NASA PATAPIOU

As published in Volume 9, NO 4, Dec. 2012
NATIVE TOWN 
I know the streets 
Even their breath 
I speak about Lefkothea 
I mean Lefkosia 
The Fotolambousa 
Strolling about your streets 
Your history
Uplifts me
To the cheeks of dreams
Moonless night
But the city
Intra muros
Is lit
By the view
Of  jasmin
Come
Eternally I exist
For you
I remain
For you alone
A teenager
Humbly and tenderly
I almost faint
Of love
And tell you
I am drawn
By a long-stemmed attraction
Which leads me
Along the streets
Of your native town
Once I scent
Your perfume
I become a goose
I become a wild goose
A feeling of strength 
Launches me to heaven
I reside
On invisible heights
Surveying
From above
I greet you
Down there in Nicosia
Your city

ROWING IN THE SEA
Looking into the mirror
As the gaze sinks
Into my gaze
I hypnotize myself
A subterranean river time
Takes me on a tour
On its depths
And I irrigate images of other eras
I smell ancient scents
I am inundated with knowledge of times past
Successive images
Which are also separated by time
My own life
Though my forebears
Since with persistence
With absolute devotion
I have read penetratingly 
Nearly bloodily
My past 
Rowing in the seas
Rearward
At times the pirates
Drag me a prisoner
To the arms of the crusaders
I fall unwillingly
Like a serf
The feudal  lord
Falls in love with me
I am auctioned off
In slave markets
At other times I find myself
Like a little pup
As seen in a depiction
At the feet-in the small hours
Of the wonderful Christine de Pisan
As she writes
By the light of the lamp
I also become the white
Silk shirt
In the hands of the valiant king
Who sails his vessel
Toward the West
Carrying the aroma
Meaning traces of sweat
From the body of his lover
I look at myself in the mirror
My gaze sinks into my gaze
Like a traveller exhausted
By the passage of the centuries
I return to the world above
The liar and denier
Of love

Translated by Irena Joannides

LOVE, THE BITTER-SWEET IRRESISTIBLE REPTILE
I was sitting alone
Alone
Reflection of love
The only truth
In the upper
And the nether world
And I was disappearing inside time
And I was sinking
Towards the East
Because blood
Follows its own way
Sniffs the colours
Blind it flows in our veins
But it turns purple in perfume
Which calls it
To the first primeval spring
Then I am transformed
A little girl
Seeing almost prophetically
Trickling down
My tender legs
Sappho’s
Bitter-sweet irresistible reptile
And instantaneously
Ordains me
Priestess of her temple
Sappho-sapphire
Raise your eyes
From the nether world
I stretch
My arm
Here where I am
At the time of Hesperus
A red apple I throw to you
Bite it

Translated by Costas Evangelides

LOVER’S CONJURE
I have a magic orchard
That is enclosed all round
Many yearn for it
And pace outside
But no-one dares step inside
Its exotic plants 
Alarm them
Its heady scents
Make them faint
They lack imagination
And besides
They have no fantasies of love
I have a magic orchard
That is enclosed all round
Or rather a school
Where you can be taught and learn
If you are brave and ready 
Step inside my orchard
Let me take you around and show you
How history is born
Out of nothing
And from my delicate stem
You will blossom, like it or not

Translated by Irini Christodoulou-Pipis

THE POPPY OF ASIA
Downy caresses
Deep rooted kisses
And divine conjugations
Is how I taste the natural analgesic
The endorphin secretion
The magus Eros
The perfect antidepressant
The superb psychedelic
Eros
Devious, beguiling Eros
The poppy of Asia 

WITHOUT SANDALS
What wind blows
And comes
And where does it come from
Putting to sleep the oestrogens
Of Eros
Delirium in intoxicated light
Oh if I only could
Fly into its vortex
Without sandals
Without belongings
With halo only desire
Only with desire
A necklace on my chest
As my garment
Naked
And with garment
Only passion
Like violet velvet
Passion
And what passion
Quivers, erotic cries
Death groans
Resonating on the soft velvet
With potent drinks against vertigo
In the ascent
In the celestial noetic climax
Which is surrounded
By fragrant flowers
Thorn-bearing
In the ascent
And in the absolute humiliation.

LEBRICASTE
You hear the drag of the comb
Through my hair
Ancient sound
And from the depths of the centuries
You come
Bearing a Byzantine urn
Filled with fiery pyre
But the blades are sharp
And the arrows dense
As you cross
A black petrified forest
In whose clearing
A fiery pyre flows
Eros
From my hands
Then the comb falls
A rustling of wings
Fills the place
I am flooded by verbs of love
Juices trickle
From red grapes
Down to my hem
I spur my horse
And I depart
Not an experienced rider
Knowing that I am the present
And that you are the past
Homeland, homeland
You are crossed by mountains
And by mountaintops
You are crossed by rivers
I am traversed by tributaries
In our waters sink
The aquatic
Live endemic amphibians
But until when as stowaways
The enemy-lovers will live
In my depths
In my most remote viscera
In my unsuspecting recesses
I rescue you
I shall pursue the enemy
Like the nightmares my sleep
I shall meet him
Who from the depths of the centuries
Comes
The unreturning, the wretched
The Monomachus
I see him invading
The southern shores
Saying to Syleos
Great Island I name you
And you shall never be despoiled.

ANNE DE LUSIGNAN
I was transported with her as thread
A golden thread of Cyprus
From the lands of Anatolia
To the remote Savoy
I was embroidered by skilled needlework
Of adolescent serf girls
On the silken garment
Of Anne, daughter of Janus
King of Cyprus
The same garment
That she had let slip
From her body
So the ambassadors of Amadeus
Would see her completely nude
According to the custom of the time
So as to be selected as the perfect female
Consort of the prince of Savoy
I traveled with her crossing
The Mediterranean Sea
In a vessel
At times in a royal carriage
Endless roads
In the lands of Europe
The same garment that the princess wore again
As we approached the reign of the duchy
Preparing to face for the first time
Her unknown until then husband
In her apron she held her parrot
That had been lost wandering in Nice
But fortunately was again found.
And I was there too
A golden thread of Cyprus
Embroidered into a lily
At the edge of the hem of Anne
This is how I also saw when we arrived in Savoy
In the year 1434 and in the month of February
The prince taking a bow
Welcoming Anne.
And like in the fairytales told by my mother
Knowing that I would not return
I spoke with a human voice
Even if I was thread, a golden thread of Cyprus
Embroidered at the hem of Anne
I shall disintegrate I said, alas I shall fray
I justifiably desire to return
To Deinareto's End

DESDEMONA
A proud horse appeared in the night
And riding I crossed the fertile valley
I had no fear for I had company
The full moon
And finally arrived safe
And through the Land Gate I entered
Into labyrinthine medieval alleys
Beheld the cathedral of the city
And the sarcophagus of the goddess of love
I moved toward the port
Greek Orthodox, Copt Monasteries
Carmelite and Latin
And so I had with my horse
In the night crossed the centuries
Not just the fertile valley
What was I really looking at night
And especially centuries before
To discover
Although I did catch a glimpse
Officially dressed
Disembarking from the galley
In the year 1505
The new governor of the kingdom
The Venetian son of Lorenzo
Cristoforo Moro with dark skin
As perhaps betrayed
By his surname Moro
Followed by his wife
Delicate, slim, of rare beauty
And with sadness in her eyes
Perhaps because they reflected
Her dark future
I ran to her and whispered in her ear
So no one else would hear
Find a way, leave now, disappear
Both Guillermo and Gerard
Want to baptize you
Desdemona.

THE SUDDENNESS OF CALM
Eros, river of Spercheios
In my veins
Gushing and violent
I set sail only for you.
You, hammock of the skies
Sharp, chisel-ended sword
With drops of ultimate juice
Eros, you, the sudden
The elevated reversal
The suddenness of calm...

THE LIAR HALIL DAHERI
In Cyprus the phoenix does not bear fruit
The Mamluke general said
For it is a land of infidels
Liar, I shouted out to him
Through a tunnel
That traversed the ages
Raise up your gaze and see
On the branches of the palm tree
Nude the goddess of love sits
And eats delicious dates
While her bare breasts
Of fruit the most divine
Gleam white, white as snow
Look up high and see Melusine
The Nereid that sighs erotically
Scaling the trunk
Of the conceited phoenix tree
And her eyes are a living seduction
In Cyprus the phoenix does not bear fruit
Insistently, Halil Daheri, repeated
For it is a land of infidels
But also of lascivious women, I countered
Of Nereids and witches
Who have knowledge of invocations, spells
And erogenous potions
And erogenics
That intoxicate you
Offer koumantaria to you
In marble threshing fields
To castles they raise you
And then
From the heights of Eros
Down to the depths of depths
They finish you
And that is why I have transformed myself
Into desire
Oh desire!
At the height of a phoenix tree
I have rested my hopes
And a ripened fruit I hang
For you to taste me
Albeit in autumn
When in Cyprus ripen
The yellow, golden dates.

Translated by Irena Joannides

ONLY BY WAY OF SORROW…

by  Nasa Patapiou

“From childhood’s hour I have not been / As others were – I have not seen / As others saw – I could not bring / My passions from a common spring…” With these superb verses Poe sketches the poet’s identity.

“I insinuate more / than I can / imagine: / I write”, my friend, poetess Pavlina Pamboudi relates in a poem, and I suppose her verses give a succinct account of what poetry is – even though I would simply say that poetry is a way of life.

Nasa Patapiou

Nasa Patapiou

I was born and raised in the border town of Rizokarpasso, an affluent land replete with magic and splendor, legends and an age-long history. Remains of ancient and Byzantine cities, the sea washing the peninsula from three different sides, the mountains of Asia Minor in the distance, crofts, huge draw-wells, deserted mansions with Venetian coats of arms like the Dell’Aste one – in the ruins of which I used to play as a little girl. At the same time, I had the good fortune of being born to a learned father with a rich collection of books and a mother who could convince you she had pursued long studies in Cyprus’ folk culture. Hers was a treasure-house filled with fairy tales, traditions, convictions, legend, customs, folk songs… and whatnot, but above all she was such an engaging storyteller that each time she’d tell a story, its whole world would appear before you in the flesh. Even before I went to school, I would draw on my mother’s narratives and stories to forge my own stock of worlds. I knew the East and its ports, the Euphrates river, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Venice, dragons, fairies, kings, Dhigenis, sorcerers, peddlers. I used to travel across these lands like a pin on the peddler’s lapel. And how great was my grief as through the years I found out that the world of the fairy tales could not be redeemed…

From my father I had learned the names of poets, heard verses from Aeschylus, Dante, Goethe, Solomos, Kalvos. To this day I can recite Goethe or Dante, verses I had learned from my father. On occasion he would read to us, especially during the winter – Papadiamantis being his favorite author. As a child, I had so vivid an imagination that a mere name would evoke its own special image and color. For instance, the name Stella was and almost is to this day a wreath of red roses; Eleni, a wreath with delicate pink buds, and Maria a gray billowing apron tied around a woman’s waist…  When I would ask the other children if they had similar representations, they would look at me strange… Since childhood I was a pursuer of beauty. The rare red anemones sprouting amidst green crops would urge me each year to look for a specific red anemone I had seen in a croft nearby. Each year, when the time was right, I would try to find it as the bulb would sprout from a different spot of the plowed earth. And this endeavor would fill me with unspeakable joy… Afterwards, at school, new horizons opened up before me with History, Mythology, Geography or the Old and New Testament… I began writing poetry as a child because poetry afforded me the freedom to depict my thoughts, my imagination and my feelings, but above all to assuage my wounds.

I would say that my family environment was a blessing, as well as the place I was born in, but my childhood, the formative years, was traumatic. I had lived in a hostile environment and as a child I had witnessed the others’ unjust and ruthless polemics against my father’s ideology and beliefs. At the same time, over the years I would discover tragic stories mostly linked to my mother’s family and, to a lesser extent, to my father’s; and it would multiply my wounds. These lines of poet Nikos Kambas, recorded in a letter from him to Palamas, have been completely expressive of my feelings: “Do not ever hope of me / neither verses nor whatnot; / It is only by way of sorrow / that a poet I still am.”

Perhaps the aforementioned biographical details had been conducive to my becoming a poet or rather to writing poetry. But, when all is said and done, I am not certain whether someone becomes a poet or is born one. Naturally, one’s environment has a decisive role, but great responsibility also lies with a man’s genes. I am a historian and I passionately love history but above everything else I am and feel like a poet. After all, taking poetic license, I am keen on saying that I author history…

The homeland, in fact such homeland as Cyprus is, encloses everything so that one may draw inspiration from its inexhaustible cultural wealth, mostly its history. “I come back to you, homeland / akin to an impetuous equus /  with legs thrust forward by the air. / I am the horse; you are the woman. / Come ride on my back, homeland  Let’s leave together, together let’s be rescued…

Poetry which is not only the ecstasy of the imagination and the intellect, but also blood ecstasy, therefore a painful transcendence, agony and fall, shall eventually lead the poet to the light, as if by magic: “A moonless night; / but the city intra muros / is illuminated / by the vision of the jasmines.”

Translated by Despina Pirketti
 
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