Three Poems

By Yiannis Doukas 

Translated from the Greek by Joshua Barley 

 

Migraines

By the evidence of my senses 

I am now standing on the Acropolis, 

But I cannot believe it.

Sigmund Freud, A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis (tr. James Strachey)

 

Partly it was put on her, in part

she asked for it herself – this hat;

I was the same. Now I don’t want

its heaviness; and yet there’s no reward,

 

I know, in taking it off. So both of us,

then, wear this rock upon our heads,

this steep and heavy thing, which sends 

for centuries its voice to me, draws

 

me into combat; pushes me away,

as she – goddess – conceals her eyes,

then turns to meet the lens – a tease

for centuries, bringing me to bay

 

but even if she throws me from the castle

we’re in this urn together ever after

 

 

Playmobil

The hazy light of autumn was falling down on us

As, silently, we marched – heading into battle?    

Marble-white, precipitous as rocks and brittle    

Exiles in the wastes of a highway all but lost

 

And you, too, worshiped here the original Antigone’s

Lament, you barefoot on the grass and on the earth

Still dying, you sing the swan-song that you’ve sung from birth 

You’re paying for the tourists now – their static frieze

 

Playmobil on a wingless Nike’s knees, bent  

On columns that seem nothing more than infants’ Lego

Our mind – broken fragments of ancient ruins – our Ego –

You photograph them, laugh. Do you belong? You don’t! 

 

Here where we’re encircled by many centuries’ smogs 

Look – Patission opens like a vein, spills blood,

An arthritic girl, forty Novembers old 

And the city, from below, watches us and nods*

*Patission Avenue, officially called 28 October Avenue, is the site of the National Archaeological Museum, as well as the Athens Polytechnic, where a bloody and generation-marking student uprising occurred in November 1973.

 

The Catalogue of Ships

Orchómenos and Léfktra, Livadeiá

Aráchova, Chaerónea and Thebes

Oinófyta and Dístomo. Motif:

Forty fine young men with angel wings             

Oedipus, SS and blackened snow

Antigone is dancing in the window

(Plataea, Tanágra) She doesn’t seem

To figure what Boeotia really means

 

At sea the islands are closed up

And, black-robed, the blind old maids        

Sort out the hours and the threads 

Pouring cider or silence by the cup

Who is it? You’ll ask; she’ll say, Who else?

Talos will run along the shore for aeons 

Voices in the market, mingling and breaking

Like footprints, at the harbour where you’re taken

 

Another April Fool’s Day will arrive

We’ll make it all the way to San Serriffe. 

Tonight cut up the world, a little piece

For everyone. Let’s go then to the cave 

And hide; between the wooden beams of time         

The lights are flickering. Bring out the dice

And let’s play at writing and at fantasy                            

Each in our own, internal, geography

† In some philological traditions, the Catalogue of Ships is known simply as Boeotia, being the region that Homer mentions first in book 2 of the Iliad. The Boeotian places mentioned in the first stanza of the poem refer to episodes of wars throughout Greek history (and myth) up to the present day. San Serriffe was a fictional island invented as an April Fool’s Day hoax in The Guardian, 1977.     

Yiannis Doukas (Athens, 1981) studied philology at the National and Kapodistrian University and Digital Humanities at King’s College London. For the past few years, he lived in Galway, Ireland, working towards a Ph.D. on intertextuality in late antique epic and methods for its digital representation.

    He has published the books: Ο κόσμος όπως ήρθα και τον βρήκα (The World as I Came and Found it, short stories, Kedros, 2001), Στα μέσα σύνορα (Inner Borders, poetry, Polis, 2011, Diavazo journal Debut Poetry Collection Award) and Το σύνδρομο Σταντάλ (The Stendhal Syndrome, poetry, Polis, 2013, G. Athanas Award of the Academy of Athens). Some of his poems have been included in anthologies and translated into English, French, German, Serbian, Dutch and Polish.

    His next poetry book, titled η θήβα μέμφις, is forthcoming next fall from Polis Editions. 

Migraines originally published in Greek in Το σύνδρομο Σταντάλ, POLIS editions, 2013. Playmobil and The Catalogue of Ships originally published in Greek in Στα μέσα σύνορα, POLIS editions, 2011.

Read more of Yiannis Doukas’s poetry in Pericles at Play here

Images: 

Amenophis I and Ahmose-Nofretiri

Egyptian, 18th Dynasty

3072, Freud Museum London

Toppled Αθηνά φέρουσα την Ακρόπολη borrowed from here

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