Lily Michaelides

Selections from the bilingual collection Αρένα/Arena, 2014

Translated by David Connolly

As published in In Focus Vol. 12, No. 1, March 2015

 

UNEXPECTEDLY 

I

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.

 

ΙΙ

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.

 

ΙΙΙ

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

mutely, facelessly.

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

ever.

 

IV

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.

 

V

From my window I watch the crows flying

forming themselves in lines; not to injure each other.

Day breaks.

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.

 

HOUSE BOAT

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

gradually enter

death’s measure.

 

THE CAUSE

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.

 

FATE

When I stare at you it’s not only your smell.

Don’t wait for what I’m unable to give.

I’m here.

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

surrounding us.

When you kiss me it’s fate

raising its glass to our health.

 

TRANSFORMATION

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.

 

OLD JOURNALS

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.

 

THE THREAD

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 MichaelidouLily 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

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