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


Uncle Karas has been sick for a few days;

his moustache drooped, wilted.

A Thessaly sundown drizzles in his eyes,

a Brallos cloud crawls on his forehead.

His arms, crossed on his chest, resemble

two cut spruces in the morning mist.

Uncle Karas has a son made of flint stone.

His son has two black pigeons hidden in his

         mended shirt

for this, sometimes his smile resembles a col

         after the rain

while a broom of rays sweeps the fresh grass 

and four buffalo and a colt with its light-blue

bead and bell graze in his eyes.

We hear this bell at dawn when uncle Karas’

son boils his father’s tea or when  he takes

his father’s hand and guides him to the sunshine.

This son wraps his old father in his woollen blanket,

tidies his bed, like a young shepherd cares for his

         old sheepdog

replenishes the water in the dog’s cup

gets off the ticks and thorns.

Uncle Karas is better now

since he hears that bell in his son’s eyes and

it’s because his son hears the bell of the evening star

         behind the mountains

it’s because we are all uncle Karas’s sons, his son’s


it’s because we’re all comrades.

Every evening the shepherd’s bell rings in the tent

and the mountain bells echo under the tents  

and uncle Karas sleeps in peace

and we’re all peaceful

only Karas’s son leans over his old father

and lights the lamp of doves over the rocks of our sleep.

Uncle Karas, don’t be afraid of anything as long as

            this lamp keeps burning.



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