Greek Avant Garde Poetry


Dimitris Lyacos

THE FIRST DEATH (excerpts) from his Poena Damni


Sea of iron. Moon silent as pain in the depth of the mind. A body swept here and there on the rock like seaweed or a lifeless tentacle, fruit of a womb ship-wrecked by the winds, ensanguined and flesh-filled mire. The left arm cut short, the right to the end of the forearm, a rotted stick raving amid the water's lungs. Of the ravaged mouth theree remained only a wound which closed slowly. From the eyes a blurred light. The eyes without lids. The legs down to the ankles - no feet. Spasms.


Final concept harbour which has
broken there where it crumpled our faces
there where ikons soaking and dissolving
scoured the rusty beds
with haven sleep and holy candle fading
keeling over amid the wailings
the friendly hug which turned to stone for ever
in a vein where death drips
dispirited nods and flesh-consuming intercourse
and embraces on the slighted
shape of the saint who is baptised in fever
and empties our bodies' skins
and discharges black ruins of the tissues
the fir tree's primary jewellery then 
as we were nestling below the turf
of the dream noiselessly
in the root of the sickness which was opening
a road and a door leaning tilting into the darkness, light
sure prophesies, whirlpools drowning the promontories
and the place was becoming wrinkled without pathways
and we were casting anchor in our innards
and chains were harvesting the senses
and the affections are shattering
and the forefathers used to navigate in the expanse of madness
close-bound bundles being pressed together into
the pattern of condemnation indescribable
shadows and rent apart
and the mercy which was granted them of asphyxiation
while the pulley-wheel of memories spins red-hot
the un-nailing of my boyhood years
and the funerary gifts which uncover the frenzy
crumb from the stars
coffins under the rain
forests inclining into pubic hair
lonely orgasms crippled lovers
already lost inside the muted branches of their bodies


Because you can no longer stay
because your vision allows the idols to writhe
until the lake congeals, until your hand ceases
to poke among the gizzards and the burning coals
seeking a useless axe
and let the sea scratch the dried blood;
Because you are looking for the mountain and the nails beneath the stars
black crosses leaning towards the triumph
and once more you crawl and
scramble on the earth's wounds
spitting sulphur which cauterizes your limbs
panting as once upon the whores, 
watering the lustful sandbanks
and the croaking of the birds of prey accompanies
the defilement; ecstatic on the mountain. 
And the moist stings of the scorpions
show the way
and the mind a map dipped in wine
and the soul within its muzzle
the further horizon of pain.

(Translated from the Greek by Shorsha Sullivan)