Andreas Petrides

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.

BLACK BIRD

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.

COMMENTS

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

slightly above

the divided

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.

A SUNSET-AFFLICTION

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

when sometimes

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).

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