YIORGOS CHRISTODOULIDES

As published in In Focus, Volume 9, No 3, Sept. 2012

Selected Poems (1996-2010)

I. ENIA, 1996

VIOLIN-CASES
Instruments are but our need
to hear something else than our stupid voices.

Yet through the sounds of the violin
you get to grasp the meaning of silence
and death.

Violinists should have been dwarfs;
once dead, we’d bury them in their violin cases. 

MYTH 2
He closed his eyes and whistled
urged by an impulse born
in the bosom of complete and utter silence.
It was spring at the time.
The forest smelled of fresh green 
akin to a reservation, a refuge.

Wherever he reached with his hands,
he touched a life other than his own.

Then she descended from the moon and
following the traces of his long whistling, 
lay asleep on his lips.

II. DREAM-MILL, 2001

THE DEAD AND THE THINGS
He is dead.
“We gathered here today to lay our beloved to rest”.
His personal items
are listening to the women wailing
as they endure their temporality.
The stir of death
exaggerates the immobility of things.
Toothbrush, socks, shoes,
shirts, watch, a few notes
meant to be revised.
A week later they pile them up.
They burn them – oh, villainy! – or discard them.
Usually something is left behind.
Found by the widow
years later.
She cries over it
and puts it somewhere safe.

III. GROWER'S MANUAL, 2004

PHANTOM LIMB
The mirror stands within shooting range.
We duel every night
but the space between us prevails.

Lately I subject myself to intensive therapy.
I am not allowed to look through the window.

Opposite us, Pentadaktylos 
curses our very race
then vanishes;
for someday, time itself must return home.

The luxury apartment building  
conceals the shame –
veiling it in familial activities.

Facing the mountain
I train myself to stand adeptly still
because my soul cannot move
to a house with a better view.

I never wrote a letter
without a recipient
even when I didn’t know where to send it.

On the other side of the city
I can hear scattered gunshots.
Then again, fireworks explode so often
that I’m thankful for the relevant confusion.

When your mother started screaming 
they thought she’d gone mad.
the truth being that she’d just counted
the years you’ve been missing.

Pentadaktylos! – you sigh.
How ably still.
Like our hand
that despite the chronic bleeding
has no sensation of the five fingers 
it’s been missing. 

How is this possible? I yelled. How is this possible?
On the news they said
Kyrenia has been dry ten days now
yet I’m not in the least thirsty.

Calm down, plant something in your garden,
advised the doctor.
It’s too deep.
I can’t reach it.

DOUBTFUL ATTEMPTS AT METAMORPHOSIS
So this is where you flow into
when as if by magic you vanish
from the naked eye’s non-leaded bullets
still fired by the lost revolution.
Tell me, how much time does it take you to turn into a flowing speck
in that tiny furrow of the neck
and then like a broken chord
emptying its notes inside a wide-open silent mouth
gush out into the world?
I want to see if you’d broken the world record
another charlatan claims to hold.
He is the one who insists that through an adjoining groove
he escaped into my heart’s canopy
and now boasts of causing sudden arrhythmias  
and brief tachycardia
things prompting the drilling of old-time memories 
and their abrupt translation
onto the mind’s tiny attic.
But when the computer
lingers untouched for a while
larvae on yellow-green plants appear
crawling slothfully over huge stretched-out leaves
akin to hand palms.
To penetrate the poem
they sometimes attempt; in vain.
To break with the system –
to become butterflies.

A GROWER'S MANUAL
Your face was different this morning.
What kind of stab has scarred it so?
I thought I had warned you to quit growing them:
stray hands; they never will sprout
and write the sublime word.
It was inevitable they’d turn against you
enraged at the soil’s poor quality.
How could they bud with so much blood watering them?
The blood was theirs and up until recently
it flowed within their veins. 
Take heed of my words: I don’t ever want to see you again 
boasting spontaneously to have grown wings for a vertical takeoff.  
What takes off
must crash down.
You might as well cultivate twilights
with seeds of unregistered sun.
Besides, there’re so many stale rays in your stockroom.
They long to shine for a moment.
Take me, for instance.
For so long now I’ve stopped blossoming in public
to gain easy access to the bladed night.
I chose to compromise with a secret blooming.
And of course, at some point I had to wither away
just as I had promised those innately jealous dried-up weeds.
It was then that I turned all my branches inside
to an empty space that if you don’t seek out
you’ll never know it’s there.
By trial and error
in all kinds of movement
do you learn to respect absolute stillness. 
I mean
look at how many years it takes trees to die. 

IV. The UNDONE, 2010

SMALL CHILD SPEAKS DEEP INTO THE FUTURE
You used to hold me tight
in your arms
lest I sink into the sea
lest I stumble down the stairs 
(and plunge into the canines’ stares) 
lest I overtire 
as I staggered with blind eyes into the fall of night. 
Only from the blast of time
that dragged me
and casted me away deep into the future 
where I am yet to grow up
did you not protect me 
and now 
that I need your arms more than ever
to hold onto awhile and regain my breath 
now that you should ingest my puffing 
and breathe me in 
- you had to become
the barren twig 
of a perennial tree
in an age ridden garden.
My God - when did you wither so?
I gather all the years
on a day I call yesterday
and trace the line that tenderly caressed
my forehead
each time the pear appeared
in a plate on the table
meticulously chopped as always
for fear that it might swerve in my throat 
and bring on
yet another choking-induced overturn. 

SEA OF HAPPINESS
Lately
more often than before you escape
crossing the line of no return.
A pale dot you become
not on the horizon
but in the wide sea
of happiness.
Drenched, you return
distant and uncanny.
I try to wipe you
with an infinity dry and unfailing
that I set free
by transposing a mountain.
Less and less of you I find each time.
Your joy, misty
is now the color of water;
and your touch,
the incorporeal
that caresses me
when I feel nothing.
Persistently I ask you:
I have a sun of my own
hidden in an unmarked sea;
now that the ice melts
shall I light it up?
It yearns for drought to break. 
You do not respond?
Then why insist on returning.
Have you ever seen the living coming back to the dead?
Why do you insist on returning?
Each time
stranger than before you approach
each time
in the form of someone else you keep drawing away.

OBLIVION
Deep it is very deep
that which lies unfilled
by your absence.
I make to cover it
with an improvised bandage
of oblivion
yet it insists on asking for you and you alone
obliging the incorporeal
to yearn for matter
and weep.
How can what is not there
know what it misses?
What oblivious man prescribes
the specifications of forgetfulness 
for the things bound to expire
beyond and outside
of what our days
were meant to withstand?
A crafty stranger
with precision is making sure
that the want of them
heavily descends.
As if they had really been there.

THE UNDONE
How much rain failed to fall
from the clouds’ hesitations?
The sky was black
in labor.
It wanted to rain heavily.
It didn’t.
An invisible wall, hesitation.
The more you climb it
the more it rises.
Breaking against it,
tall waves
of love enclosed
in the unsaid
as dexterously as it deters
dry lives from pouring
those tottering
across the frontier
between land and sea.
What happens to all the things
that were not done? – you asked.
I suppose they are stowed in dams of dreams
then channeled 
into a thirsty future
with tributaries expanding far away
beyond any drawn map
drop by drop watering
the undone. 

Translated by Despina Pirketti
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