|from Monochords, Yannis Ritsos
translated by Paul Merchant
A star on the hill. And the strangled woman.
Did you see the freed prisoner's bundle on the
A long Sunday with cypresses, birds, and water jars.
He breathes lovingly into the rose's ear.
They've left their shoes here, and their clothes still
warm, to go for a swim in the river.
A sad little village with two chairs in the street.
The deeper the gaze, the more tight-lipped the mouth.
The lighthouse keeper's silent conversation with
the ships he wrecks.
Hey, bowlegged man, ocean's bridegroom -- imagine
the torment of your wedding dance.
He's holding a laurel leaf tight between his teeth.
How will he sing?
Am I to tell the moon's secrets to the wounded?
Once beautiful, refined, elegant -- he's grown portly
How come the dead can rule our lives?
The pleasure of loneliness after paying off a debt.
A beautiful mouth, distorted by the sound of profundity.
He came down from the highest mountain. He's alone.
You were looking at the boundless sky through
a star's keyhole.
He took off all his clothes as if amazed by the
physicality of things.
This being empty, filling emptiness with emptiness,
so the words can learn.
The colors, not single. Each one in relation to the rest.
Don't be afraid. Where they are going downstream
there's a river and a garden.
A jasmine petal, in a glass of water, far away where
you're taking me.
A working-class hotel. A candle on the washbasin.
And muffled cries at night.