Selections from the bilingual collection Αρένα/Arena, 2014
Translated by David Connolly
As published in In Focus Vol. 12, No. 1, March 2015
Crisis burst in everywhere.
Her hair wafts in our faces.
Her heady perfume a smell of brothel.
She gazes smug and intense.
The downhill streets of crisis.
Balcony overlooking the valley of crisis.
The escutcheon at the entry of crisis.
Yet the crisis, I reflect, is an abstract concept
How could it conquer the air, the mountains
the sea, the sun?
How can all that expansive light around us
possibly belong to the crisis?
I disregard the warnings.
I wear time in reverse
pluck its white temples
slap some red on its lips
and surrender myself to your judgement.
Chaos is hell’s reflection.
Despair has distorted the faces.
I wandered in a park with eucalyptuses.
The sunlight didn’t touch the ground; it spread
over the treetops.
It’s March and unexpectedly, winter has returned.
Just as our lives have turned upside down
and our shadows, too, upside down.
Chaos caresses the eyes, hair, neck
penetrates the heart and a sudden awareness
agitates the body.
Chaos spreads dark and inevitable
like a mountain after a forest fire.
Bronze faces of politicians clang in the darkness.
5.30 in the morning.
The body’s classification, as in nature.
Everything has its place; eyes, light
taste, touch, pain.
And just when you think that it’s all working tamely
the shell breaks with a crack and you dream that you’re flying
that everything around you is moving airily
One more crack and hair, gaze
smile, balance all break.
Outside the atmosphere is hazy.
Again the sand from Africa – as every March –
and Rachmaninov goes on transporting you at breakneck speed
to lands you never dreamed of
I spent all night awake.
From the darkness the ceiling stared at me perplexed.
Outside the rain was incessant.
The phrase that stood out as I read the Schubertiana
stuck in my mind and refused to go.
The words spread, dominated me, subdued me
and violated my insomnia.
No counterweight to grasp, to get my balance.
How will I rid myself of this chaos?
…all those who buy and sell people and believe
that everybody can be bought don’t recognize themselves here…
cries Thomas Tranströmer.
From my window I watch the crows flying
forming themselves in lines; not to injure each other.
I’m reading Bukowski and Pentadactylos is snowcapped.
Unable to keep my distance
I was injured by his lepidopteron verses.
The blood drips on the pages, reddens the writing.
And suddenly, darkness again.
Stray politicians, banker crows
straddle the horizon.
All people are earth.
They bear something prehistoric that’s not visible.
Which is why they differ from each other.
They speak a different language
stretch their legs in different seas.
The one can’t guess why
the cups of wine empty so quickly.
The other can’t understand how he managed to remove his clothes
how he managed to hang them on the thorns of the bushes…
I weigh anchor.
I want to see my house at night under a bright moon.
Forty winters have passed since
for the first time it required painting.
Ever since it’s been painted behind the curtains and my mother’s
fine embroidery, the cross-stitches, the cutwork
the satin stitches, the rivers that quench the needlewomen;
beside the Indian fabrics that make up for human
absence because someone decided to undo the threads
holding together its equilibrium.
Outside in the yard the shadows of generations past stand out
the seeds that sprouted like the eyes of flowers
and adorned pretty heads; blossoming chandeliers.
My house looks like a vessel on dry land.
To be exact, it’s a boat sailing
on the slopes of the Troodos Mountains.
These visits are forgotten and our lives
It was the sand hills.
The house that stood alone.
The sea that slid on a shore exclusively its own
and the tamarisks that grew unrestricted.
It was the moon that waxed day by day
till it became red like a ball of ice-cream
that invited me to taste it
and the wind that blew sand on the faces
sand light and damp that glistened and stuck to the skin.
And you, who weren’t here, yet you filled the room
with a love unrestricted like the tamarisks.
You weren’t here.
Yet you were the cause.
When I stare at you it’s not only your smell.
Don’t wait for what I’m unable to give.
But love is begotten somewhere else.
-Words unite us when we are seeking
when we fall in love or when we grieve-
When I touch you it’s not only your skin
it’s also what the past brings to today
When you kiss me it’s fate
raising its glass to our health.
I am transformed into a bird without beak.
The wind has provided for the wings
the stars for the eyes
and the rain for the wetness of the kisses.
I feed on dreams and sky.
On a bookcase shelf
I keep the old journals.
I open them now and again, not to recall
but to erase, not to repeat.
Because repetition conceals a tyranny
that kills subtly.
to Emin Gizenel
At night I think of you on the other side of the city.
Your history is not the same as mine;
and yet we grew up in the same city.
We eventually got back together, but not our city.
We weave our existence with the thread that divides us.
We build flights of steps to go up together
we leave signs to find our way back to the start
like the people of the desert.
The years softened, just as our hearts and our passions.
We’re now like the travellers who on every trip
search for paths to lead them to their senses.
Today, gazing at the new signs
“The city of my heart”, I keep the details alive;
the air and its smells, the cries and laughter of the streets
its scars and its weeping, like to the thorns that grow
at the point where they divided it in two.
The dividing line has an inhuman face.
That’s why I think of you at night
the city uniting the separate threads of our history.
A kite is flying over your neighbourhood’s roof.
I can’t see the thread holding it steady
but I know.
IN TIME’S ARENA
Midnight between the upright columns.
The squares empty; total silence.
Living together beneath the sacred rocks, Zeus
Demeter, Hades, Dionysus, Helios and Selene.
The Officials watch the naked bodies
in the wrestling ring; the curving of the bodies; the goal.
Hera’s temple, the Echo Hall, the workshop of Pheidias
who is still waiting to hew the light
in men’s closed eyes.
The moon follows the beaten path
certain of its future.
Subterranean tremors echo, recorded
are myriad dialogues between moons and suns
history within history, life within other lives
outside us and within us.
The eyes, hands, discourse
absorb, grasp, take wing
and whirl in time’s arena.
Slowly I move the heavy column.
I sit in the hollow.
With earth I fill mouth, hair.
I wrap myself in laurel leaves
that in years to come they may find me in this position.
Unknown female they’ll note, no identity.
Ancient Olympia, August 2013
SPRIGS, LEAVES, PETALS
to Nora and Agis
On the old ore mine’s slopes, the roots of the age-long
pines reach down to the dark galleries;
silent and uninhabited.
The wind was blowing, stirring the fragrances; it whistled
crossing the afternoon, taking with it
endemic and indigenous sprigs from the bushes.
I sit beside the lake’s glimmer
the willow’s branches bow to the water.
All around the mountains of Troodos.
A hawk crosses the horizon like a note.
The insects, lizards, caterpillars, the annoying mosquito
and the butterflies open the days with delicate pecking; lightning.
The garden breathes and the mountain is a deluge of green waves.
I lack nothing, I reflect.
Nature’s dimensions are indefinable
just as indefinable is life’s course.
I note the day, the time, the forest’s transparency.
I note the stones upon the stones
the sun that followed me like a shadow
the spider, that weaved and joined
sprigs, leaves, petals.
I lack nothing.
I move the stones, dig the soil
plant myself between the herbs, to acquire fragrance.
Botanical Garden at the Amiantos Mine, August, 2013
Lily Michaelides lives and works in Nicosia, Cyprus. She has published four poetry collections and one book of prose entitled The City Needs No Introductions. Her work has been published in newspapers, anthologies and literary magazines in Cyprus and abroad, and translated into many languages. She is co-owner and director of the non-profit organisation Ideogramma, which organises literary festivals and poetry meetings with the participation of writers from all over the world. http://www.lilymichaelides.com