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Cavafy C.P. Cavafy

Translated by alikibarnstonephoto Aliki Barnstone

Far Off

I want to speak this memory,
but it's erased as if nothing remains—
because it lies far off in my first adolescent years.

Skin as if made of jasmine,
that time in August— was it August? —evening,
I scarcely remember those eyes: they were deep blue, I think,
ah, yes, deep blue: a sapphire blue.


When They Are Aroused

Try to keep them, poet,
no matter how few are stilled—
those visions of your eroticism.
Put them, half-hidden, in your sentences.
try to keep them, poet,
when they are aroused in your mind
at night or in the brilliance of noon.


In the Street

His amiable face, a bit pale;
his eyes, a bit glazed;
twenty-five years old but he looks twenty;
with something artistic in his dress
—something about the color of his tie and the shape of his collar—
he wanders aimlessly in the street
as if still hypnotized by the illicit pleasure,
the intensely illicit pleasure he had.


Days of 1903

I've not found them again—so swiftly lost,
the poetic eyes, the pale
face—the night lengthening into the street—

I've not found them again—all possessed wholly by chance—
I so easily cast them aside;
then later, anguished, wanted them.
The poetic eyes, the pale face,
the lips I never found again.


The Next Table

He must be barely twenty-three years old.
And yet I am sure almost as many
years ago, I enjoyed the same body.

It isn't merely an erotic flush.
I've only been in the casino a little while
and haven't even had time to drink a lot.
I enjoyed the same body.

And even if I don't recall where—
one lapse of memory means nothing.

Ah, now, there, now that he sits at the next table,
I know each way he moves—and under his clothes,
naked, are the loved limbs I see again.


In an Old Book

Between the pages of an old book—
nearly a hundred years old—
I found an unsigned watercolor.
A powerful artist must have painted the work,
entitled, “Presentation of Love.”

But a more fitting title is “Love of the Extreme Sensualists.”
Because it was obvious as you looked at the work
(you readily felt the artist's idea),
the adolescent in the painting
was not made for those who loved somewhat healthily,
staying within permissible boundaries—
with his deep brown eyes,
with the extraordinary beauty of his face,
the beauty of forbidden attractions,
with his ideal lips that give
pleasure to a loved body,
with his ideal limbs made for beds
that conventional morality calls shameless.