PHOIVOS STAVRIDES

As published in Volume 10, NO 1, March 2013
Anthology by Yiorgos K. Myaris

POEMS, Larnaca 1972

IN PERSPECTIVE
Like a melted drop
in the heat of noon
you bring to the lips the blessed
taste of early summer;
and as you turn your face 
away from life, as it is given in the distance
translucent in the light of the depth
you appear to be reality and dream –
yesterday, today, tomorrow: one.

POEM
The poem is the void
beyond the period
of the last sentence
the margins,
what separates one
verse from another
consider as predisposition;
the poet will begin to speak
after the last
period.

OLD HOUSE
A time comes to leave the house where you were born
where you lived ten, twenty years,
a whole lifetime.
They remove the furniture one by one.
Only the cold gaze of the naked walls remains
to keep you company.
You tie memories a knot in your handkerchief
and you depart...
But, before your gaze passes through
the rooms one last time,
before you close the door behind you for the last time
do not forget the marks of the steps
that you leave behind.
Sweep their dust into a corner
so they will not be disturbed
by the steps of those who are coming. 

VERSES FOR MUSIC
You will no longer find the face
behind the green leaf of silence
the music has already faded, the lights
have dimmed; which promise, I do not know
which delusions will be replaced
by the gravity of another decision.
Down in the valley with the butterflies
you will no longer find the lost steps;
there now the grass comes up to the knees
and perhaps your loneliness was impassable
in the naked potentiality
of a new expectation.

PAINTING BY NUMBERS
Let us first determine the direction:
after home comes work, work comes 
after home, you are hunted by the two hundred windows
of the houses, hunted by the eyes that do not look at you,
by your small round letters that speak of a futile
battle; here all exists to hurt you
to create irreversible situations
and then you are caught and cannot escape
perspective is only for those who assimilate.
You cannot stage a small, logical rebellion
and say: I will stay awake on the streets tonight
and greet this night one hundred miles an hour
with a loud shirt of indifference;
in our towns the roofs of the houses hang low
they cast shadows in the corners and frighten the passers-by
people walk carefully along the pavements,
suddenly descend, walk through you and look at you.
You can only, leaving your empty office
leaving the uncertainty of the eyes and shadows,
peacefully occupy yourself at home “painting by numbers” –
in the box you find a canvas marked by numbers
a design outlined without hints or doubts
simple, printed in one hundred thousand copies,
you find all the required colours, in the required quantities
and you keep passively busy all afternoon
colouring in the numbered squares that will render
a pristinely defined sketch
of superficiality.

POSITION 
I
Passers-by you and I
with an unbearable yoke
heavy on the shoulders,
passers-by you and I;
for the blue dream
we have lost our way.
Passers-by and we keep asking
where have we come from, where do we go?

II
We were fooled by the colour and the light
and we left the “wheres” and “hows,”
fooled by the voice from the distance
and we are unprepared for tears
fooled by the empty summer
and by the road that has no end.
So do not ask us if we are dead
or alive, now that we keep silent,
do not ask us about tomorrows, about hopes
since we have not met you and you have not seen us.
(1969)

DAILY COMMAND
You should fear the other shadow
that does not follow you
that does not keep within
the exact outline of your presence
At times it gets ahead of you and
at a certain incline of light
reveals your true stature;
sometimes you come across it walking
opposite to you
and wonder what game is afoot
recalling
perhaps somewhat disposed to forgive
perhaps somewhat retreating from your principles
faces that you should have forgotten.
But
you should fear the other shadow even more
as it jokingly gets mixed up with the simple shadow that follows you
and deprives you of the possibility
of seeking out
a more probable boundary of freedom.  

DIAGRAM
Twenty years counted in a few suspended moments
trampled impressions of colours, impressions of deeds
just enough to map an outline and to shout out “I begin”
just enough to classify your world – far
from conspicuous protrusions and a shining bliss.
Twenty years for you to take the road of the return
less wise, less in control of your doubts.

FORWARD MARCH
Lose the smile and proceed.
One-two. The end comes with a little bell
like a clown that you hear approaching, approaching
while you wait for his funny face
and fear his wounded face.
Who convinced you to put on
this ridiculous cap of certainty?
Lose the smile, I said, and proceed.
One-two. The end comes with the agony of certainty
an ant that slipped into the bosom
and will be caught by the fingers at any moment
and crushed, with certainty. One-two.
Who fooled you with a thorn of blitheness
with a retroactive promise of kindness?
One-two. The end comes
a dream without start
a night without end.

DEMYSTIFICATION, Nicosia 1978

GRAFFITI
In order to be true to your time
throw poetry to the dogs
From the words keep only
those that shine light at the end of rage
And if they say that you have betrayed poetry
as long as you speak the truth have no fear.
One who is choking does not sing;
He howls.

POSTSCRIPT
By aggrandizing the deed we betray the vision.
Our heroes were human, unpretentious
in their futile sacrifice; we shall not mar
their memory
with parades, sonorous speeches
and with the flag up front conveniently hiding
our nakedness.
We will honour them humanly, with many tears
and with the heart open to the sun.

REFUGEE POEM I
We have passed the limits of patience
and now sail like ships in the open
seas
alone in the vastness; heart please help us
set the limits of our loneliness
without the land, without our homes
which do not keep within the given shape,
help us keep the eyes clear
on friend and foe,
on the imposition of the night
and the palm a tender nest for the knife.  

NEW HOUSE
New house, who was it that led
my steps to a foreign land to speak to you
wearing despair a stone around the neck
like a drowned hunter of mature rain?
New home, sharp grass of loneliness
you tie the harvest a secret at the corner of the eye
like an old woman in uneasy times
travelling where it does not suffice, scattering 
dead images, pebbles behind: keys of other
outlines
they had sailed life at one time
at an unmatched pace.
New house, viper-window of the folded
city
do not wait for the fairy-tale before climbing in through
closed doors
that get ready for a dream wand of contempt. 

APRIL 1st, 1975
Your people pass loaded up
with medals
and the medals do not fill up with bread, only
mark with blood and death all the world’s
small
all the world’s drowned who do not even
float.
Their crutches scrape the soil of rage,
piercing like wooden pegs our certain hearts. 

THIRD PERSON, Nicosia 1992

THE DOOR OPENED
The door opened and the Alexandrine entered
with the slow gait of centenarian elder.
He sat silently for a long time
in the shade, where his moist eyes shone.
At one moment, imperceptibly
he pulled the string of the dead language.
Smyrna is lost, Ionia is lost,
the Gods are lost...
Which Gods was he speaking of,
which Smyrna, which Ionia?
Could it have been a delirium of his ailing
soul? 

V.M.
Vassilis, the voice we were hearing was not yours
and we did not recognize the face since
though they were casting pebbles, the waters did not stir.
Their eyes held a fatigue
that could not be hidden,
they even remembered some of your verses,
perhaps to make sure that you had not passed on
perhaps to cover some shame of theirs that persists
and when they all fell quiet or asleep
your noble face emerged
through the double darkness.

PORTRAIT OF AN ABSENTEE
Then the river began flowing into the house,
rushing under the furniture,
lifting the trunk with the photographs.
Yiannis could not scream.
His thoughts remained in the manuscripts
that he had had no time to burn.
And when the river came for him
the thermometer insisted on showing
the last temperature of his body.

CHRONICLE
Every night the city was kept awake
by the moaning of the wounded.
Every morning the sun would rise
over the roofs, in the trees
that still dripped of dew and rain,
a sun tired from sleeplessness would rise,
with numb hands.
All day long it would struggle
to dry the blood from the wounds;
and when night would fall again
under the uninvolved new moon
the moans and the infernal sounds would resume.
I speak of unjustified passions
that reside
beneath the surface of ordinary things. 

THREE EROTIC POEMS
I
In the temperament of your melancholy
a bird ascends, that I can barely
describe.
It could have been a small suspended
stone, a fairy-tale walking the tightrope
in the waking hours 
before flowing into the upturned palms 
of silence, it could have been
a voice that does not signal submission
to the yes and the no of death,
a plaster cast of the bidirectional day
but it's just a startled bird
that rises to the temperament
of your melancholy.

II
I will say it again: I do not believe
in the cheek of the morning, in the sharp optimism
a second time, a third
I will give my life to convince you
because there is no going back
and the birds are settling into a new shape
mechanically wearing
profound wounds.

III
So that I wont fear the shadows in your eyes
the multi-person loneliness of the day
I grow with you
the music on your marked body
competes, in dance, with the starry night.

STRIP TEASE
He who hopes hides so as not to be seen
naked and hungry; he who hides
looks secretly in the darkness, listens in
on the fluttering of birds, on the footsteps of cats
always suspended on the same route, on the same expenditure
carves verses risking his loneliness
I give you my soul, what do you give?
THE ONES WHO RESEMBLE PLANTS
The ones who resemble plants
move about almost immobile on the spot
indifferent to calculations
foreign to passions from the friction of the crowd
wear soft shoes that do not mark
the ground on which they step;
the ones who resemble plants
do not undersign verses nor paint,
never sing with a voice that can be heard.

THE SYMMETRY OF THE COSMOS
All is built-in to the symmetry of the Cosmos.
The red shirt of the afternoon
drenched in the thirst of the shore
next to a nude girl sunning herself
sounds that fall silent in the light
this old woman who once used to mourn her son
but now hopes not even in death
as she watches a dog wandering aimlessly in the neighbourhood
the years that we did not expect but which have come
and the others that we did expect but which will not come
referendums, mosaics, made-up idols
myths, wounds, the right side up and the upside down
of an undelivered life
the voiceless cry
the merciful nonexistence
Miranda, Haris, Stephanos
and the hallucinatory seal of donation. 

THE LAST
The verses continually diminish
like the desires
like the dreams
like our days
with every beat of the heart.

Translated by Irena Joannides 
 

Cypriot poet Phoivos StavridesPhoivos Stavrides (Larnaca, 1938-2012) was a poet, publisher, researcher and scholar. He studied pharmacy at the American University of Beirut. He was a founding member of the Writers’ Union of Cyprus (1978) and of the Society of Authors. He made his first appearance in literature in 1958 with a short story that received a prize from Ellinikos Pnevmatikos Omilos Kyprou. He published in Larnaca, in collaboration with small editorial committee (1980-1986), the literary magazine Kyklos. In collaboration with Lefteris Papaleontiou and Savvas Pavlou he founded the magazine Mikrophilologika (Nicosia, 1997 onward).

In collaboration with poet Theodosis Nicolaou, he edited the collected works of Pantelis Mechanikos entitled Poems (Nicosia, 1982). He also published Epaminondas Fragoudis’ Traveling to Montenegro (Nicosia, 1994) and Savvas Tserkezis’ Diary of My Life, Starting in the Year 1886 (Nicosia 1988, 2007).

Phoivos Stavrides published the following three personal poetry collections: Poems, Larnaca, 1972; Demystification, 1978; Third person, 1992.

He also published studies and bibliographies on Greek and Cypriot writers. Examples include:

The Poet As Sculptor. Ten Years Since the Death of Pantelis Mechanikos (1990).

• A Bibliography of Cypriot Literature from Leontios Machairas Until Today (2001), in collaboration with Lefteris Papaleontiou and Savvas Pavlou.

A Bibliography of Cypriot Folk Poetry. Tabloids and Self-contained Publications (1884-1960) (2002).

In 1972, Phoivos Stavrides received the National Poetry Prize.

He also contributed to the literary magazines Kypriaka Chronika, Pnevmatiki Kypros, Philologiki Kypros, Akti, Epta Meres (Kathimerini Newspaper), Anti, Diavazo, I Lexi, Nea Estia, Nea Epochi, Anev, Kypriaki Vivliofilia, I Paremvasi.

The relatively small body of his poetic work is regarded among the most unique literary contributions in Cyprus, due to its minimalist expression, contemplative mood, disillusionment and irony. His monographs, studies, and participation in group interventions have greatly raised the bar in the research on Cypriot literature and culture. Determinative was also his contribution to the literary activity of Cyprus and to the presence of Cyprus online.

He was co-founder and administrator of the blog Mikrophilologika. http://microphilologica.blogspot.com/

He was also founder of the following websites:

Alli Kypros. Martyries anthropon kai topon. (The Other Cyprus. Testimonies of people and places.):  http://allikypros.wordpress.com/ 

Larnaca (A website about Larnaca): http://larnaka.wordpress.com/

Retalia et alia: Texts on books and literature: http://kitieus.wordpress.com/

Biographical Notes and Anthology by Yiorgos K. Myaris.
Translated by Irena Joannides
 

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