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MATHIOS PASKALIS AMONG THE ROSES I've been smoking steadily all morning if I stop the roses will embrace me they'll choke me with thorns and fallen petals they grow crookedly, each with the same rose color they gaze, expecting to see someone go by; no one goes by. Behind the smoke of my pipe I watch them scentless on their weary stems. In the other life a woman said to me: "You can touch this hand, and this rose is yours, it's yours, you can take it now or later, whenever you like." I go down the steps smoking still, and the roses follow me down excited and in their manner there's something of that voice at the root of a cry, there where one starts shouting "mother" or "help" or the small white cries of love. It's a small garden full of roses a few square yards descending with me as I go down the steps, without the sky; 105 and her aunt would say to her: "Antigone, you forgot your exercises today, at your age I never wore corsets, not in my time." Her aunt was a pitiful creature: veins in relief, wrinkles all around her ears, a nose ready to die; but her words were always full of prudence. One day I saw her touching Antigone's breast like a small child stealing an apple. Is it possible that I'll meet the old woman now as I go down? She said to me as I left: "Who knows when we'll meet again?" And then I read of her death in old newspapers of Antigone's marriage and the marriage of Antigone's daughter without the steps coming to an end or my tobacco which leaves on my lips the taste of a haunted ship with a mermaid crucified to the wheel while she was still beautiful. Koritsa, summer '37 106 ...


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