Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

The Houses Of The Dead & Other Poems— Spyros Aravanis

Dec 7, 2022 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the Greek by Yannis Goumas 

 

The Houses Of The Dead

Houses belong to their dead
as the bones of horses to their riders.
Starting with the peeling of walls
to arrive eventually in their stalk
—never from doors or windows
they always bring an expectation.
Then you unnail the boards
slowly that not a stride of theirs be lost
and next, you take down the ceiling
fixed so many years from their fumes.
Don’t ask about the furniture, it’s of no use.
They’ve made eternal vows with their touch.  


“Gospel According To S.”

Counting the triumphant denials
tearing the viscera with a lancet’s precision
           bringing new hopes as future defeats
I walk in the universe.
What we were deprived of is what moves us
           towards that side of the moon
with a local low level and raised lips.
O dark root of optimism
how much longer shall you grow in arid soil
ramifying infinity with the illusion of being?

A dead armchair is equal to millions of voices
and an extinct torch to thousands of raging photons
           yet affection is two letters ahead
and the throne a rustle without the body.
O generation, spiny chicory of Erebus
O generation, slain wild beast in the throat of God
O generation, perplexed and computerized
mirrored in stagnant waters fayum-like.

And where bombarding beehives, there “peace” trumpets forth
and where crystallized limbs, there outflow rivers
           of “freedom”
and when on the table “injustice” is slaughtered
the innocent dine on crumbs of righteousness
and when they sound “mercy”
           comes caisson disease.
You always dismiss your demon servant
as you affirmed during the war.

He who cries “my poor sides!”
will be quelled by the beauty of her bare parts.
And she who mourns for the constellation of Centaurus
the splinters of his skin will be undoing.
For who can stop a beast pouncing on its prey
and the victim’s desire to be marauded?
Blessed are the hungry and thirsty for love
and satiated they are.

And finally whoever  is humiliated by the pace of a lizard
sunning itself
whoever is still moved by a dewdrop’s will
to hover on the leaf of its fate
whoever still wonders
“Who knows what experience has in store for us?”
he’ll emerge from the kingdom of heaven
worshipping not knowing what.


Palmyra, 2015 A.D

Art is transformed from a nymph into a butterfly
as you, shattered Desert Nymph,
are mirrored in the ruins of your ruins
without prospect of reflection.
The ancient pillars propping up memory
are now hurled into infinity like grains of sand
alike Calderon de la Barca’s ethereal inspiration
before becoming an invalid lament.
Tiepolo is looking speechless at Zenobia who is crying.
Beside him, Rossini is smoking thoughtfully.
And I hundreds of kilometers away from them
raise from the ground a random stone
in memory of History coming to an end.


Existential Trilogy

I. 

Who can believe without attributing it to his faith
as the breeze rustles in the leaves
without giving away its origin?
Who can desire without construing his passion
following the cricket’s amorous call?
The dusk’s ashes scintillate without a murmur
the water’s tear leans waiting for the glaciers’ glory
and the ivory gateway receives
the weary knees with the runner’s eagerness.
The stubborn silkworm asks for no revaluation
nor does the primeval root acknowledge debt.
The hyacinth has no need of prehistory to effloresce
nor the Pleiades to endow their bright brooch.
All that you love is given self-sown.  

II. 

And if at the bottom of the sky
you saw broken chinaware and fallen vases
it’s because the light rubbed in our palms like thyme
became a blade in the hands of conscience converters.
And if you heard the pine tree sobbing
and the dolphin cursing
it’s because haughtiness became jet, intoxication, and cicatrix.
The fishermen’s sorrow, the galaxy’s hissing
and crystallized the lava’s sperm.
Whatever you kill takes the shape of your hand.

III. 

Your age are the people hitched on your eyes
and words digging on paper conduits
to the final sparking of the new blindness.
(they call it knowledge or starry grass).
The hum of barbarity in the world’s
morning bell full of morbid microbes contaminating the senses,
spurts like a winged rash over the roofs
of bodies, penetrating even the most thick-skinned reptiles.
We walk in the mud of oblivion
with the galoshes eternity,
a skull pierced by the ignorant horn
with hollow slots where cast coins
the penholders of darkness
what you ignore brands you forever.


Hereditary 

The hand that killed
the five-year-old child
in Gaza in 2012,
was his father’s hand
in Vietnam in 1967,
and his grandfather’s
in Spain in 1936.
The child that was killed
in Gaza
in Vietnam
and in Spain
passed away the hour
shown on the clock
of the bombarded church
in Croatia in 1991.

The 21st-century biographer to come
will doubtless
be less troubled.


Granada 

You wander over the three hills like a Creole woman
The thirst of your lips you quench in rivers
You have the look of a “Solemn Madonna”
Roses in your hands and silver from Granada .

They offer you a red stone. Mum’s the word.
Your silence is the art of Alhambra
And that glass bead around your neck
Inevitably brands you wherever you go.

Strangers’ hill. Your way.
“What soil allays a stranger when he dies”
You think again as you regard the Fountain
With the Lions encircling the source.

Everywhere sound Tarrega’s “Memories”
Here, in the south, in woeful Andalusia
A couple of questions as one and only wealth
“Whence did you leave” and “whence are you returning”.  


Fragments 

A dog’s tail reveals
what millions of books try
to express.

***

With two fingers you can silence
a cicada ’s voice but not its
throbbing.

***

“Is Alexander the Great still living?”
asked the anguished Gorgon every
notary public.

***

The quickest way
for one to reach knowledge is
doubt.

***

We should evaluate heroes
not by time, but
Tithonus .

***

You should pity Achilles not for
his vulnerable heel, but for his scorched
lips.

***

Aeschylus wrote his tragedies
with Cynaegirus ’ amputated
hands.


 Also, read a Malayalam poem by Sujeesh, translated into English by Nithya Mariam John, and published in The Antonym

Tamed— A Malayalam Poem by Sujeesh


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Spyros Aravanis was born in 1979 in Piraeus. He read philology, specializing in Intercultural Education for his post-doctoral studies. He works as a Professor. He is the Editor of the Poetic Art Review Poiein and the Head of the Poiein poetry series (Metronomos Publishers). He has authored five books of poems and three books of educational and literature studies. His work has appeared in Poetiki, Entefktirio, Odos Panos (Greece), Osiris (USA), HQ Poetry Magazine (England), Rebstein and Iris di Kolibris (Italy), Siirden (Turkey), Poetelanden (Germany), etc.

Yannis Goumas (1935-2022) was a poet, novelist, translator, stage actor, screen actor, TV actor, composer, and singer. Born in Athens, he grew up and was educated in England, where he lived for much of his life. He has authored eight books of poetry in English, one bilingual English-Greek volume, three poetry collections in Greek (in translation), and one trilingual in English, Turkish, and Greek. His work has been translated into Turkish, Serbo-Croat, Italian, Hungarian, Estonian, and Greek.

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