Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Dimitris Lyacos

Z213 Exit (extracts 11-12)
Translated from Greek by Shorsha Sullivan


I think of you but not as I used to. My eyes open in
sleep, a hand seizes me. And in the sweetness of
somebody’s touch. I am falling, and the same dream
again of a child’s breast that a woman holds in her
arms. Lips on it, wet, blood-soaked her lips. I start
upright. The others are sleeping. Days walking uphill,
view of an evergreen plateau, stay there. Quiet.
Except when the wounded mumble close to your ear. I
took something that made me get over my fears and then
I didn’t care about anything. I did not care about
anything. I couldn’t care about anything, a knife cut
took off my finger, and I couldn’t care about stopping
the blood. Nothing to stay for. The daybreak of a Pel
re dawn without light. And around one side and
the other monasteries empty nests and a whole crowd
there, a river between. And there were a lot. They are
singing, the bridal chambers are filled, holding
hands. Below bodies the stream hustles along, on the
bank a row of them fallen face upwards, I run around
like a madman looking for you, a woman presses her
daughter to her, poor, we haven’t eaten for days.
Gleam without hope still gleaming. In the dreams
jostling the one in my other. As then a boy on top of
his mother, help me to lift her, he was holding her
tight by her soaked rags, have you got matches strike
one, as if in her hands. Shows me black avenues and a
door at the end. My name that I saw written on it.
First time I felt this kind of pain, like a bite. I
saw, yet another soldier fallen nearby. Tears in his
eyes, called out where are you. Could not see, black
with the soil, don’t drink from this water, couldn’t
hear, the march past blanked it out. And it was the
memorial chanted for us. On our backs, above us the
poplars all round. For what was lost, country and
youth we had lost. For the horses rolling in blood.
And then their carcasses rest under the olive trees.
When the sacrifice starts and they pour something over
us. Where are you. And they are all gone there are
only the gods that off their jackets and give us
cover. Dead holding on to images scattered until they
too fade forever away. And I see the others, do not go
near leave them get up by themselves. Like the bare
ramrod hitting you in the stomach, a saw, an empty
water-bottle. I recall. New Year’s Eve. And deep down
a knot. Sleeping beside me, who. As if to my words he
whispers an answer. Now it grows dark, I am a child, I
encounter the gypsy. Who takes by day to the roads and
sings. In distant villages, in the graveyards for
charity. They said he was dead. And during Carnival,
in the squares roaming about. Comes and asks us to
light a cigarette for him. Deep down a knot, memory,
poor girl. Working all night, ruffling through
uniforms. In the cloakroom of travelling players,
should you find something to change. Your face fading
again, to hold your head for a while, and your body is
warm and when you are bending to kiss me you hesitate
for a moment, as if you catch the sound of them
coming. Or the sound of water or wooden fingers on
drums. Beside me late flowers on your mouth and it is
your kiss. The eve of the lights do you remember? On
the day itself I dig into the stone wall and bury
there the crown of a fir tree. Scapegoat, then, then
we were together.


Cruel the evening again in the station the train and
another station silent and the train tail of an animal
somewhere ahead, and another station alien eyes not on
you yet you want to hide again, a long narrow passage
that flows away in the rain covers you. Sitting still
you can’t manage your thoughts cannot make you stand
up you cannot go forwards or backwards. Socks wet,
take off your shoes, not yet, you stay still, almost
as to abandon the world, the lights go by, nothing but
lights, nothing exists besides this. No thought moves
your body not even a pain. One by one all those that
fled all those you left, pieces, pieces like ice
breaking and falling in front of your feet. And it
melts before you can move. The rhythm of the metal
draws you with it a shadow out in the corridor
lighting a cigarette the same tree that had passed
before you so many times. You smoke too. You take off
shoes socks lie down. Cramp in the stomach, the usual.
You cover your feet with the pullover, fall face down.
Chilly berth that sticks on your face. You wear the
pullover, you put the Bible under the jacket for a
pillow. Her breast, her half-opened mouth. Some life.
You unbutton your trousers put your hand in. A hand
that holds you a body you stretched on top of. She is
there you almost touch her and she is gone again,
saliva, pale light and the listless pulse of the body
powerless almost. You hold your breath, her breasts
come, you press it hard, comes inside you, from inside
you squeeze as many drops as you can, from inside you.
Stay still, calm, empty, darkness hides you, then
sleep. A nudge, you slip all but fall, you put out
your hand, below the palm crumpled paper, a dog-eared
book open. Turn over the cover: The First Death. You
would smile. This too for a pillow, on top of the
Bible. When you wake again two bodies entwined, the
flesh between them in pieces, that melt, breast onto
breast, that fades one into the other, fading out when
you decide to stand up.

Dimitris Lyacos was born in Athens in 1966. His trilogy Poena Damni (Z213: Exit, Nyctivoe, The First Death) has been translated into English, Spanish, Italian and German and has been performed extensively across Europe and the USA. A sound and sculpture installation of Nyctivoe opened in London and toured Europe in 2004-2005. A contemporary dance version of the same book was showing in Greece between 2006-2007 culminating in a performance at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaro Mousikis). Lyacos' work has been the subject of lectures and research at various universities, including Amsterdam, Trieste and Oxford. The German translation of The First Death is due to appear by J.Frank Verlag in the forthcoming months. For more information on the author visit www.lyacos.net.

Shorsha Sullivan was born in Dublin in 1932. He studied Classics at Leeds and has spent most of his working life in England. He has an interest in Modern Greek theatre and poetry.

Dimitris Lyacos Steve Dalachinsky Carrie Hunter Lauren Joslin Charles Frederickson

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