Τρίτη, 20 Σεπτεμβρίου 2011

Nikos Karouzos (Greece, 1926–1990)


Joy of night, oh sonorous lights,
marvelous evening
the colored noise of the city
divided up my loneliness, sometimes yellow,
orange, blue, and now red
dyeing my gait pure green.
Love had white marks.
Stop. Rewind.
The turmoil bore the white marks of the world.
The clouds invisible.
The angel radiates like marble
in the deserts of the moon, in the honeysuckle white
death is duped and the night
is amused with shooting stars.
No, no.
Time approaches visions
on tiptoe.
I should have further submerged
the grief within my soul.
The cricket ornaments expanses.
The night comes down the stairway of darkness
sits on the passion of Mary.
All alone the busts breathe in the gardens.
Stop. Everything is erased.
I want to escape from words.
I’m sick of it.
Better it would be to listen to what on the next balcony
two perennial old ladies are saying;
sitting there by the hour.


Indeed the night is in my interest.
First of all, it reduces ambition; moreover,
it corrects thoughts; then,
it collects the grief and makes it more bearable;
it dissects the silence with respect; in the gardens
             it stresses smell,
but above all, night envelops.

                                  Un Poète sauvage avec un plomb dans l’aile – 
                                                                                         TRISTAN CORBIÈRE

An old man now and former smoker,
all alone with his beard, strolling the heights in vain,
from cloud to cloud, the human course, what a road it is,
with tiny steps, comic and exhausted
hearing in their pitiless music
his cheap wooden shoes shuffling,
Barbarossa used to say:  Forgive me
I can’t help it, the senses lead me to the senses.
That’s how he talked, he didn’t say anything else,
licking his lips with delicate emotion.
He was oppressed by a large black
hole in his chest which had now become old
with flesh spilling out lamentably!
Speechless, everyone wept for him, as if for a tame and pitiful
dragon of bygone times
and as if shocked, truly, for centuries
the liars paid him, with hollow piety,
somewhat conventional respects.
He, however, had a terrible kind of seriousness
paying no attention to their innocuous respect –
moreover he never depended on it –
but suffering most profoundly his very self,
the visions which sometimes slapped together like
the wine-cooked wings of a slaughtered cockerel,
he would suddenly throw his head back
and become that merciless terror he once was
opening his mouth in utter devastation
like a hideous monster of wintry prehistory
and detaching his dentures with a crack
would drop them in a glass of water, without any delicacy,
without any sense of inferiority, everyone around looking at him;
he’d clap his hands and a two-faced Turkish woman
would come in silently and invisibly with heavy silk rustling –
how sorrowful the spectacle, a quick curtsy –
the white chair shoved up next to him.
He then sat down (with obvious effort)
making bizarre movements,
his eyes fixed on his dentures.
The bystanders left, one by one, with exaggerated kowtows,
the hours moved steadily on, in line with a bad
and sorrowful custom: reality.
But he stayed there staring gloomily at his dentures
integral . . .
Sometimes, of course, sleep which knows about obliteration
brought an end to his situation,
but the next day the same thing: Forgive me
I can’t help myself, the senses lead me to the senses.
A band of cloud around the middle of a mountain thrills me . . .
These words of Barbarossa
half-idiotic, I would say, and anyway despairing,
went day after day around the streets, the houses, the gardens
and indeed in Constantinople, had become a common topic, a joke
at the baker’s, the grocer’s, the confectioner’s,
the sunbathing hodjas who took pleasure in the futility
of the wailing town-crier, the very cunning vizier,
of the boatmen on the Bosphorus, the Beauty of Peran,
but even of the acrimonious Sultan himself
as the fishmongers said who sat in full fragrance
in the most aristocratic neighborhood.
But Barbarossa had his own drama . . .
Reduced to nothing by age and full of ashen
terrors and hallucinations, the one-time trophy-bearer of blood
every now and then sidled up to the bitter windows
to drive the full-bodied hallucinations out with his hands,
spitting at the defenseless flowers in the large harmless garden
and cursing the nightingales on the branches
lamenting and leaning outward.
Indeed it is said that once he called out to a servant:
“Life is a strong opponent, like the Koran,
the crown of my glory is too large.”
A throw-away phrase.
Nevertheless, the admiral would have meant it.
And another time it’s said he passed out roaring these words:
“Ah, if I could only eat the light! and not see
the iron pieces crossing on the clocks . . . ”
With such thoughts, truly wretched as figs
which gape out in nature in July –
a rattle-trap the poor old man or rather
a wide open door and winter itself
thrusting in the numerous contradictions
and his shuddering turned stiff as wood – how strange,
in such tender seconds.
The world couldn’t contain such despair,
there was no God to strike the spark.
Nature had now become for him even more fantastic,
the grey rock layers, the saintliness of the shrubs.
Painting, this miserable man would then decide on a Turkish bath,
without resurrection, there amid the stuffy foggy steam,
and dreamt in his fruitless sensual nakedness,
of his destroyed loves all so very dead,
of the easy erection in the bath with slaves like pure white lutes
caressing now and then his inexplicable groin
that old age had so disgustingly bagged.
He would come out of there utterly relaxed
and the books say that one day in spring
two or three lunious water nymphs shoved him into ten paradises
burning in an enamelled abyss, where he saw
the Prophet lying down with bandy-legged nights
when one of them lighting up her lips cried out to him:
“Haredin, the tempest is the flowering of the sea”
and the poor man fell asleep.


Don’t read me if you haven’t
attended the funerals of strangers
or at least memorial services.
If you haven’t
divined the strength
that makes love
the rival of death.
If you haven’t flown a kite on Clean Monday
without monkeying with it.
pulling on the string continually.
If you don’t know if Nostradamus ever
sniffed flowers.
If you haven’t been at least once
to the Deposition from the Cross.
If you don’t know any past perfect.
If you don’t love animals
and, especially, squirrels.
If you don’t hear thunder with pleasure,
wherever you are.
If you don’t know that the handsome Modigliani
drunk at three in the morning,
pounded furiously on a friend’s door
looking for Villon’s poems
and began to read for hours out loud
disturbing the Universe.
If you call nature our mother and not our aunt.
If you don’t joyously drink the innocent water.
If you don’t understand the Flowering Era
is the one you’re living in.
Don’t read me
you are
Don’t read me if
you haven’t quarrelled with the body . . .
Time I was going,
I have no more breath.
                                                                                                   © Translation: Philip Ramp
                                                                                                             Publisher: First published on PIW