Sunday, 25 October 2009


My life is haunted on this wretched bed
by all those bodies that rolled
on the blanket.  So many names, so much mist,
such unbearable sorrow.
The plaster is falling on the walls,
through the holes a thousand eyes,
voices weak, stifled
and years -- what, six? -- of much of a muchness:
the tap, the melted soap, the trash
on the stairs, empty bottles, shrivelled condoms
like T-shirts with no warm body to wear them,
the looking-glass with time stuck
in its cracks.  Your face.
A north wind is blowing, the drizzle drenches
the tin pots of pelargonium in the backyard,
The iron staircase with the fat landlady
who would ask for the rent after Mass,
the priest’s eyes through the church window opposite
reminding me of the inferno,
the devil in military police uniform lighting a cigarette
on the corner further down, suspicious, threatening
his gun aimed at me
ready to grab my money and my neck.
Rat-tat, the rain has stopped.  So much has happened
since you left.
I gather pieces of your face
on every random face, as the king
his mangled son in the fairy tale.
Winter has set.  Nutmeg.  Upstairs they are baking must-jelly.
“How can a few kóllyva* feed
all the beggars?” says the churchwarden.
“Yesterday you left your door open again.
Someone wearing a black duffel coat came knocking
around eight o’clock.
You should be careful;
all those junkies, criminals and paupers                                                
could clean you out.

(Suddenly there was a smell of jasmine; I quivered; where can you be?)
He said he was looking for you, apparently you were expecting him,
an acquaintance of yours.”
“Yes,” I replied, “I was expecting him, he is Death.”
“Oh, balderdash, you’re still young man,
touch wood,
but there’s no harm in being more careful.”

She too remembers you, but mum’s the word.
She looks sidelong at me as she plucks pelargonium.
But I too get my own back on you, you roughneck --
I shut the ramshackle door
and eat your flesh without remorse
like a cat that tears to bits her kittens in the washroom.  

Translated from the Greek by Yannis Goumas

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