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


The distant voice of the lottery vendor. The swaying of the tree.

             A canteen steadied in the sand.

The west is burning. A purple reflection over the seashore.

The few houses painted crimson, silence and sundown.

You have a summer handkerchief in your pocket,

a sorrow you left behind on the ledge

like the ripped shoe of the spring that was left on

            the rock

when the last group grabbed three meters of sea

and left stooping among the tents of the wind.

How fast the sun goes down in your eyes;

your coat is already smelling of moist,

you put your hands in your gloves like the trees

             get in the clouds.

Where the tempest stops your glance is re-ignited

where the sky ends your song and your whole face

            are reborn.

There is a yellow star in your silence

like a small daisy on the side table of the sick man

a little warmth on every yellow leaf that turns

            the pages of time backward.

It is enough that you know. The other communication

            doesn’t end at midnight.

The line is continued from deep inside and from afar

with a few stops, interruptions, accidents,

             it continues

and autumn finds shelter on the railings of the station

or the fence wall of the Orphanage,

it listens to the call for silence on the damp roofs and

to the gramophone of the seashore bar,

that the moon turns,

a scratched vinyl, a very old tango. No one dances.

But you, turning the moon to its other side,

beyond midnight, further from the ledge,

you listen to the great music while you saunter

in the harbour with the twelve boat masts

like a speechless restaurant server who cleans

             the autumnal tables

folding carefully the napkins of the night,

gathering  the stack  of plates with the leftover

            fish bones.

The sea and the songs continue.

All these that the locked people left outside

            belong to us:

the hurrah of the wind in the darkened rooms,

the music that descends in big waves and hits

            the window shutters,

the silence that opens its purse and looks at itself

            in her square little mirror,

and the woman who wraps herself with the army blanket

            and sleeps next to her bag

and you too, as you light your cigarette with a star

           over the calm plain of your soul

like the guard who stays vigil over the sleeping soldiers

and thinks of his woman

of the sea

the city with the flags

the trumpets

the sun-dust and the glory of men.

And next to you, you know it,

this big smile

like the circular alarm clock next to the sleeping worker.

It’s time to sleep a little. Don’t be afraid.

The clock is properly wound up. It’ll get you up on time

with the bucket of dawn that draws water from the well,

with the crawl of a proclamation that noiselessly sheds

light under the door of your silence. Be assured.

            It’ll wake you up.



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