In Memory of Antigone Kefala (1935-2022), Four poems

The Place

I

The place was small, full of hills,
palm trees, almond trees, oleanders,
glass flowers falling from the sky
on the ascetic hills, the bare houses.
The ancients had been there looking for copper.

Around the courtyards in the dusk
grey men in army coats
followed the leader round the ramparts.
At night after the toll, the three
would come dressed up to count the souls.

We waited there two summers.
Tall birds with upturned beaks
picked us like grain.
We moved in herds
waited with patience to be fed
drank at the water places
between the walls our necks grew longer
stretching for the night.

II

The ships, we heard, had sunk
weighed with the charity of the new world
that kept on feeding us with toys,
letters in foreign tongues
that we could not decipher.

We gave them to our silent children, onyx-eyed,
brought up on wakes for spirits that had gone
and knew each drop that added the ingredients
to the day in the appointed measure.

For them, we looked at the cross roads
to find only the sound of running water
and the dusk settling in plum coloured
over the hills
the coolness of the evening full of promise.

III

They came in spring with the great winds
the buyers
walked through the gates in groups
their marrow discoloured
their eyes ashes
gestures full of charity.
Bidders, in markets for flesh
untouched by the taste of the coffee
and the scent of the water
on the hot stones.

IV

We travelled in old ships
with small decaying hearts
rode on the giant beast
uncertain
remembered other voyages
and the black depths
each day we feasted on the past
friends watching over
the furniture of generations
dolphins no longer followed us
we were in alien waters.

*

Ceremony

She came up the stairs
in the thin white dress
with flowers in her hair,
unseeing
splashing through
the milky afternoon.
This exquisite fear
that advanced on all sides
a sea
to which she could not
give herself.

*

Blood


In the metallic light
the pavements
were rivers of blood
flooding the gutters
this hot, transparent liquid
made of silk
live, breathing on the stone
trying to defend itself
from the invisible killers
that were watching
watching this magnificence
this red flowering
shrinking, freezing
vanishing into the ground.

*

They Are Still Coming


I

They are still coming
coming at night to take me away
and I run out of the lighted house
down empty streets, dogs barking,
whistles, leather voices of men.
I run pushed by a panic so strong
that I see my shadow fleeing
before me, white and transparent
in the moonlight.

Yet I am running with another
a companion, shuffling in his rag-
covered feet, his long black coat
his shadow gigantic in the search
lights, and I whisper to him
hoarsely in the dark
run . . . run . . . they are coming.

II

At dawn we are still moving
paralysed in a white light
over marshes, between thick
fleshy stalks, the menace
everywhere, suffocating
rising from the ground
pressing from above
tighter and tighter.
No wind.
Just the companion, silent,
faceless, crunching through
the weeds, weighed with
this speechless suffering
the burden of these deaths.

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