OUR OLD MEN
Every so often we get new boatloads of old men
from Peloponese and Central Hellas and
northern from Trikala, and Macedonia;
thin, heavy boned old men with white moustaches and
they smell of cow dung and soil
evening sheep bleating in their eyes
shadows of plain tree leaves hang off their hair
they talk just a little, sometime at all
yet, from time to time you see then as relatives
of spruces when they raise their eyes from the soil
and see behind our shoulders.
When evening light floods the tents
and the wind entangles its moustache on the thyme bush
when the sky descends from the rocks straddling memory
with the boot nails of stars
and death saunters silently out of the barbwire
we see them in groups of three or five
like the old days in the powder storage rooms of Messologi.
Then, you don’t know, as they gather in the yard
of the evening, unshaven, speechless
you can’t tell as they light their lighters
whether it is to light their cigarettes
or to fire up the fuse of the dynamite.
These old men don’t talk.
Their children joined the guerillas.
These old men hid their hearts in the mountain
like a keg of dynamite.
They have a benevolent tree next to their eyes
a strong eagle between their eyebrows
and an angry mule in their hearts;
a mule that can’t take the injustice
and now they stay here in Makronisos
in the opening of the tent, opposite the sea
like lions made of stone in the entrance of the night
with their nails stuck in the stones. They don’t talk.
They stare faraway at the reflection of Athens
they gaze at the Jordan River
holding tightly a stone in their soiled palms
clearly keeping the shells of stars in their eyes
maintaining a powerful silence in the pleats of their hearts
that silence which reigns before the thunderbolt.