateful the deceased.
I look for my grave
and can’t find it:
not in my three-room flat in Néa Smýrni,
not on the tram rails,
the overpasses
on Syngrós Avenue,
the coastal pedestrian crossings,
the unguarded level crossings,
the horizontal bar of booze,
in the acrobatics of burning
like another fire walker
turn me into light
O Lord.
Wrap me in flames.

Sotirios Pastakas