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The Book Of Cosmos & Other Poems— Yannis Yfandis

Mar 27, 2023 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the Greek by Urania 

 

Ten Greek poems by Yannis Yfantis

Image used for representation.

 

The Book Of Cosmos 

Only one book has been written
and has been written by things and not by words.

Only one book has been written
and has been written by Cosmos through Cosmos for Cosmos.

Cosmos is the book of Cosmos. 

*

Cosmos has no beginning or end
but when the poet reveals Cosmos
he creates it from the beginning. 

*

There is only one book to be read
and that is the book of Cosmos. 

*

To write means to read the book of Cosmos.
All my writings are nothing but underlines in the book of Cosmos.
All my writings are nothing but designs, notes, in the margins of its pages.

To write means to indicate
that I try to share with the people
the beauty or the horror I read in the book of Cosmos.

Because nobody endures reading alone, the book of Cosmos. 


That We Live Mythically Escapes Us 

That we live mythically escapes us.
That the beggar in the corner is a king escapes us.
That perhaps we are already pigs in Circe ’s corral, escapes us.
That, perhaps this city is digesting us because it is Charybdis ’ stomach, this, escapes us.
That the washing machine is the one-eyed Polyphymus we have put to work escapes us.
That the excavator growling while digging the earth is a dragon escapes us.
That the adder in the grass or in the stones is Apollo ’s arrow searching for our heel escapes us.
That motorcycles are the iron incarnations of that Gold-haired Ram escapes us.
That every harbor is the stone corral of the ships escapes us.
That every ship is carrying a white-haired fleece escapes us.
That every ship is trying to re-write the golden fleece of Galaxy, on the water, this, escapes us.
That the water is a knife, excoriating us, and pushing down the curly, the white, the many-eyed fleece of lather on our body, this, escapes us.
That towels in our bathroom are not the moss around the spring and not the seven peplums of Ishtar , but they are the mirror’s seven skins, escapes us.
And that the lady who goes to the park with three dogs each afternoon is Persephóne with Cerberus escapes us.
That we have already, been buried, this, escapes us;
And that the sun that sits up high on the hill, is one guard of our tomb; a Sphinx , a lion, with a mirror as a face and rays as hairs, this escapes us.
And that the Moon is our lost entombed mask which enflamed like a lion emerges from the thicket in deathlike silence, escapes us.
That we only live mythically escapes us.
And that the pencil we hold may be the prong that blinded Cyclops , this escapes us.
And that the suitors are here eating and enjoying Odysseus ’s wealth escapes us.
That, like Odysseus the poet is a stranger in his own house, this escapes us.
And that the suitors’ souls are already coming off the sky’s cave and creakily descend to Hades , this escapes us.
That Hermes leads them without malice through the soggy paths toward the darkness, this escapes us.
That we live mythically escapes us.
That we are shadows who wander outside time’s mirror, this escapes us. 


Written Admirably 

My typewriter on the table under the sycamore .

It’s the first time that I write in a room so vast,
having the sky as roof, and hills around, forests, roads, palaces of ants…

But what of course could I write since Cosmos
is written already, admirably, on Cosmos? 


Masks Of Nothing 

1

All things, all persons, and all beings
are nothing else but masks of the Nothing. 

2

Fields
like steps of
a ladder
on the slope.
There steps the angel and descends at midnight
holding the icon of the stars.

3

“Well,” told me, Life, the sorceress
“I shall tell you everything
but look,
for this, we need a whole life.” 

4

What did you bring?
What do you take?
In this symposium of life,
you take what you brought to offer. 

5

Fireflies
are passing in front
of my door.
With stitches
of fire
they embroider
the nightfall. 

6

I am looking here in the mirror. Yes,
I am the one
who is
behind the mirror. 

7

A book with two slopes for pages and
a stream for
bookmark. 

8

The storm has passed;
And there is silence.
Kjak, kjak,
a magpie
tears the silence. 

9

And the worm,
there it is,
crawling to its hole, wearing
the Earth.

10

Silence is a river and
my words are stones for you to step
and cross the silence. 

11

The sap of plants is blood unripe.
The blood of veins is light unripe.

12

At last, he has accepted the World
this (without a beginning or an end)
mask of the Nothing. 

13

And now
he lies there
in the mountains
inside a cave whose curtain
is a waterfall.


Full Stop With Legs 

A tiny creature is walking on a rock’s map.
It is a red full-stop with legs.
It is walking.
It doesn’t stop. It is walking.
Because the end of the world is
everywhere, and
a walking
full-stop,
can never know, where to stop. 


The Miracle 

What perfect goat kids
are the goat kids!
They were born but yesterday, and
they already know
with such exactitude
all goatish things.
You’d think they have been studying goatishness
for an entire
eternity.


I’m Sitting Under The Kermes Oak 

I’m sitting under the kermes oak,
without thoughts. And
why should I be thinking? Around me
are incarnated thoughts, so beautiful, that
when I see them,
I get full
of delight. 


Poverty 

Poverty
is pulling me toward redemption.

“It is enough for you,” it says, “a small hut, on the mountain
or more correctly a tree-cavity.

From books
poems, and fairy tales are enough for you. And
perhaps not even those.

What suits you more, is a bookcase
that is completely empty.

Although,
the perfect thing would be if all its wood
returned quickly to the forest.”


At Hippocrateion 

At Hippocrateion[1]
I went the day before to be examined by
Mr. Naim—Assyrian—who’s been living
for thirty years in Agrinion as a surgeon. And so
after examining me and finding nothing
except some bits of immortality
with his sufficient Greek, Mr. Naim
earnestly, suggested, mummifying me
(in low voice, he said in my ear) and put inside me
well-written papyruses with my poems.
“So, Greece,” he said, “can have its own
Tutankhamun , and more, because
that prince, excuse me, that king,
was not a poet. Imagine, Yannis, to discover
in a hundred or a thousand years, your
excellent poetry, to read it, in the last
form of the Attic dialect, contemporary Greek.
With five hundred Euros,” he tells me, “Mr. Yannis, we are ok.
Say this to your daughter, to keep in mind
and call me, in any case, as I come from Egypt and I know
as no one today, this ancient art; which keeps away from the dust
the human body, while making it a sack of leather
to keep your work inside it.
What pulverization they’ve gone through, imagine,
Great Alexander , Dante , your father, your mother
(Vassiliki? I knew her, vasilicos[2] (basil) was the smell of
her shadow!). My Yannis, think, anonymous
dust, mixed, dust into dust, and the wind taking you
here and there, the wind
which sometimes pretended it was your breath
(yes, the spirit, the spirit, ha) now taking you
in the wilderness, in markets, in alleys, in streets,
throwing you into the sea, saying to you, “Take a new soul
from the ocean,” and sneering at you, yes the wind,
while dragging your dust and spreading it on earth. Imagine it.
While, on the other hand, mummification… and
having your papyruses inside you, how exquisite, being a library
a crypt for your poems. To me
must your friends
give your corpse.
Do not forget it, Yannis.” 


 They Are Here Again 

The butterflies are here again.
(They come every day to our little garden butter-flying;
they sometimes sit for a bit at the threshold of a flower, or go inside it moving their wings to the rhythm of the most peaceful breath.)
Oh, breath, you, queen of queens, the first and the last!
How much I love the butterflies!
But they know nothing about this love of mine.
And so they never leave me their phone number, their address, or their email.
A butterfly that is alive is always between the “I’m coming” and the “I’m leaving”.
You will keep her next to you only if you kill her.
But how will you live with her grace dead?
Ah, what life will you have with your love being sad?

*

The butterflies are here again.
And the green grasshopper (half a centimeter) with her cap (a triangle with eyes).
And that enormous one, with a thorax like a green horse.
The hedgehog also came, washed, combed, with his nail hair like a thorn pig.
The glossy black ant came too, the laborer of the spires and the bur,
the modest carrier of the admirable storehouses of the dominion of seeds.
Its sister came too, the fly that wears a yellow belt.
Oh, my friends, you should see there, you should see.
Ah, I almost forgot…

God came too, hiding under the shield of a turtle.
(She was eating grass right at the edge of our wall,
and I thought for a moment that she was the machine the municipality has sent to cut our grass). Oh yes,
God comes here often, hidden in thousands of visible forms, but also in infinite invisible ones.
He comes here,
because
only here, in my infinite “I do not know”
he can exist as he is;
in my mind’s void, he fits in its entirety;
inside the nothing that I am, he feels free.

Inside the nothing? But yes, they are here again,
outside our house, in this yard,
in this passage of the world to the world. 


Notes: 

[1] Hippocrateion is a hospital in the Greek city of Agrinion .
[2] Vasilikos is the Greek word for basil.


Also, read a Bengali fiction written by Ahana Biswas, translated into English by Aritrik Dutta Chowdhury, and published in The Antonym:

In Search Of Kusum Manjari— Ahana Biswas


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Yannis Yfantis was born in Raina (1949), a valley in Central West Greece. He lived most of his life in Raina, Thessaloniki, Athens, and the Ionian island of Lefkas. He wrote the books: Manthraspenta, The Mirror of Proteus, Poems Embroidered On Devil’s Skin, Temple of Cosmos, Eros Undefeated In The Battle, Masks Of Nothing, Under The Icon Of The Stars (all these poetry collections are now included in the volume of the collected poems, titled The Transformations Of Zero). Other Books include Mystics of the Orient (Sufi, Indian, Tao, Zen), The Garden of Poetry (4.500 years of Foreign Poetry), At Homer’s Shores (3.000 years of Greek poetry), The Ideogram Of The Snake, Archetypes (optical poems), Signs Of Eternal Memory

Urania was born in 1980 in the village of Aidonia, in West Macedonia. In 1998, she came to Thessaloniki to study English Literature at Aristotle University. After completing her first degree, she went to the United Kingdom where she successfully completed her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees (Universities of York and Swansea respectively), both of which were on British Romanticism. After teaching English literature for 8 years at Swansea University, she returned to Greece to live with her favorite poet, of whom she is the official translator. In Greece, she briefly taught English at the Kapodistrian University of Athens and Athens College. She is currently an IB Diploma teacher and the English Language and Literature Department Head at Pinewood American International School of Thessaloniki. 

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