Neo-Hellene Poets, an Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry, 1750-2018

Poem by Nanos Valaoritis


The root of a tree consumes my shape

a stone pricks my finger

and skins my brain

my eyes become prey of the leaves

owls hide behind my eyelids

my steps self-delete, stay still

become mouths among the memorial shrubs

a butterfly sucks all of my being

sparks and smoke come out of my nostrils

like the dragons who were corals in ancient times

like the thistle among the grass blades

wind whirls forget of me and deny me

flowers stick their tongues out to me

terraces walk over me

I hate the springs and I trade their wishes

I’m the favored of the waves like the pebbles

I refuse to retreat opposite the wind

to melt in the furnaces of heated baths

to burn on charcoal like a crab

to make superhuman efforts to talk

to save myself

from the conflagration I alone started

I shine like a diamond but I’m not a star

who am I then if I’m not who I am

a heavenly or earthly body, massive, fluid or airy?

Wheat Ears – Selected Poems


I know it well, he said

no one will come

to meet me at the station where

loneliness says goodbye

I know it well

for the words I spoke

bounced hopelessly off their ears

innocence of the old days turned   

into today’s consumerism

and I grew too soft to lie

so I’ll carry my leaper’s body 

over roads and slow moving paths

hollow husk of corn

windblown onto the sidewalk

where tearless Hades lurks 

I know it well, he said

joyously for the end I long

in this narrow grieving street

though before I leave

to you, my friends, I promise

the same song to repeat

next time around

Kariotakis – Polydouri, the Tragic Love Story


And lives go on until they wither

I talk of lives that gave themselves

to light, serene love, lives which

go down like babbling brooks

hiding in them this light

the sky reflects into the rivers

and the sun flows in it.

I speak of lives that gave themselves to light

about the little lives that hang

like rubies from the lips of women

like offerings that hang from

church icons, silver hearts

exquisitely humble, yet in love

with the lips of a woman.

I speak of little lives that hang.

The unsuspicious lives

that silently follow

darkened, foreign, saddened steps

image of a delicate woman

who hasn’t sensed them following

and who will lean onto the earth

and vanish silently: the unsuspicious lives

that vaguely and doubtfully pass

like stars of the morning twilight

in the thought of a morning soul

that hasn’t seen its life

withering slowly just as it ran

joyously and unfettered passing.

Lives that doubtfully and vaguely have passed.