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

Posted: 25/01/2023 by vequinox in Literature


A long time has passed. Everything we took from

our homes when we left, have withered, are holed,


The sound of a door knocking in the fiery sunshine

the voice saying, you’re late, in the hallway

the white comb the woman used when she combed

her hair in front of the mirror,

the cigarette we shared by the window one spring evening

          pulling Ursa Minor’s tail

the shadow of two hands under the lamp, between

          two plates full of fruit.

What we put in our bag when we left our homes:

those white socks we wore at the shore during

          the summer,

the white underwear and the athletic undershirts,

which you could say suited the body of April,

even the small scissors our young sister used to clip

           her nails by the ledge

and the window reflections that shivered on her cheeks

           and hands

they all unraveled, withered, dissolved

the small scissors rusted, its points dulled

it resembles a dead swallow on the stones

next to the shaver and the sea soap, we didn’t

noticed it, we clip our toenails, the callouses

resemble a rusted, useless key, broken locks.

What we brought in our bags and suitcases

they are all holed. Nothing is left.

Yet, sometimes, when evening comes and Ursa Minor

hangs its flashlight over the opening of the tent,

and digs with its nails a shallow hole in the dry soil

Peter or Vasilis or uncle Anthony

groping for a lost spoon or cup in their bag

they delay, their hands get forgetful,

the wind becomes round and motionless like

            olive oil in the jar

and silence resembles a millstone when the water

            flow is stopped.

Then suddenly we hear that forgotten sound

as if they cut, with those small scissors, papers

for the plate rack Christmas evening

as if that white comb combs the hair of a woman

as if raised to our tiptoes we light our cigarette

         in the moonlight.

And then we know that deep in our suitcases

among the unwashed shirts and the holed socks

that embroidered small napkin remains full of

          homely warmth

and the shadow of two beloved hands like two big

          dry grapevine leaves.

Strange. We want to cry.



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