Tears scorched me as I wrote alone, what was I, speaking
like this with
year upon year quickening the lost faces, and from the
glory, dull golden light, benches and tables all about and
windows mirroring the underworld. And they came
dismounting one after the other,
Porporas came and Kontaxis, and Markos, and Gerasimos,
dark hoarfrost on the horses and the day slanting down
through quiescent air, Bilias came and Gournas,
gypsies imprinted on the dusk, and Fakalos, carrying
mandolins, flutes, guitars,
the soul leapt at the sound, the house smelt everywhere
of rain and wood, and when,
only when they'd lit a great blaze to warm themselves,
then only did I call to them.
There came Sarris, and Tsakonas,
Farmakis, Toregas, and
Face pox-scarred, bitter, clawed the ground with his nails
by the castle at Akova, he bled, babbled of torture and
debauchery, so dark was he that I became afraid, ran
stumbling off down the hill.
We took the low road, ashes everywhere, iron, burnt earth,
a black X painted on the doors and you knew death had
passed this way, days and nights with the machine guns
and you would hear oh! and nothing more. And many
came. Before them came Tzannis, Eleminoglou, Paparizos,
followed by Lazarithis, and Flaskis, and Konstantopoulos -
no one knows in which church they were laid to rest, in
what ground buried.
Then I helped him climb out, he'd fallen backwards in the
ditch, and as I held him he died in my arms, and the next
month his wife smelling of grass, at noon deep in the
garden telling her how he died, the full dark body
whimpered on my chest, at night the forests would glow
and the roots would glow, for years and years the voice
Moon, moonlight, close days, winter building itself a tower
of stone, sunless and hard, I heard the first knock and the
next, at dawn they smashed open the doors and dragged
us out breathless, "wait here", and so much light was dawning.
There came old men and children.
How could they survive in such ragged clothes,
how could the children grow up in such horror?
The old ones creaking, taller than their bodies.
And the children,
clutching the axe, the knife, the hatchet
contempt and menace in their eyes, nor did they speak.
Ditches, wastelands, mothers in black wailing, whom did
you kill, whom did you kill, how many have we killed?
So much blood and Loukas' hands, and others severed at
the wrist, we'd find them in the gully after months on the
here today, tonight elsewhere
murderers, narks, thieves and fornicators, soldiers,
policemen, householders and shopkeepers
and many others riding on time's back and amongst them
ruin's daughters stepped out, hunger and fever, put up
against the wall, an ill wind blew. And there came
Fanni and Litsa sweet-apple trees, Dona came and Nana,
slim as the wheat, Eleni's maidenhair still green,
laurels, myrtles, wild vines
small lost rivers.
And one morning,
that morning when I woke the tree had turned all green,
I loved it so much that it rose to the sky.
And there came birds, birds of sunlight and joy, filling the
place with colours and feathers, perwits and felderels and
other such fantastic species, skimmers and calicocks and
gifts of the Lord, merry birds, constant slashes in the blue
sky. And among them came
Yannis Makris, Petros Kallinikos, Yannis the lame.
We sat on the embankment, Rouskas took out his pocket-knife
and cut down the young grass.
And mist over the plain. And you could hear spring
coming, a door whose wood smelt of the sky.
Then came the days of forty-four
and the days of forty-eight.
And from the Morea up to Larissa
deeper yet into Kastoria,
a black pestilence on the map,
Greece's breath rasping -
we held a count that Easter in deserted Kozani,
how many stayed on high, how many travelled on
stone, branch and hill,
down the dark river.
Prosoras came holding his broken rifle,
Alafouzos, and Bakrisioris, and Zervos
approached the gathering. Look, I shouted, and we
a flood of light, the fruitful sun a monument
to the obscure dead. The years have passed, I told them,
our hair's turned grey.
Tzepetis came, and Zafoglou and Markoutsas
they settled themselves on the bench
while Konstantinos nursed his foot at the far end.
The voices gradually grew calm.
Gradually, as they had come, they vanished,
slipped down the valley, scattering in the wind.
For the last time I watched them, called to them.
The fire sank to the ground and from the windows came -
How just a single star can make night navigable.
How in the empty church is the unknown dead anointed
his body laid to rest among the flowers.
From Takis Sinopoulos: Selected Poems , Wire Press & Oxus Press,
San Francisco & London, 1981. Revised 1999 & 2004.