Blesok no. 99, November-December, 2014

The cabaret

Yiorgos Chouliaras


In the cigarette smoke of dead soldiers
in their metallic shouts take it all off
as blades of rich reflections cross
on the fingers of a banker who applauds
in the hungry looks of impatient adolescents
who can’t stand it any more, urging her to strip
before their explosion destructively erupts
all over the pulverized stage
from the shining tips of false brassieres
I give rhythm to the hard striptease of history
endlessly playing on the drums of the Balkans
an old African song of Chicago

Translated by David Mason & the author
[From The Treasure of the Balkans, (1982) 1988]


Still pursued by very ancient stories
from place to place through the streets
going up staircases and ringing
bells that cover up the shouts
of those being tortured not to reveal
the confidentiality of correspondence
on which postage seals bleed
having poured sealing wax on their lips
these offspring of the tribe of mail-carriers
who are restlessly engaged in this relay
of a hand to hand single letter
going round the world to reach
its recipient who is also the sender
before landscapes on stamps
have time to change seasons

Translated by David Mason & the author
[From Letter]


On the other side
of the photograph I write to remind myself
not where and when but who

I am not in the photograph

They left us nothing
to take with us
Only this photograph

If you turn it over you will see me

Is that you in the photograph, they ask me
I don’t know what to tell you

Translated by David Mason & the author


In its center all is water
you were saying that night, if you remember
as the fire was dimming the light
on moist fingernails slowly peeling
the dry skin from the orange
before sinking into its yellow succulence

A woman, the boy, fruit – everything
in this world is made of water
simmering indifferent or silent within them
languidly sometime breaking out in sweat
to quench the thirst of its creatures
before evaporating upward again

The surface of water is called earth
and its homeland the clouds
in the impenetrable interior of air
while fire is extinguished at its shudder
batting eyelashes, I think you were saying
with the end’s fiery gaze

I am afraid, I had said, before you spoke
of inflicting evil on you with all I carry
with hands that do not resist the cold
when my thought freezes as
the wind burns the face behind it
deserting dust carved in relief

You rose then not to stoke the fire
but to bring me some water
without my asking for it yet
letting it run for a while
closer to the heart of the liquid deposit
that shines precious drops on the glass

I have tried many times to remember
exactly what you said that night
and why your words, unforgotten
though not remembered
comforted me in a translucent way
softening on me wherever they flowed

I know that when I come home burdened
I peel the dry garments off now
let the water run naked on the body
and have the sense of bathing with light
in the dark bathroom, but even if light enters
I close my eyes

Don’t be afraid, you said, if this love is not
as you think, something solid, of earth
but a sandcastle sinking
while a boat traversing the deep
mails waves to shore
sprinkling babies with salt

A being is fluid
so it can flow on the body’s slopes
and fit in the vessels of the soul
before it returns water to water
before it discovers its ends at the center
before it becomes centered

Nothing can hide in water

As upon it falls the grain imprinting
the universe and before it dissolves
it rocks its hard surface
reconstructing reflections
in water’s memory – remember?
of every moment one forgets

Cleanse your own words if not mine
at the sound of the tap or the waterfall
which bring water from the center of water
being within us so deep at the origin
until that moment arrives
when it has finally circled us all

No need to remember my exact words
Let go, though
Don’t let me go

Translated by Maria Koundoura & the author
[From Roads of Ink]


The curtains were raving in the air

Translated by David Mason & the author
[From the sequence The Hidden Appearances]


I work in a factory that makes poems. One day, on the job,
my right hand is crushed between two enormous pencils.

Translated by David Mason & the author
[From the sequence The Facts]


Death is a whore
who takes everyone

Translated by David Mason & the author
[From the sequence Secrets of the Trade]

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