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Yannis Ritsos 205  Yannis Ritsos (1909–90) Level Duration Foundations under foundations. The churches under the houses. Belfries above the houses. At what depth of rock does the root of the fig tree grasp? On what branch of the wind does the gold-winged Archangel grasp? We will ascend above supported on the shoulders of the dead, with the earth on our chests, in a procession of ruins, and the prickly pears arranged along the length of time, mute, unresponsive, with their broad hands blunting the clang of the buried churchbell. Announcement These rocks he carries on his shoulders he carves into his stools and his wings. Here were Stavroula, Nina, Aliki, Thekla, Ourania— they sang toward the sea from their balconies under an enormous moon, they took the blue dye for love, plaited songs in their hair. The rowers took up to the citadel their broken oars. One Sunday morning before the scorching heat of July set in, a handsome equestrian appeared in the doorway and rode his white horse down into the church. “Stop”—he said— “I’ve brought the keys.” He dismounted and advanced, pulling his horse by the reins, and placed the black chest with its golden nails in front of the Holy Altar Door. The Elkomenos Christ raised his lowered eyelids. But even now the horseman did not cross himself; he jumped once more on his saddle, mounted up the stone stairs, hoofs pounding, and went out. He left behind him smoke, incense, clouds of dust, speechless archangels, priests, chanters, and the entire congregation. 206 Greek Remembrances Your boyhood years waited for you in forgotten corners, in demolished buildings, in Byzantine arcades— the barber shop was there; there the shoemaker’s, over there must have been the fish store—the low stone wall bears a resemblance. The woman with the very long hair—the mailman had abducted her; afterward she died. It was raining. The four children had locked themselves in the other room. They held the old sea-blue chest. We didn’t have more time— events one on top of the other, wars and wars, expatriations, books, half-finished recollections, loves, the closed well; the parish priest omitted names—who remembers them? Later the same child, during leap years, lugging water in a basket, and the ordeal of the great desolation on the shattered watch towers. Kimon Friar and Kostas Myrsiades, 1981 ...


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