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Κώστας Χρυσός

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“The weakness of the conception was that in an equal and friendly rivalry, the Christians would speedily have outstripped the Ottomans, who would soon have found themselves in a subordinate position commercially, industrially and economically. It was this knowledge which caused the Turks to resolve upon the extermination of the Christians. It was a reversal of the process of nature; the drones were about to kill off the working bees.” George Horton, American General Consul in Smyrna in 1922, “The Blight of Asia”, 1926.

1973, Age 75

Sometimes things begin before they begin. Like my fate – sealed before I was born. Nevertheless, fate needs a determined hand to rein it in, keep it on track, until destiny is reached; especially then, when fate was to afflict me with turmoil and upheaval, and toss my life into total chaos. At times, it may sound like a fairy-tale, but it’s in my mind as sharp now as seventy years ago, though this isn’t always a blessing.

August 1910, Age 12

A pebble, on its way up … and down, caches my eye, taking my gaze away from my tattas, Dimitris; my eyes have been glued to him. He is on the terrace. I watch him put his cigarette out, pushing aside his coffee cup and standing up, as if he were going someplace. But does he? No. He just paces around rubbing his hands, as if they were dirty, pauses, to stare at the vine – bare and dry as a witch’s broom – and then sit back down. I mean, what’s wrong with him? Then a pebble again, up … and down, and a cheerful voice singing, “Blacksmith’s curse, choked with soot, laden with hammers.” I smile, as I feel my sister’s Emorphia effort to master the game; she is playing lintza, pebbles, under the window. “Whitesmith’s curse, choked with cotton laden with knives.” continues my, “nearly-five” sister, who persists in throwing a pebble as high as possible, while trying to pick up a number of pebbles scattered on the ground, before catching it again; with not much of success judging from her cries, poor soul. Curiosity is burning my mind, making me suspect there is something of great significance going on. And, I don’t know why, but I think it has to do with me – maybe because I am superstitious and believe in premonitions, just like my manna, and most ------------- Tattas: father
of the folk around here. This tight grip of anxiety churning my stomach into a knot is no bellyache. “Daouldzys’ curse, lashed with ropes, laden with drums.” My fingers caress the dried-out leaves in the wooden box, where we kept the finest tobacco of our own produce. Its bitter-sweet aroma reaches my nose. I take a deep breath, and the furthest corners of my soul are filled with that manly scent I so love. Without looking, I pick out the softest of the golden-brown leaves and roll them in a piece of cloth, dampened with a few drops of tepid water, and leave them to soften. I am watching my tattas through the vine-branches growing right up to the roof, curled around posts at each corner of the yard, trained and interwoven with the wire mesh stretched between them. “Zournadzys’ blessing, laden with bows, discerned by girls.” Oh, she is so determined! But me? Come now, concentrate! I think, as I unroll the moistened leaves onto the chop-board, picking up the curved knife, and cutting out the stems and the hard veins. Once more, I roll the leaves into a tight, neat cylindrical shape, and with my left hand jam them hard-and-fast against the board, and start chopping them into fine threads. Damnation! I nearly chopped the end of my finger off, as I see him getting on his feet, yet again. He wrings his hands and walks to the edge of the terrace. Leaning on the railing, he lights a cigarette, takes a long draw, flicks it into the yard, and turns to come down the stairs. ------------- Daouldzys: drum player Zournadzys: a flute-like musical instrument player
With a lightning move, I cup the tobacco in my hands and place it into the leather pouch. Wiping my hands on my apron, I hide behind the door determined to find out what is going on. Tattas passes in front of the kitchen without saying a word to my sister. I wait until he closes the gate behind him, before I start following him. It wouldn’t be difficult; I could be walking next to him without him noticing me. Just outside the gate, a voice stops me. “Where are you going?” I turn and see my sister’s roguish eyes probing me. She is such a beautiful girl, with sparkling, always-wet eyes, the shape and colour of dark-green olives. “Doing an errand for Manna,” I say, pushing a curl, draping her face like hyacinth blossoms, behind her ear. “I’m coming with you,” she says, giving me that wide-eyed innocent look and a smile. “No. I’m in a hurry.” “But, I want to!” Conscious I’m going to lose him, I’m abrupt, “Go find someone to play lintza with,” I say, as I start walking. When I realise she is still following me, I raise my voice, “Go away!” “No!” Her pomegranate-red lips start quivering. Ignoring her cries and the tears running down her cheeks, I turn, pick her up, put her inside the yard, and secure the gate with a strap. I turn to complete my mission. But, there is no sign of him. I walk a little faster in the direction he was going when I last saw him; I turn the corner, but he is nowhere to be seen!

August 1910, Age 12

Speeding up my pace, I turn another corner, and Aetorahi’s five small parishes appear at my feet, bathed in sunshine on the slopes of two steep mountains. My village’s beauty never fails to stir me. I stop and admire, taking time to work out where Tattas might have gone. Aetorahi’s houses, made from local stone and timber, give me the impression the whole village has grown out from the land. There are no minarets here. This is a Christian village. A small river divides it in two; I can see it streaming and disappearing in steep drops, plunging down a series of waterfalls all the way to the Black Sea, that glitters on the horizon, nearly a thousand metres below. Pondering where he might have gone, I bring my fingertips to my nose and inhale, like a hound, the rich aroma of the tobacco that penetrated my skin. Of course! I almost cry out, and resume my climb. I lean on the high wall that surrounds Auntie Paraskevy’s house to catch my breath and notice the cast-iron gate stands ajar. I know it squeaks; I couldn’t push it open any further without making my presence known; but it takes me no effort to slide through the narrow gap. The impressive house appears. It’s surrounded by vast grounds divided into fabulous gardens, Auntie had designed them herself to look like the stately gardens she had visited and admired when she lived in Great Britain. On many occasions she had described them to us with such detail and admiration. I know these grounds like the palm of my hand. I walk behind the tall bushes of laurels that alternate with eucalyptus trees and line the long path – in places arching right over the walkway - and greet the gardener with a smile, putting my finger to my lips, and edge as near as possible to the patio.
I was right! He is here! – sitting on a garden chair, taking long draws from a nargiles, hookah. He looks so handsome, in his zipka, black woolly pants characteristically baggy in the seat, his gold-braided yileco, waistcoat, and his paslic tied around his head with one end sticking up like an hare’s ear. His godmother is in her armchair opposite him. She is dressed in a gorgeous long lacy-dress, like the one I had seen a Queen Victoria wearing in a photograph. A small cup of coffee steams on the table between her. She is such a beautiful woman – by no means old, in spite of her forty-odd years; God has graced her with the kind of beauty a woman never loses. I’ll never look as good as her. It must be a special occasion – Auntie has brought out her best nargiles, a short, and light-green, thick-glass blown into a graceful shape, and etched and decorated with silver. At its top, on a small silver tray, round pieces of coal, in the shape of extra-large tablets, are already burning over tobacco. Tattas smokes from a brilliant mouthpiece, made from expensive amber and inset with precious gems, attached to the ivory connection at the end of the long, flexible hose embellished with embroidery. From a leather pouch lying on the table Auntie pinches a generous amount of the exceptionally strong tömbeki, the dark, high-nicotine tobacco grown in Anatolia for use with hookahs, and places it under the coals, with the aid of a small silver tongs. I always knew her as a calm, composed person, but, of late, she appeared somehow restless, more preoccupied; and now, they both seem uncomfortable and tense. Auntie speaks as soon as the nargiles whistles, as if she had paused and this was her signal to start, “But, surely, you must be aware of the troubles the Neo-Turks are causing!” He replies without any hesitation, “It’s a storm. It’ll pass. Haven’t we always lived together with them? For as long as everyone can remember – blissfully miserable together.” “No, don’t be so sure about that. Not this time. Things are certainly different now – volatile, unpredictable. Can we afford to ignore what happened in April last year, when Ottoman soldiers massacred thirty thousand Armenians? And, you must know with what they say, ‘When the neighbour’s belly hurts, you should rub yours’!” She waits for a response. He remains silent. I watch the furrows between his eyes grow deeper. He must be trying to work out where she is going with it, I think. She breaks the silence. “Listen godson, you know I always speak as I see it.”
He nods. “This is not only my belief. In the foreign Embassies I hear from reliable sources that the Neo-Turks are determined upon a war of annihilation against the Christian, The Infidels.” “Why the Christians?” “It’s all political, of course, but religion, you see, is a superior platform. God is a much more efficient weapon than State.” Tattas changes position on his chair. “I don’t get it.” “Like in any country, there are zealots here too, who won’t need much of a persuasion to commit atrocities against their neighbour; but for the righteous to commit evil, they need their God’s endorsement.” Tattas looks as puzzled as I am. “Don’t you agree that the most important thing for a nation is the survival of its people? That we must continue to exist is of the utmost importance?” “Not sure what you mean,” he says, leaning forward and taking a pinch of tömbeki to place it on the nargiles. “Well… Please don’t misunderstand me…I’m not saying forget custom and all that! Nor am I trying to tear down tradition… I’m talking about survival – survival in times of upheaval. Like right now, when life won’t have time for normal human weakness.” Tattas sighs. “Come now Yannis, you may be a traditional and religious man, but I know you are also open-minded and not uncompromising.” He just puffs on the hookah. This time Auntie sighs, and continues, “Wouldn’t you say now is the time to look after ourselves and our own?” “Always!” “Well then…Your korits, she’s as beautiful and lovely as the sweet Virgin Mary; and so clever! Naturally intelligent, in touch with reality! She has charmed everybody.” Why are they talking about me? I lean forward and crane my neck to listen. He remains silent, not showing any particular emotion at hearing her comments. ----------- korits: girl
“Well…, all right, she is promised to the boy. So what? Give her the chance she deserves. Give her to someone who will keep her safe, and content. What else can a father wish for his daughter?” I have to steady myself at her comments. She is talking about me! But why is she meddling? She has no right! Tattas can’t stay still on his chair; that’s why the poor-soul was anxious all morning! “What do you mean?” he says, without lifting his head. “Well… our friend ¬¬–¬ who we both know how highly he’s regarded amongst us, and them I might add! – is genuinely in love with her… And, as you know, he wants me to come and ask for her formally. Maybe this Sunday?” Traitor! I want to shout, but I am too shocked. “But… Nona, how can I go back on my word? Go against tradition? Our family and the boy’s family will lose face.” “Don’t be a fool! So what if it goes against everything instinctive to most of us. In a few years from now, maybe even sooner, no one will give a second thought about it. That is, if there is anyone left to care. Survival will be the only thing that matters, not tradition.” “But tradition is our life,” he manages to mumble. Me? I’m furious! How dare she? No wonder he had dithered for so long before he came. Obviously they’ve spoken about it before. “No, Godson, you are mistaken… life is life; tradition can be revived and adapted.” “But, her manna settled her fate when she was still in her belly! I marked her cot with my own hands, when she was a baby. With my own knife. That sealed the pact!” “Look,” she says in a sober voice, grabbing his hand, “as the Neo-Turks devote their time and energy to destroy us, are we doing to waist our time on minor issues like this?” And when this has the effect she expected – flooding his eyes with dread – she adds, “Atrocities are happening already and they are worsening daily. They strike whenever and wherever they like. That’s the fact. Bloody soon, there might be no one left to honour any stupid pacts!” My heart is pounding so loud, I’m wondering how they can’t hear it. How can he keep silent? “Why shouldn’t Hariklia be safe? Eh?” She actually mentioned me by name! The sound of my breathing is deafening me.
Auntie speaks again. “I agree he is a little older than her. But many men marry younger women. He is so much more mature and experienced than the young boy!” Her words bounce between my temples like a bee got in a jar. Who is she talking about? Father shifts in his chair again, as if he is sitting on burning coals. “And he is wealthy… and modest! As they say, the fuller the tree the more its branches bend.” He laughs. “But, more important, no money, no joy,” he says. “No, no! Most important, he is genuinely fond of her!” Who, the devil, are they talking about? All these questions bring tears to my eyes. I don’t need to hear any more.
Extract from later in the book

From 1921, Age 23

It was a restless moonlit night. We were too exhausted even to eat and we had no benefit of healing sleep because we got no sleep, due to the pains of hunger and cold. The morning air was sweet and fresh after a heavy night, cracked by the storm. I squinted in the bright light. The sun’s rays were reflected on droplets trapped in spider webs. The fields were steaming in the distance, flooded with light. Two cranes flew overhead. I saw Emorphia’s face racked in terror. I followed her gaze down from the top of the hill to the river and my heart sank; it was flooded. Countless small waterfalls were cascading down from the crevices of its rocky banks and were flowing into torrents, which bubbled and splashed their way to a river. Its fast current was pounding its banks downstream and the pointy rocks protruding out from the water were turning it white; while in places it darkened with churned-up mud. There were bodies floating in it – swollen, dead bodies. “Get ready to move,” shouted the officer on a horse, sheltering under a tree. We stirred, but no one moved. The soldiers, on horseback, charged and, with horrifying, savage howls, pushed us towards the river. The horses” hooves crunched the stones as the soldiers galloped around us, screaming and cursing, ordering us to cross. We climbed down the muddy verge and reached the water. The horses began to neigh and snort and, as their hooves sunk in the mud, they reared wildly. We approached the fast flowing river and stopped. Not many of us knew how to swim; so many would surely be drowned. We began to fidget. No one dared go into the water. The guards shot in the air first and then at us. The crowd panicked and ran in all directions, falling over each other in the rush. Realising the futility of it, they threw themselves in the river. A flood of water was boiling around them. A few poor souls, wanting to avoid drowning, tried to return to the bank, but they were bayoneted. In these extraordinary circumstances I had to think clear, fast. I was not afraid of the river. I found the shallowest route and carefully leaped over the slippery rocks, balancing Yiorgos on my right arm and supporting Emorphia with my left and at the
same time instructing Evyenia, “Follow my footsteps, stand where I stand. Watch that rock. Be careful over there.” Emorphia slipped and plunged into the icy water, nearly dragging us down. Yiorgos instinctively clenched his arms around my neck, as I leaned and pulled Emorphia out of the water. Yiorgos clung to me with both arms and Emorphia hung onto my arm. Fortunately, we were in shallower waters and, crawling on my knees, I scrambled up the opposite bank, dragging them with me. We collapsed on the wet ground, soaking wet. I was surprised how cherry-red our clothes were and when I looked in the river it was muddy-red with blood. Things cannot get any worst, I thought. But my rock-solid beliefs were shaken by their foundations. Have God, Panayia and all the saints of my icon deserted me, because I left them behind? Are they punishing me for not going with Kostantis.” Then a thought gnawed at my insides, Was I that woman Manna had mentioned, who relied on the saint to take decisions for her? I don’t know how many of our group were lost in river; they killed many more on its banks. Piles of corpses were lying about – amidst which, children were crawling around, howling by their parents corpses. They tried to destroy us by hunger and thirst. Even when we were drowning in the river, they did not allow those dying of thirst to drink. I closed my eyes, lay down on the mud and hugged the children.

in other words

με άλλα λόγια

Kostas Hrisos

Κώστας Χρυσός

I see the light I see the light, Somewhere in the distance. I am not scared. Even if it’s only a candle And it goes off, by the time I reach it, I’ll light another. Βλέπω το φως Βλέπω το φως, Κάπου στο βάθος. Δεν φοβάμαι. Κι αν είναι ένα κερί μονάχα κι ώσπου να φτάσω σβήσει, θ’ ανάψω άλλο. The wind blew The wind blew And dreams fell in silence like leaves in autumn. Then it rained and their decay became hope. Φύσιξε Φύσιξε και πέσαν τα όνειρα μεσ' τη σιωπή σαν φύλλα. Ύστερα έβρεξε Κι έγιν' ελπίδα η σαπίλα τους.
Tomorrow I'll remember less Tomorrow I'll remember less and the day after even less if only my imagination were to grow stronger everyday maybe it could fill in the gaps. Αύριο θα θυμάμαι πιο λίγα Αύριο θα θυμάμαι πιο λίγα και μεθαύριο λιγότερα Τουλάχιστον αν δυνάμωνε η φαντασία μου θημερινά ίσως να γέμιζε αυτή τα κενά. Δυό στροφές Μετάνοια τη μετάνοια Έλιωσε η ψυχή μου στα γώνατα. Άλφα βήτα Α Ω Μπήκα βγήκα Δε σε βρήκα Ω Μέγα.
Χρήσιμο Σήμερα ο αέρας χτυπούσε το παράθυρό μου περισσότερ' από πάντα. Σφήνωσα ένα χαρτί στη χαραμάδα. Ήταν το γράμμα σου. Useful today the wind was rattling my window more than ever. I wedged a piece of paper in the gap. It was your letter. Δικαιολογίες Επειδή εσείς το μέλλον θεμελιώνατε κι επειδή εμείς μ’ αγάπες άλλες σμίξαμε εσείς χωρίς ανάσα λιώνατε κι εμείς στα ξένα ρίζες ρίξαμε. Λυπάμαι Που κάθε μέρα και πιο λίγο σας θυμάμαι. Τι κρίμα Να με ξεχνάτε πιο πολύ μήνα το μήνα. Επειδή εσείς Τα νέα σας δε στείλατε κι επειδή εμείς τηλέφωνα δε κάναμε εμείς δε ξέρουμε τι γίνατε κι εσείς εάν εμείς πεθάναμε.
Τρελό Φτιάχνεις πρώτα ένα τετραγωνάκι, Σα τον κόσμο που ‘χεις μέσα σου. Ύστερα το μαυρίζεις, Όπως πράγματι είναι. “Δεν είναι τρελό, σαν το σκεφτείς;” Μου λες, σίγουρη πως θα σου γνέψω ναι, “Δεν πειράζει,” συνεχίζεις, Απογοητευμένη που δεν απάντησα, Και ζωγραφίζεις μια καρδιά. Crazy At first you draw a square Like the world in you. After you paint it black As indeed it is. "Isn’t it crazy, when you think about it?" My say, sure I'll nod yes "Never mind," you continue, Disappointed I did not answer, And you draw a heart. Στο Ναό Ο αλαφρός αέρας της εκκλησίας Διεγερμένος από κεριά και λιβάνι λυγίζοντας κάτω απ’ το βάρος άλλων πιο φυσικών οσμών, ιδρώτα και χνώτων από σώματα εμποτισμένα με χημικές ουσίες Και κορεσμένα από σαρκικές απολαύσεις καθίσταται ανίκανος να ανυψώσει τις προσευχές προς τα ουράνια δώματα απ’ όπου άχραντοι άγιοι κοιτάζουν σαστισμένοι. At the temple The light air of the church excited By burning candles and incense Bucking under other more physical smells Of sweat and breath from bodies Ingrained with chemical substances And saturated with carnal pleasures Becomes incapable of uplifting the prayers To the heavenly champers Whence immaculate saints Are watching in a haze of disbelief.


Basil Bunting


Kostas Hrisos

Many thanks to Mrs Connie Pickard and Dr Bill Griffiths; without their help I would have found it impossible to do this translation.
Ευχαριστώ πάρα πολύ την κ. Connie Pickard και τον Dr Bill Griffiths, χωρίς την βοήθειά τους θα το εύρισκα αδύνατο να κάνω αυτή τη μετάφραση.

Μία Αυτοβιογραφία
Για την Peggy
Son los pasariellos del mal pelo axidos
The spuggiest are fledged
I Brag, sweet tenor bull, descant on Rawthey’s madrigal, each pebble its part for the fells’ late spring. Dance tiptoe, bull, black against may. Ridiculous and lovely chase hurdling shadows morning into noon. May on the bull’s hide and through the dale furrows fill with may, paving the slowworm’s way. A mason times his mallet to a lark’s twitter, listening while the marble rests, lays his rule at a letter’s edge, fingertips checking, till the stone spells a name naming none, a man abolished. Painful lark, labouring to rise! The solemn mallet says: In the grave’s slot he lies. We rot. Decay thrusts the blade, wheat stands in excrement trembling. Rawthey trembles. Tongue stumbles, ears err for fear of spring. Rub the stone with sand, wet sandstone rending roughness away. Fingers ache on the rubbing stone. The mason says: Rocks happen by chance. No one here bolts the door, love is so sore.
I Καυχήσου, γλυκέ τενόρε ταύρε, μελοποίησε στου Rawthey1 το μαδριγάλιο2, κάθε βότσαλο το μέρος του για του λόφου3 την αργή Άνοιξη. Χόρεψε στ’ ακροδάχτυλα, ταύρε, μαύρο έναντι μπερκιάς4. Γελοίε και θελκτικέ κυνήγα σκιές που υπερπηδούν εμπόδια πρωί μέρα μεσημέρι. Μπερκιά στου ταύρου το τομάρι και διαμέσου της κοιλάδας αυλάκια γεμίζουν μπερκιά, στρώνοντας του σαμιαμιδιού5 το δρόμο. Ο λιθοδόμος συγχρονίζει τη ματσόλα του με του κορυδαλλού το τιτίβισμα, ακούγοντας όσο το μάρμαρο αναπαύεται, βάζει τον κανόνα του στου γράμματος την άκρη, ακροδάχτυλα ελέγχουν, ώσπου η πέτρα συλλαβίζει ένα όνομα ονομάζοντας Κανέναν, έναν άνθρωπο ακυρωμένο. Οδυνηρέ κορυδαλλέ, αγωνίζεσαι ν’ ανυψωθείς! Η κατανυκτική ματσόλα λέει: στου τάφου τη κόγχη είναι ξαπλωμένος. Εμείς σαπίζουμε. Φθορά μπήγει τη λάμα, σίτος στέκει σε περίττωμα τρέμοντας. Το Rawthey τρέμει. Γλώσσα κομπιάζει, αυτί σφάλει από τον φόβο της άνοιξης. Τρίψε την πέτρα με άμμο, υγρή αμμόπετρα ξεσκίζει τη τραχύτητα. Δάχτυλα πονούν στην τριμμένη πέτρα. Ο λιθοδόμος λέει: Πέτρες συμβαίνουν στη τύχη. Κανείς εδώ δεν μανταλώνει τη πόρτα, η αγάπη είναι τόσο οδυνηρή.
Stone smooth as skin, cold as the dead they load on a low lorry by night. The moon sits on the fell but it will rain. Under sacks on the stone two children lie, hear the horse stale, the mason whistle, harness mutter to shaft, felloe to axle squeak, rut thud the rim, crushed grit. Stocking to stocking, jersey to jersey, head to a hard arm, they kiss under the rain, bruised by their marble bed. In Garsdale, dawn; at Hawes, tea from the can. Rain stops, sacks steam in the sun, they sit up. Copper-wire moustache, sea-reflecting eyes and Baltic plainsong speech declare: By such rocks men killed Bloodaxe. Fierce blood throbs in his tongue, lean words. Skulls cropped for steel caps huddle round Stainmore. Their becks ring on limestone, whisper to peat. The clogged cart pushes the horse downhill. In such soft air they trudge and sing, laying the tune frankly on the air. All sounds fall still, feilside bleat, hide-and-seek peewit.
Πέτρα λεία σαν δέρμα, κρύα σαν τον νεκρό που φορτώνουν σε χαμηλό φορτηγό τη νύχτα. Το φεγγάρι κάθεται στον λόφο αλλά θα βρέξει. Κάτ’ από σάκους στην πέτρα δύο παιδιά ξαπλώνουν, ακούν τ’ άλογο να χλιμιντρίζει, τον λιθοτόμο να σφυρίζει, χάμουρα μουρμουρίζουν στον άξονα, αρμός τσιρίζει στην άτρακτο, σώτρο βροντά στο στεφάνι, τριμμένο χοντρόκοκκο αλάτι. Κάλτσα στην κάλτσα, ζέρσεϊ στο ζέρσεϊ, κεφάλι σε τραχύ βραχίονα, φιλιόνται κάτω από τη βροχή, μελανιάζουν από τη μαρμάρινη κλίνη. στο Garsdale6, αυγή. Στου Hawes7, τσάι απ’ την κονσέρβα. Βροχή σταματά, σακιά ατμίζουν στον ήλιο, ανακάθονται. Χαλκινόσυρμο μουστάκι, θαλασσοκατοπρίζοντα μάτια και Βαλτική ψαλμωδική λαλιά δηλώνει: Με τέτοιες κοτρόνες άνθρωποι σκότωσαν τον Bloodaxe8. Με μανία το αίμα γοργοχτυπά στη γλώσσα του, λεπτές λέξεις. Κρανία κουρεμένα για χαλύβδινα καπέλα στρυμωγμένα γύρω στο Stainmore9. Τα ρυάκια τους ηχούν σ’ ασβεστόλιθο, ψιθυρίζουν σε τύρφη. Το υπέρβαρο κάρο σπρώχνει τ’ άλογο στη κατηφόρα. Σε τέτοιον απαλό αέρα Σιγοπατούν και τραγουδούν, στρώνοντας το τραγούδι απλόχερα στον αέρα. Όλοι οι ήχοι πέφτουν ακίνητοι, η λοφοπλαγιά βελάζει, κρυφτούλι σκοινοπούλι.
Her pulse their pace, palm countering palm, till a trench is filled, stone white as cheese jeers at the dale. Knotty wood, hard to rive, smoulders to ash; smell of October apples. The road again, at a trot. Wetter, warmed, they watch the mason meditate on name and date. Rain rinses the road, the bull streams and laments. Sour rye porridge from the hob with cream and black tea, meat, crust and crumb. Her parents in bed the children dry their clothes. He has untied the tape of her striped flannel drawers before the range. Naked on the pricked rag mat his fingers comb thatch of his manhood’s home. Gentle generous voices weave over bare night words to confirm and delight till bird dawn. Rainwater from the butt she fetches and flannel to wash him inch by inch, kissing the pebbles. Shining slowworm part of the marvel. The mason stirs: Words! Pens are too light. Take a chisel to write.
Ο παλμός της ο ρυθμός τους, παλάμη με παλάμη, μέχρι να γεμίσει μια τάφρος, πέτρα άσπρη σαν τυρί, χλεύει στη κοιλάδα. Ροζιασμένο ξύλο, δύσκολα να σκιστεί, Κουφοκαίγεται σε στάχτη οσμή μήλων Οκτώβρη. Ο δρόμος πάλι, με τροχαδάκι. Μουσκεμένοι, ζεσταμένοι, βλέπουν τον λιθοτόμο να συλλογίζεται όνομα και ημερομηνία. Βροχή ξεπλένει το δρόμο, ο ταύρος ρέει και θρηνεί. Ξινή σίκαλη-χυλό απ’ τη σόμπα, με κρέμα και μαύρο τσάι, κρέας, κόρα και ψίχουλο. Οι γονείς της στο κρεβάτι τα παιδιά στεγνώνουν τα ρούχα τους. Αυτός έχει λύσει τη κορδέλα του ριγωτού φανελένιου εσώρουχού της μπροστά στην αρένα. Γυμνοί στην τρύπια κουρελού τα δάχτυλά του χτενίζουν την αχυροσκεπή της φωλιάς του ανδρισμού του. Απαλές πληθωρικές φωνές ανεμίζουν πάνω στη γυμνή νύχτα λέξεις για να επικυρώσουν και να θέλξουν μέχρι την χορωδία της αυγής. Βροχόνερο, από τον κάδο φερμένο και φανέλα για να τον πλύνει πόντο-πόντο, φιλώντας τα βότσαλα. Λαμπερό σαμιαμίδι μέρος του θαύματος. Ο λιθοτόμος ταράζεται: Λέξεις! Πένες ανάλαφρες. Πάρε σμίλη να γράψεις.
Every birth a crime, every sentence life. Wiped of mould and mites would the ball run true? No hope of going back. Hounds falter and stray, shame deflects the pen. Love murdered neither bleeds nor stifles but jogs the draftsman’s elbow. What can he, changed, tell her, changed, perhaps dead? Delight dwindles. Blame stays the same. Brief words are hard to find, shapes to carve and discard: Bloodaxe, king of York, king of Dublin, king of Orkney. Take no notice of tears; letter the stone to stand over love laid aside lest insufferable happiness impede flight to Stainmore, to trace lark, mallet, becks, flocks and axe knocks. Dung will not soil the slowworm’s mosaic. Breathless lark drops to nest in sodden trash; Rawthey truculent, dingy. Drudge at the mallet, the may is down, fog on fells. Guilty of spring and spring’s ending amputated years ache after the bull is beef, love a convenience. It is easier to die than to remember. Name and date split in soft slate a few months obliterate.
Κάθε γέννα έγκλημα, κάθε καταδίκη ισόβια. Καθαρισμένη από μούχλα και ζωύφια θα περάσει η μπάλα σωστά; Καμιά ελπίδα γυρισμού. Λαγωνικά διστάζουν και παραστρατούν, ντροπή εκτρέπει την πένα. Δολοφονημένη αγάπη ούτε αιμορραγεί μήτε βίαια διαφωνεί αλλά σκουντά του σχεδιαστή τον αγκώνα. Τι μπορεί αυτός, αλλαγμένος, να της πει, αλλαγμένος, νεκρός; Το φως της ημέρας λιγοστεύει. Η κατηγορία μένει ίδια. Βραχείες λέξεις θέλουν κόπο να βρεθούν, σχήματα να σμιλέψεις και να απορρίψεις: Bloodaxe, βασιλιάς της Υόρκης, βασιλιάς του Δουβλίνου, βασιλιάς των Orkney10. Μη δίνεις σημασία σε δάκρια. γράψε την πέτρα να στηθεί πάνω σ’ αγάπη ριγμένη στην άκρη από φόβο μήπως αφόρητη χαρά εμποδίσει φυγή στο Stainmore, να εξιχνιάσει κορυδαλλό, ματσόλα, ρυάκια, κοπάδια και πελεκίσματα. Κοπριά δεν θα λερώσει του σιμιαμιδιού το μωσαϊκό. Ξέπνοος κορυδαλλός πέφτει να φωλιάσει σε μουσκεμένα σκουπίδια το Rawthey11 επιθετικό, βρώμικο. Δουλεία στη ματσόλα, οι μπερκιές πέσαν, ομίχλη στον αγριόλοφο. Ένοχα για την άνοιξη, και της άνοιξης το τέλος, ακρωτηριασμένα χρόνια πονούν μετά απ’ ότι ο ταύρος γίνει κρέας, αγάπη μια άνεση. Είναι πιο εύκολο να πεθαίνεις παρά να θυμάσαι. Όνομα και ημερομηνία σχισμένα σε μαλακή πλάκα λίγοι μήνες αφανίζουν.