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


The light has a yellow shade on the facades of the houses. 

The shadow of the leafless trees on the walls and in the street

resemble the shadow of foreign soldiers with machine guns.

              The shadows have changed

the voices have changed — they’ve become  hesitant, like

someone who is trying to find a street number and makes two

steps, looks at the window, where is the doorbell? What

sound would the doorbell make in the hallway with

              the unfamiliar stairs?

When you say tomorrow is as if you want to console someone.

You don’t talk. The rooms feel sleepy in the silence.

The fingertips of silence remain on the shelves, the chairs,

the railings of the bed, like a sick woman who gets up

in the night to get a glass of water. She can’t stand. She leans

on the furniture, she trips on her nighty and falls again

on her bed before she finds the water pitcher.

             We were thirsty.

Loneliness never had a glass of water.

Her trembling fingertips still stay on the dusty surfaces.

Back then we had time. We watered the rose-garden.

             We chit-chatted.

It isn’t the same anymore. Now you count words and colours.

              You can’t establish their weight.

Alice died. She will never be in our company anymore,

as during those afternoons when we dreamed of things.

               Her summer shoes

will remain under her bed like two white dead birds and

her little watch, stopped, on the empty table, like a star

you see through the window shutters of the desolate


There is no time now. We have to find some new names

              that can stand firmly on their feet

when all memories kneel during the night.

Every evening the neighbourhood covers itself with its blanket

and looks like a kneed bread that has risen. And the old men

sit by the door step, they reminiscent, they smile

and the veins of their thin arms

look like trees ready to bloom.

You’re right. Very good. Lie down for a while.

The nails of the night are black.

The joining eyebrows of the horizon black. It’s cold.

You want me to put my overcoat over your legs?

Your humble shoes are splattered with asbestos.

The leaves of our small lemon tree wilt slowly in

               the garden

as the bus tickets from our past expeditions to the shore

get wilted in the pockets of our summer


Now you can’t finish your day like you finish smoking

               your cigarette.

It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Someone thinks

that he doesn’t have anything. He unravels the sacks of clouds;

he doesn’t find any star to pin his heart to its place.

The wind always perks up at midnight. The houses buzz.

The posters from last year’s movies flutter on the walls

and all the proclamations from the occupation years. We

have to find something, to say yes to something

                 that tells you no,

to place a monad in front of a line of zeros to become

a thousand or a million or a billion.

And when we look at each other in a sad way

it’s happiness that we look at each other. Go to sleep.

Tomorrow we’ll find some bread, my brother.

We’ll find the light that dries up the road.

Alice dyes our ripped shirts in a piece of sky, to use

when we’ll sew our new flags. The stars grow slowly bigger

like the beard on the face of our beloved friend.

Your face looks so sweet and strong while you sleep —

your chin, so strong, certain.



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