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

Posted: 29/01/2023 by vequinox in Literature


Evening has come. We haven’t heard the voice of the yogurt

                 seller in a while.

The clouds rise on the horizon — lots of clouds like the empty

baskets of the fruit sellers stacked on the side of the quay

when winter comes — they hide the sea. The sun isn’t enough

                 even when it shines all day.

Then what are we waiting for in the dark room? Where would

the little chain you wore on your neck be? The one

that resembled a gold little line written by the finger

of the spring dusk in the bell tower of the rural church?

It’s not something important — as if we lost a beloved letter

                  we wanted to read again;

we bring it back to our minds, phrase after phrase,

it’s not the words, perhaps we could have written it better,

it’s like that little chain on your neck that I miss.

We’ve been deprived of many things. A lot of things. Even

memories that fade away like little fires, like mother’s


behind the glass windows of the pawn shop fogged up

                 by the autumn light

touching the window with our noses and looking inside all

                 Saturday afternoon. What are we waiting for?

The clouds kneel over the mountains and if the moon appears

it’d look like the empty dish

we found next to the dead man. He remained in the next room

                 for two days.

Luckily the lorry of the municipality passed; we wrapped

                 him in his blanket.

We don’t know where they buried our father. If we had some

oil we could light the oil lamp. That’s okay, though. It’s better.

Darkness helps. The faces of the alive and those of the

dead look like darkness. We won’t notice the little chain

missing from your neck. It’s better.

Do you remember that morning? A foreign ship was entering

              the harbour.

The foreign captain on the bridge took off his hat and waved

to the Greek fishing boats, our cruising boats which sailed off

             to Salamina, Paros and Aegina.

We waved too; we spelled the foreign language letters

on the wide side of the ship as if we read the word

             I love you

in our first love letter. We waved with both hands.

The world is so nice, my love. The ship must had been from

Holland, we could say that the world was ours.

The light-blue hat of the captain was like a spring moon

washed up by all the seas. And his binoculars must had been

             on the table of the cabin.

All the small round landscapes were sleeping in the binoculars;

landscapes from around the world, like engraved gold coins

you could use to buy bread for your house, candy for the children

and for you a straw hat with flowers and cherries so the sun

wouldn’t ravage your delicate face.

Truly, how is that captain doing? Would he be sleeping

             in the water

with his hat in his hands looking like a dead jellyfish?

Since then we haven’t gone down to the sea again.

The harbour was bombed. Nothing remained standing.

Only, they said, a boat plank that had written on it

I love you was floating in the rough seas. Your hands

are freezing. Are you cold?

Perhaps that captain is not sleeping in the water and surely

our glances must have been saved in his binoculars, like

sunlit landscapes of a Greek summer. They could warm him.

             He wouldn’t be cold.

Come, then, wipe your eyes. When one sees the world like

that, warmly, I tell you, he will never feel cold. Your hands  

             got warmer.

The moon has risen from among the clouds — it greets us

like the captain’s hat. What you see and you’re smiling?

The sky cleared up; a piece of it lights the window —

             youngish sky gleaming

like the new soldier’s head shaven by the barber.

When we all had the first army hair cut we were all alike —

             that saddened us

you couldn’t tell one from the other, only Petros was different

with his clear laughter — his teeth shined like the almonds

mother used to make sweets at Christmas time and the rooms

smelled of vanilla and rose water. We all look alike tonight,

              in the autumn sky.   

We all look alike before death tonight.

A star jumps from glance to glance as the sparrow

jumps from one snowed branch to the other.

We all look alike before hope, comrade. Morning will come

when I’ll hold your hand and both our hands will get warm.



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