July 5, 2013KR OnlinePoetry


From The Kenyon Review, New Series, Winter, 1995, Vol. XVII, No. 1

Translated from modern Greek by Martin McKinsey

It’s quiet out tonight. At the window, motionless, the black swan
with glittering eyes. The clock has stopped. Your fingers
add up to ten. Now that’s something. But the curtain’s faded.
Red reverts to gray. Friends disappear.
The young dairyman got drafted. Maria got divorced. One by one
the portraits of the dead are stored in the basement
with the cockroaches and the rats. If, however, the woman
unbraids her hair in front of the mirror,
perhaps a thread of music will find its way from the other side.

Karlόvasi, 8 July 1987

During his long career, Yannis Ritsos suffered exile, imprisonment, and the banning or burning of his works by successive Greek governments for his political activism. Twice nominated for the Nobel Prize, Ritsos drew the great tradition of Greek myth and history into the modern political struggle over the future of his homeland. And yet, John Simon has also described Ritsos as “a great bard of loneliness, but of loneliness ennobled and overcome.”