I saw him yesterday standing by the door
below my window; it was about
seven o’clock; there was a woman with him.
He had the look of Elpenor just before he fell
and smashed himself, yet he wasn’t drunk.
He was speaking fast, and she
was gazing absently towards the gramophones;
now and then she cut him short to say a word
and then would glance impatiently
towards where they were frying fish: like a cat.
He muttered with a dead cigarette-butt between his lips:
— ‘Listen. There’s this too. In the moonlight
the statues sometimes bend like reeds
in the midst of ripe fruit — the statues;
and the flame becomes a cool oleander,
the flame that burns one, I mean.’
— ‘It's just the light. . . shadows of the night.’
— ‘Maybe the night that split open, a blue pomegranate,
a dark breast, and filled you with stars,
And yet the statues
bend sometimes, dividing desire in two,
like a peach; and the flame
becomes a kiss on the limbs, then a sob,
then a cool leaf carried off by the wind;
they bend; they become light with a human weight.
You don’t forget it.’
— ‘The statues are in the museum.’
— ‘No, they pursue you, why can’t you see it?
I mean with their broken limbs,
with their shape from another time, a shape you
don’t recognize yet know.
It’s as though
in the last days of your youth you loved
a woman who was still beautiful, and you were always afraid,
as you held her naked at noon,
of the memory aroused by your embrace;
were afraid the kiss might betray you
to other beds now of the past
which nevertheless could haunt you
so easily, so easily, and bring to life
images in the mirror, bodies once alive:
It’s as though
returning home from some foreign country you happen to open
an old trunk that’s been locked up a long time
and find the tatters of clothes you used to wear
on happy occasions, at festivals with many-coloured lights,
mirrored, now becoming dim,
and all that remains is the perfume of the absence
of a young form.
Really, those statues are not
the fragments. You yourself are the relic;
they haunt you with a strange virginity
at home, at the office, at receptions for the celebrated,
in the unconfessed terror of sleep;
they speak of things you wish didn’t exist
or would happen years after your death,
and that’s difficult because. . .’
— ‘The statues are in the museum.
— ‘. . . because the statues are no longer
fragments. We are. The statues bend lightly. . .
At this point they separated. He took
the road leading uphill toward the North
and she moved on towards the light-flooded beach
where the waves are drowned in the noise from the radio:
— ‘Sails puffed out by the wind
are all that stay in the mind.
Perfume of silence and pine
will soon be an anodyne
now that the sailor’s set sail,
flycatcher, catfish and wagtail.
O woman whose touch is dumb,
hear the wind’s requiem.
‘Drained is the golden keg
the sun’s become a rag
round a middle-aged woman’s neck
who coughs and coughs without break;
for the summer that’s gone she sighs,
for the gold on her shoulders, her thighs.
O woman, O sightless thing,
Hear the blind man sing.
‘Close the shutters: the day recedes;
make flutes from yesteryear’s reeds
and don’t open, knock how they may:
they shout but have nothing to say.
Take cyclamen, pine-needles, the lily,
anemones out of the sea;
O woman whose wits are lost,
listen, the water’s ghost. . .
— ‘Athens. The public has heard
the news with alarm; it is feared
a crisis is near. The prime
minister declared: “There is no more time. . .”
Take cyclamen. . . needles of pine. . .
the lily. . . needles of pine. . .
O woman. . .
— . . . is overwhelmingly stronger.
The war. . .’