By VERONIKI DALAKOURA.
Translated from the Greek by John Taylor
NOW that I’ve dreamt of the beloved
Gazing at infinity bleached
Like his own bones
The falsification of feeling has been confirmed.
His sharp teeth are his sword
And when I place my hand
On his troubled head
His shiny canines
Are caught in a vise.
Father, relieve him of this pain,
this loss akin to yours.
Beautiful day of the night
The heart lays down its law
Penetrates with a half-open mouth
Ready to bite
What I write here is no theater: I have nothing to do with the drama.
A kiss will kill unless love becomes death as simple as exiting off
Something leads me to freedom: it’s a child’s fear in front of a boxful
of sleepless wishes.
Mountain ranges cross paths with panic in the garden where pitiful repetition takes place. Nothing recalls the sunny afternoons. Sitting in the little park across from the Asylum, I’m waiting, convinced that this encounter will be decisive. When I see my shattered prison, I feel nothing. The boulder has nothing to do with the blazing mass, a pinnacle of rage as long as this mania lasts.
And when it slowly breaks away from the body,
it metamorphoses into a dance angrily brought about
by those who live in her midst.
(Ghost of love)
I watched my deeds dancing on a shore. This is the two-edged sword, I said to the machination. Don’t whip the ghost of the black waters, don’t close your eyes to the clear surface above the sunken city. Don’t deny the language spoken long ago. Don’t follow the storm, the darkness, the drought. In the water, follow the heavenly father who becomes merciful once crystalline awe quivers.
THE cause won’t be inscribed on the tombstone.
Pure white like her, it will leap up moaning, mixing grass and gravel. The spring will shatter, the cement lose its force.
(Her passing away makes permanent the loss of the stable cause.)
All this is savage, savage and harsh. She was moving on, without turning her head, and I watched her: her back was mirrored in the windowpane.
Uneasy in her indifference, the heavenly sister’s attitude showed how useless love and weariness are.
IN early morning they saw ethereal existence hovering, yet disintegration was lingering—what power a childhood faith has—and it fell full of life into my embrace, snapping the rope. I have never been so consciously Christian as to avoid succumbing to the waterfall of mucus bathing my face. Chimes and bright chanting confirmed the strong will. Won’t the magpie’s song help my soul to see things differently? In the chestnut trees the fruit had ripened, but rhyme and a thousand and two oppositions dragged us to the theater of confessions. In the wretched space two rooms are many, nothing is enough.
The punishment is dimwittedness. If you are me what I am seeking in a dimension I don’t know?
The Animal Chorus
I awoke at night. The clattering noise from the garbage truck made my hearing rusty, entangled many more dreams. But in that precise part of the house no one had awakened. The aura was conquered in a unique way and the technology of memory was treated with great clemency by the pigs’ trick in their Bay. Plaster statues darkened the expression of the snout. Bloody hides, muddy hooves, colorful backs. From the pile of rubbish, you went up with your dual essence, with what ultimately gives substance to the quest of man. Melodies were heard everywhere. Heaps, a pile of dirt, indeed dried-up earth. A fruitless search. Voices, joyful screams—what little songs—all together bleating with moans.
Terrible shipwreck of the dawn.
How All Flesh Ends
FELINES standing at attention legs taut
before the hymns begin
and the lizards
on the little plates
keep the last dance for themselves.
With the struggle of silent priests who haven’t decided
whether the golden afternoons are for
eros or prayer.
I watch the ghost of the weary legions
ending up as an evil omen
I hear the tramping of small animals and the mania
escaping from the mother of the very aged.
HERE it conquered the infantile aura
by leaving the narrow lane
for the open space
All the way to the radiating
“What would I like”
WHAT would I like
Now that the deadly poem begins
And the beginning is shattered
Like that which seeks
With the light of the sea?
For That Love
WHAT a pity for that love
it tiptoed into the sea
as evil pimples were growing
from the healing armada and snatching away
the sign of a laughable good.
Stand outside the door:
my heart is cutting up the body
the clock hands of idiotic hours
stick in the mind
and like wave riders moving slowly
lovers speak savagely to each other.
He quickly moved on to the wide-open house
where rust and chains are stacked
and out of fear—not sorrow—
Chance accepts rogues through its opened-up sides.
Ode to Mistress Vita D.
“UP to my knees in stagnant water
In what language can I articulate No
Since it’s my fault that I’m here.”
Calming fear results from the straight line continuing to the spot where it meets the tangent with the mystery. Mud, mistress of the familiar, is responsible for the weak foundations of the solitary room. The body cell changed its course as we turned to my childhood home. It was neither winter nor spring; the green liquid—was seeping on us—
They all went silent. Motionless in the swamp, I breathe, hearing the music that suffocates in a part of my mind. Invisible one, shut up! You took it upon yourself to pawn off birds of prey in exchange for solidified brine, the sound of rattling that the apnea of the oppositions brought all the way to here.
Note: These poems and prose poems have been selected from 26 POIHMATA (26 Poems, Agra, 2004).
Veroniki Dalakoura’s writing shows the influence of surrealism and her books often combine verse poems, prose poems, hybrid forms, and longer narratives in provocative ways. Her most recent collections are 26 Poiimata (26 Poems, 2004), Karnavalistis (Carny, 2011) and Kappadokes (Cappadocians, 2020). John Taylor’s essay about Dalakoura, “Eros and Other Spiritual Adventures,” is included in his book Into the Heart of European Poetry (Transaction Publishers, 2008).
John Taylor has translated many French, Italian, and Greek poets. His memoir Harsh Out of Tenderness: The Greek Poet and Urban Folklorist Elias Petropoulos (Cycladic Press) has recently been published, as well as a new edition of his translation of the short stories of Elias Papadimitrakopoulos, Toothpaste with Chlorophyll & Maritime Hot Baths (Coyote Arts). The Fortnightly Review‘s imprint, Odd Volumes, published his “double book” with Pierre Chappuis, A Notebook of Clouds & A Notebook of Ridges, as well as his translation of Philippe Jaccottet’s Truinas.