By Yiannis Doukas
Translated from the Greek by Joshua Barley
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
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
Amenophis I and Ahmose-Nofretiri
Egyptian, 18th Dynasty
3072, Freud Museum London
Toppled Αθηνά φέρουσα την Ακρόπολη borrowed from here