Monday, February 9, 2015

Manolis Anagnostakis-Mihalis Katsaros: Two poems

It was still a long time
It was still a long time before the dawn.
But I did not admit defeat.
I could see now how many hidden keepsakes I had to salvage
how many nests of water I had to preserve within the flames.

You talk, you show your wounds on the street, beside yourselves
you plant the panic that is strangling your heart on balconies,
as if it were a flag; you have studiously loaded the commodities,
your prediction is safe: The city will fall.

There, in a corner, I carefully gather order
I prudently shut off my last bastion
I hang severed limbs on the walls, I decorate
the windows with decapitated skulls, I weave
my nest with cut off hair and I wait,
standing up, alone, and as before, I wait.
Manolis Anagnostakis, 1956

In the dead forest
In the dead forest of language I walk
I light up the pale lamps in the streets
I try to resurrect
the names that have set hearts on fire.
In secret meetings
the names that led us
are assassinated.
Now, strangers strut around in mansions
they dress officially for galas
in diplomatic congresses they exchange handshakes
horrible memoranda
they attend feasts, they bow
Now they die.

Oh, Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin, poets,
Oh, Thälmann, Tanev
frozen in official halls,
you laurer-bearing heroes
mythical figures,

Now powers are seeking caresses like cats in heat
on our roofs
presidents exchange visits
patriarchs are back on their thrones
they taunt us under
your legitimate frames.

Inside me, I have the memory
of the great crowd ascending the stairs with the flame, holding the sign
"All power to the Soviets!"
I have the memory of the locomotive
which brought Lenin
the enraged Mayakovsky, shooting the ministers
the students hugging the peasants.

How did they manage to escape the fire
Mr Director
the diplomatic attaché
Mr. Ambassador?

And now, what is to be done
in this cemetery of names,
in this cemetery of words?

How shall we baptize the fires anew
"Freedom", "Equality", "Soviets", "Power"?
Mihalis Katsaros, 1953

Translated by Lenin Reloaded.

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