AFTER THE BATTLE

Anastassis Vistonitis was born in Komotini, Northern Greece, in 1952. He studied Political Sciences and Economics in Athens and Philosophy in Thessaloniki. From 1983 to 1988 he lived in the U.S.A. (New York and Chicago) and traveled extensively in Europe, America, Africa, Australia and Asia. From 1996 to 2001 he was a member of the board of the
E.W.C. (The Federation of European Writers) and from 2003 to 2007 he was its Vice-president. In addition to poems, essays, book reviews and articles contributed to many leading quarterlies and newspapers in Greece and abroad, Anastassis Vistonitis has published twelve books of poetry, four volumes of essays, five travelogues, a book of short stories and a book of translations of the Chinese poet Li Ho. He was the General Editor of the candidature file of Athens for the Olympic Games of 2004. His writings have been translated into 20 languages. He writes for the leading Greek newspaper To Vima and lives in Athens.

By Anastassis Vistonitis

AFTER THE BATTLE

The battle raged till sunset.
In darkness they lay themselves down
to sleep, the living and the dead.
Searchlights swept.
Dark tatters
flapped in dusty wind.
From a high casement,
notes of a nuptial waltz.
From ditches, pale
corpse sheen.
A steel firefly settled on the square.
Pylades emerged, Clytemnestra,
Aegisthus. In the gaze of the pilot
I glimpsed Orestes staring skyward.
Then the searchlights’ lethal glare
swallowed all.

Beneath the star of death
we went on living, gnawing bitter bread.
Our dreams sprang up
a sea of leaden groves.
Foul, thick light.
Days of mire and insects.
Insects entered our houses,
took over our beds.
They claimed our graveyards,
our ancestors.
In the bowels of earth,
in the cities of Hell,
they built mausoleums.
The iris of water
gives birth to the sun.
I offer my voice,
my eyes, my flesh.
In the language of the hawk
I speak to you.
In the rattle of the woodpecker,
the sparrow’s flight.
Their troops marched in
through the north gate. Then
the rituals of surrender:
flags, keys, women.
The enemy were great in number.
We called them thieves of an epoch.

ARS POETICA

Not like the leaves
windswept through the streets.
Nor still in the sea,
a tethered boat.
A poem is not the sky’s azure,
its lucid air.
A poem is a stake
through the world’s heart,
a glinting blade
driven through the towns.
A poem is pain,
a bright splinter of steel,
ice, a blackened wound.
A poem is obdurate,
its facets diamond.
Graved stone.
A surging Asian river.
A poem is neither voice
nor winged passage.
It’s a rifle shot
at history, the skyline.
A poem is no withering bloom.
It is anguish, embalmed.

CURTAIN

Beneath the bridge
a blind man in the water,
one star above the water lily,
pale death in the grass
and the fish of midnight
eating up the sky.

DREAM

My whole life I had nothing.
Now they’ve taken everything.
Among thousands, I’ve become another
seeking another, whatever I was
mere scattered fragments.
My face a vague tracery,
its lines indistinct, indiscriminate.
Such spoilage flees his gaze,
his recognition. The faintest frown
could smash the planet. I woke
last night to singing dark,
a spring beyond all measure,
huge blossoms devouring walls.
Bright wind swept me skyward.

STONE

Deep in the black gunpowder
called memory,
below the massive stone,
blind fable, I’m still here
with a red barometer,
my father’s shadow,
last of a plundered kingdom.
Amid these ruins,
strewn peacock plumes.
Snow stops the cave mouth,
fissure in the grammar of basalt,
blinkered heart, dark freedom.

METAPHOR

Years, then once more I see the stars.
Moonless, monster-spawning night,
eddying sky,
valleys of electric rivers,
fever’s shadows, behind the skull
entrenchments.
Blanched forms materialize,
the pale shades of illusion.
Summers of mold, dead cigarettes,
the trash of fifty years.
Your voice, your breath a silken
strand of spider web, your soul
an insect snared over the abyss.
Inside me, an old dream
trembling.

Translated from the Greek by Anastassis
Vistonitis & George O’Connell