As published in In Focus Vol. 12, No. 3, September 2015
CLOISTER Cut into the mountainside a vertical slit under grey kneeling carob trees... Here with a jackknife you can carve deep crypts into the rock, with your feeble body you can climb precipitous stone steps, to be alone and closer to Him. But only if a strong flame within fires up your insides and there is no more respite. Only if one day you beheld the two oxen before the plough stop despondent in the middle of the field... You have no choice then. Like him, you take the straight road parallel to the shore and arrive in Paphos, forsaking the home and wedding wreaths of one day. Then you see the nearby mountains and the green twists of the river that bring you to them. And there, at the end, in the bosom of Melissovouno hidden in the trees, like that strange wanderer named Neophytos - you too can carve out your crypt, or your faith and give praise. SEASHELL Suddenly you are no longer joyful suddenly you doubt the northerly and southerly winds that caress your hair, and the colour of the shore that shifts as the light withdraws. For a moment you glance back before beloved footprints disappear and idols up to the knees in the sand... Until you leave them at the first turn – snakeskin on the footpath, without feeling the least bit unhappy... As your shell opens up again taking in light losing blood, in a life that keeps changing her face every day. JOURNEY WITHIN Our fate from now on to travel like trees with deep roots in subterranean waters... Just like in life with an lantern or under the electric lamp we sail on white paper always inscribing a moist course. Journey – the feverish appeal of souls that seek other things, the last desire of the heel that senses the finish line... But since the roads are closed and the circumnavigation leads to the same place – the soul accepts its confined fate easing it by casting seeds to the wave and to the wind, just like planting a tree when you feel tired the poet prepares himself for the next verse. FROM A STRING From a string hangs our joy and our sorrow, feelings surround us like trees seemingly evergreen. Sometimes a flutter of wings passes over our sleep, casting a heavy shadow. And nothing’s like it used to be... But do not fear, despair not because it does not take much to know that, even from the smallest mud the tear forms on the soil, like stars in the sky emerge those golden blossoms you have named the tears of Mother Mary... And if from a string ultimately hangs the shape of the lips and the hue of the following day, hope is salvaged by the untroubled gaze and pollen by the buzz of the bees above all ashes. HOME STRETCH If the body sails the delta of the estuaries, may it persevere in sleeplessness before it bends toward the finish line. Of five senses the daily feast is shaped – oh, what joy, what revelry, overcrowded in the eyes, the ears and the soundless skin quivers, images, sounds! So slowly the sphere of earth revolves, just like a child’s game... And erratically right and left smelling everything you anxiously locate time tugging at the strings and suddenly the revolutions are counted on the fingers... Then you can sink into the tear that hesitates still and face the ravages of time – when the movement nearly stops you exit dignified and replete, making room for children. And memory begins... Translated by Irena Joannides
POETRY (THREE HINTS ABOUT LIFE, III)
A strong wind blows
out in the yard tonight
obstinately shaking the door,
withdrawing and rushing again
terrorizing through the glass skylight
the flicker of a pale lamp…
Deep night – at lonely homes
no one dares open up,
you never know what such an hour may bring
without any wood in the fire
without a dog
to run and seek out.
Let, therefore, the bolt remain drawn
until tomorrow, until daybreak.
Then at least in full light
in the certain outline of things,
let whoever wishes to come
and whatever he may demand –
not as a carte blanche,
but there, under the eyes
of the almond trees in bloom,
who will finally consent only if it is fair.
The black bird, which we have finally come to know
having seen it cross so often
the expanse of our days,
hold it, life, closed in a cage
for a while.
So that we can run and sing
blissful in the mist of ignorance,
that we can lie under the trees
unconcerned about his heavy shadow…
Because it always startles us. It comes
in the summer’s scorching heat,
while we lean over the fountainhead without a care
or in a dream during winter nights
again it burrows and finds us
supposedly serene, supposedly strong-
even if we shudder at its flapping.
We know, oh life, that
we have to deal with
this bird in black colour,
with anything that may help us –
making jokes to win more certainty,
planting trees where we may,
looking for marble-figures in the ground
and frenziedly filling up sheets of paper.
You play deaf
to the voice of destiny
as long as you can bear to
bit by bit,
and one day
you don’t even know
which road to take
and easily you forget –
where the prow is
and where the stern,
on an island with many capes
many indicators in the sea.
With the eye’s bulb restless
shape of a town,
stands the mountain’s dark brow.
Turning away from his stony sleep
and the springtime unfurling of the slopes,
has never ever felt
the flutter of fear within the gaze
nor the need to lower
the five-fingered hand of his shape –
while blades pass sharply,
with the vein of his neck
from anger swelling,
in a jet black sky
that looks ready
to burn down the hostile gesture.
And if we speak a little too much
about the five-fingered mountain
that is because
it resembles a wounded bird
with its two wings
nailed to the ground.
I believe it would be a proud eagle
perhaps a descendent
of the rock with the bloody memory
parts of Caucasus –
an eagle that witnessed
the crucifixion and the agony,
that flew finally far away descending
to build its nest
on an island – a green branch
of an unfavorable fate.
You sat on a rock to take a breath,
as you said.
Oh, what a strange soul,
the head barely had time to lean
into the shade
and the gaze – how it changes its hues
at the moment of weakness!
Now a vague mood
dissolves all earlier toil,
makes the bed of sleep
and his footsole is in pain.
But this is his route. He is not sad
his plea gets bending,
let it be a pause, a thirst quenching
until the dawn break.
Let him enjoy therefore and dream
the continuation of his steps,
whatever may bafall him, whatever may happen.
Look now at the weeds, on his side,
tied to unyielding roots,
how they bend the body
in a futile attempt to flee.
Andreas Petrides: Indigenous Quiver, 2013 Poetry of authentic traditional material
By G. Frangou […]
The poet brings to life the Cypriot landscape once more without pompous rhetoric but with sounds and images discrete and modest, tranquil and soft, and without the spectacular effects of a glaringly artificial ostentatious modernity. Andreas Petrides creates poetry from pure, authentic and traditional material. He draws his inspiration from the nature of Cyprus, its flora and fauna, its sea and sky, its dry landscapes. And he respects all his material, embracing it with abundant warmth and love. He does not spoil or despoil them with injections of precarious experimentations of modern approaches. […] Andreas Petrides is not a poet who produces voluminous work, but one who works on his verses again and again, leaving poems in his drawers for years to mature and to be tested by time. I propose that the aesthetic result, at least in most of the 28 poems that comprise the collection, justifies his approach.
ANDREAS PETRIDES was born in Paphos in 1948. He studied medicine in Germany on a scholarship from the Cyprus government. He has practiced pediatrics in Paphos since 1980. He was a founding member of the Writers’ Association of Paphos, which he served as vice president for many years. His foray into literature began with poetry. He has published the following collections: Bitter Genesis (1983), Doric Line (1989), Slow Stalactites (1991), Of Nostos and Flight (2001), Indigenous Quiver (2013). In 2005 he was awarded Second Prize for a Short Story by the National Writers’ Association. He has translated and published poetry by Bertolt Brecht (1983), as well as the Sonnets to Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke (1995) in collaboration with Demetris Gotsis. His translation work from German was published in a bilingual edition entitled The Panther in an Open Translation Workshop and Thirty Other Poems by Rilke (2015). In recent years he has focused mainly on the critical aesthetic essay. He has published studies in various Cypriot literary magazines, as well as the volumes References – Texts of Literary Criticism (2007), Poets and Poems – An Empirical Aesthetic (2010), and On Account Of… – Aesthetic Approaches (2014).