THE WINTER SWIMMER
Eteoklis and Polynikis killed each other.
Antigone was walled up alive
Ismene took her father by the hand
and went his way.
The third son of Oedipus stayed in the city.
He studied much, did sound work.
Applied himself to a host of sports.
He was gregarius, avoiding the immoderate.
Learning was what he really loved.
He was the right-hand man of all the kings that followed.
He married their daughters
He also ruled himself during crucial, transitional
He waged no wars.
Always gracious to men and women.
He didn’t sing but nonetheless regurarly attended
Concerts. Discreetly, he adored female singers.
He never used words like «I adore».
Many women would have willingly laid
their white necks on his knees.
Treating him to blood to give him a little color.
But he just smiled; caressed their hair.
Solid with his thoughts.
Nor would it have ever passed through your mind if you’d
That this man nursed on the burning hot darkness
From Jocasta’s subline breast
(THE RAPSODY OF PENELOPE)
She gets angry with men
who stare at her beautiful legs but men
can’t do otherwise, because they grew up
with the grammar of the past
and if they abandoned it, would be in danger
of completely losing their words: and who are you
to be calling them “mutes”? And who I wonder
apointed you “Angel of the New Grammar”?
To hell with words and looks:
all of them feathers in the wind, without bones, without blood,
without water and without stone. Concentrate down low:
the fertile mud converses with the sun,
there’s your feet, there’s your head.
Humans, whether fat or thin,
are the finest threads: they can deliver neither right nor
If we moore outside even a Mother’s love
we’ll get to know longed for free space*, hearty
congratulations! An end to sorrows: the love of the Mother
is the sourse of all grief [nevertheless, according to the
theory, from the past, the source of all grief is,
conversely, her absence]. So let someone drive
these indolent cows straight from my mind,
cow-India, hamburger-Europe, a new world
dawns, oh what a joy! But the men continue
to irritate you eating up your beautiful legs with their eyes,
as if they were hamburgers. And who will now call you “my
in the Grammar of the Butterfly, who
will adorn you with the wings of a dragonfly, who
will kneel and who
upright will then stand before you
and in what idiom will he speak to you?
Poetry is suffocating in your anguish like
the yellow and black wasp in the motionless bottom
of the dark soft drink.
*called “void” and “waste land” in times more zealously religious.
“London and other poems”, Nefeli 2006
Translated by Philip Ramp.
DREAM ON A LIGHT BLUE BACKROUND
…to descend the stairs within you
And to turn off the lights.
(And if you don’t turn them off
you shall still find only darkness.
And then later, deeper, denser darkness,
like that in the cave of the dragon.)
I, St. George, shall free the all-beautiful one
whom I hold captive in my guts,
I, the Dragon.
“Tea set”, Νefeli 1999
Translated by Alexandra Halkias
First english publication Halkias, Alexandra, The Empty Cradle of Democracy: Sex, Abortion and Nationalism in Modern Greece,, Duke University Press, 2004.