Yannis Ritsos – Poems, Selected Books, Volume II, Second Edition

Posted: 23/01/2023 by vequinox in Literature


The fireball of dusk just behind our backs;

evening mess: 7:00 o’clock

The sundown on the face of the police sergeant

sundown on the shaven heads of the exiled

and far down the sea.

4th battalion of Makronisos

12 sections

10,000 exiled


Each man has the tiredness of twelve

hours full of stones on his shoulders

the thirst of 12 hours in the sun

the pain of many years

the resolve of a whole life

even this small bag

with the colourful spools of dusk.

Our shoes got ripped by the stones

our shirts blackened in the sweat and dust

occasionally the sea shyly enters through

the cracks of bitterness.

Evening sits on our shoes

like a loyal black dog

as we mend our socks

as we mend hope with a star.

When we fall asleep, the night donkeys saunter

            outside our tents

many blessed eyes spread their oil in the air

the quiet donkeys of the night

hanging tiny landscapes of wheat ears

small orchards with broad beans, celery, dill

a water well, a light green house, a woman

who combs her hair.

The night donkeys graze in the quietness.

Ah mother, how hard are the days we pass

how’s sleep in the house, mother, with

the tidied chairs around the table, wise chairs

and patient like good neighbour women

when your shadow rests under the door frame

expelling evil and the fear of darkness

as you scare away a mosquito that buzzed

over our sleepy face.

We pass difficult days, mother. Don’t grief.

The struggle is tough, mother,

but there are thousands of brothers

they are all your sons, mother.

We hear your shadow going away each morning

we hear the small windows closing.

A gunshot in the air

the cop’s whistle

a gunshot that kills

the morning star cuckoo.

The night donkeys leave slowly

behind the white fence of dawn

only their shadow leaves a lake of silence

between the two first words of the wind.

Then the big rock on the shoulder

the great uphill

the great resolve in our heart.

Great days await us, mother.

With the big rocks on our shoulders

climbing up death

we shall build big cities.

Mother, don’t grieve.



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