This translation project was supported by the National Endowment of the Arts
In a previous issue, Olgas poetry and scraptals
by Kiki Dimoula
Translated by Olga Broumas
Kiki Dimoula (Κική Δημουλά) (b. Athens 1931) is an acclaimed Greek poet, a member of the Academy of Athens, one of three women so honored since the Academy began inducting members in 1926. Among her honors are two State Prizes (1971, 1988), the Excellence of Letters (Αριστείο Γραμμάτων) of the Academy of Athens (2001), The European Literature Prize in 2010, awarded by the Association Capitale Européenne des Littératures, and, in February 2011, the Greek Grand Prize in Literature for Lifetime Achievement. Her poetry has been translated into English, French, Swedish, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Bulgarian, and other languages. She married the poet and mathematician Athos Dimoulas; they had two children.
Nikos Dimos, in his essay on Dimoula, references this excerpt on Metaphysical Poetry from J.A. Cuddon, to aptly describe the scope and focus of her work:
arresting and original images and conceits (showing a preoccupation with analogies between macrocosm and microcosm), wit, ingenuity, dexterous use of colloquial speech, considerable flexibility of rhythm and meter, complex themes (both sacred and profane) a liking for paradox and dialectical argument, a direct manner, a caustic humor, a keenly felt awareness of mortality, and a distinguished capacity for elliptical thought and tersely compact expression.
J.A. Cuddon, A Dictionary of Literary Terms, p. 508
On the trail, 1963
The Small of the World, 1971
My Last Body, 1981
Rejoice Never, 1988
Lethes Adolescence, 1994
A Moments Together, 1998
Poems (Collected Edition), 1998
Sound of Distancing, 2001
The Playful Myth, 2004 (Acceptance Speech for her induction to
the Academy of Athens)
Unplanned, 2005 (prose texts)
Hothouse Lawn, 2005
Weve Relocated Next Door, 2007
LO LALA LOLA
A dream on patrol
in abandonments tenements
arrested an old acquaintance suspicion
red-handed, leaning on
a shuttered likelihood,
Please understand, I told it,
the folks you nab are no garbage.
Dont mire them in. I break my back
retrieving them. Theyre for repair and return.
Youre not their expiration.
A poor exhausted nap is what you are
under the cool of tears
while the repairs occur so they wont hurt.
A skilled restorer, inspiration,
precisely montaging all their trials
without which the body doesnt trust
New people never did exist. And even if
we named a couple first-created
it was to win imaginations
majority confidence vote.
They always show up second-hand
from their mysterious origin, a mystery too
how old that is, what slavery it comes from,
horsewhipped in cellular plantations
for dinosauric eons.
We dont know a thing.
Every beginning came to us
a simile with its mystery.
A fabulous restorer, inspiration –
of every worn beginning
renewing art, artifice, and life
from ashes to Lo
Lala Lola all fall up!
Only their box is new.
I send them down again with the old price
since they have lived before.
So, have we too?
Then whats the quick?
And is the seam a gimmick
to make us love?
If life is reparable
wheres all thats lost?
Still being stitched?
Can such delay be overcome?
This inspiration, is it careful,
correctly marking, numbering each piece,
or does it use my body by mistake
to fix like new what yours
So old each new sorrow.
So dearly paid for its new box.
answers and your unknown
hooded, secret abductors.
REVERSAL OF THE REASONABLE
My God, try to remember
where you hid
the findings of that awful accident.
I dug where I detected
some buried wrecks of logic, but besides
no other explanation.
I want to understand what overturned the rule
and brought about that fatal
What happened? The road was straight.
The warring anarchic differences —
which charged you from their lair
behind the serene Edenic equality
of blooms blooms and the flowers ―
you cleverly quelled, corralling them
in a spacious gradation:
And so the major matter: who eats whom
was settled in the court of mass.
The hunger of the smaller feeds
the hunger of the larger and so on.
It only surfaced later that
the reasonable was not
And while the large fish ate the small
the ephemeral the butterfly
eros ate eros
proliferation the unique
the soul was eaten by its fretting
over leaving us
the seven goats devoured by the wolf
except the smallest one who hid
behind a story.
What happened, God, that final moment
on such straight road, were you daydreaming
and the rule reversed and we fell in
that fateful by exception
so now the small worm eats
except the smallest one
who hides behind
I LEFT YOU A MESSAGE
Hello, hello, can you hear me? Hello?
Im calling from far away. What?
You cant hear me? Has my distance
discharged? Are you speaking from mobile
space? Press zero again? Again?
Can you hear me now?
Yes, can you please put my mother on?
What number did I call? The Sky —
this is what I was given. Shes not there?
Can I scream her a message?
Its very urgent, tell her
I saw in my sleep she died and I
small sobbing child who peed itself
fear-soaked all the way
up and still
Tell her to come and change it.
If she cant, tell her please
her old warning ripened, that the old
man would eat me if I didnt
It ripened. I became
a meal of age. Not in a small dreamy taverna.
In some popular dive now managed
by the mirror.
I wait a bit for the differences
and the indifferent to darken, then
I open the windows.
It is not urgent
but I do it to keep motion from warping.
I borrow my former curiositys head
and twist. Not twist exactly.
I nod a servile good evening to all
those fawners of the fears, the stars. Not nod
exactly. I fix with a gazing thread
the silver buttons of distance, some of which
are undone, tremble, and will fall.
It is not urgent. I do it only to show distance
my gratitude for its offering.
long trips would shrivel. The universe
our need to flee had pined for
would be delivered to our door by motorbike
like pizza. Like a leech
old age would suck on youth and Id be called
grandmother from birth
equally by eros and grandbabies.
What would the stars then be
without distances provident support?
Earthbound silver, some candelabra, ashtrays
for the spent butts of pugnacious wealth,
and fawnings investment bubble.
nostalgia would speak to us in thees.
Her now rare timid rendezvous
with our plethoric need
would fatally assimilate
frequencys street-smart speech.
Of course, without distance, our neighbor
wouldnt seem a far-off star — hed be
in prime proximity, two steps would bridge
his outline from a dream.
As also nearby the souls
ultimate escape would stay.
Why so much wanderlust? Whole rooms
are empty. Wed go downstairs
to live in our basement body
and distance with its myth and odds and ends
would incarnate to flesh.
If not for you, distance, Lethe would,
much easier and faster in one night,
traverse her difficult protracted adolescence
which we, for euphony, name recall.
Not recall exactly. I fix facsimiles
with a gazing thread — theyve come undone,
are trembling, and will fall.
Not fix exactly. Servile, I orbit
those fawners of time which I, for brevity,
named recall. Not recall exactly. I refuel meteors
with extended annihilation.
It is urgent.
The devotion night will show us
oppresses me. I prefer
to remember. Not that my well
of living images is dry.
But each time I place them
in their expressive postures,
I see by morning they have moved.
I know it by the scrapes their drag
from their original positions leave
on stabilitys luster.
Its why I insist
on remembering: to not mar the luster.
Not because it makes me feel more durable
— it being the infinity of time already lapsed.
If I insist on remembering
its not to accommodate God — arousing
the inert figures, I provide him
also with some motility.
I insist on remembering
not because ease offers me this choice
gratis. By arduous feeling and sacrifice
and turning despair inside out,
I eked out how to squawk-dyi squawk-ing —
I speak crow-Latin to keep the menace
ignorant of my refuge.
If I insist on remembering
its not to find excuses
for always speaking in the same
worn words — what do you think the new ones
are? A temporal childish defiance
to the old.
If I insist on remembering
it is no battle-flinch
no backwoods retreat. All kinds
of people constantly pass by.
What I remember can be seen
from the most central districts.
For a little hope, a hint of renewal
I remember. Im totally fed up with all
that ineluctable and future Lord
squawk why-have-you-forsaken squawk—
NOTHING IS LOST OF A PIECE
Do you remember the small carafe
a crown of blue blossoms painted on
its wine-bearing lip?
— you bought it in Alsace for me
what for, you said, we never drink.
You never know, I insisted, one day we might
in some haze need to meet.
Its handle broke for no reason
other than a deep crack in my touch.
I hold it now from your hand
steady with your hand
my hazy alcoholic figment
fills it up with wine.
THE SLEEPING TRUST
that angelform melting,
kneading the body with sleeps lotions,
creaming its defenses, it is
It is your new employment in storage,
treasuries, safe deposit boxes — you cant see
blindfolded by the bosses.
direct your secret practice.
Your work is this: to not know
what it is you guard or until when.
Dreams? Do they trust us? Most often
we rob them leaving in their stead
beautiful forgeries as real.
Now, for this storage post they choose
for reasons of security
bodies who sleep alone
on hard unyielding anatomic beds
since stuffing, inner springs, latex and curves
on the empty side —
their fluffy anomalies roll him to the dent
My small child
got into mischief once again
climbing the ledge of the universe
his hand jostling the red
plate hanging on the skywall spilling
all the light down on himself
to see the sun
dressed in child clothes
scrambling back down the ladder
of my mind
And now I sit
and sternly scold my child
as secretly I steal his poured-on
PROVISIONING SUMMER NEEDS
Below, the sea waits always
for a wrinkling wind.
Some wide-flung windows
hoist Summer up by insect derrick.
I count: a couple of letters
are missing. The bottom rocker of the s
is gone. It had been loose last year.
Now where will all this dimininution sit
with its host of eunuchs?
Still, the diminishing is firm —
it withstands tons of pain. Sit freely.
I think Ill add a recliner to the list
to replace the broken s.
I also need
a small transistor radio
glued to the ears of the waves
tuned to the pirate stations of the sands.
An easily sensitized song reels in
characters that almost match the ones
you remember others. Youll have
plenty of seats.
Filtering glasses too, lest I remember more,
though now and then I do wear smoky contacts.
A hat for the sun
although it blazes less than when
night and day youd invent it.
I'll try on an old sunburn
curious whether my backs
old crazy passion for it peeled.
New swimsuit — my decline has gained
a lot of weight. In fact, Id relish
a new body — to sit along its miles and stroke
the airy wrinkles of the sea.
But logic will finally prevail:
the logic of this body at my disposal.
All the seas Ss one by one
are carefully hoisted bubble-wrapped
in blue transparent water
by seagull derrick.
What sea? Mere
a distant cosmogonys refugee.
because of the precipitous
and schistic initial temper of the cosmos.
Harlot escapes optical pimp.
Time for the logic of the body
at your disposal to prevail.
Get dressed and swim.
(Tear-Dumping Strictly Prohibited.
Maturity already is
What are you doing here
a straight working road like you
on an idle bench?
Well, Im psychoanalyzing free of charge
this painter from a foreign dark-skinned land,
how calmly and skillfully he paints
the day out-of-work.
I midwife reliability and honor.
He plants the brush in one hand
and in the others microwaves
he heats a breadstick dried by hours
upon the suns proclaiming tongue.
Im analyzing the inventive stalling
of his hunger. He eats a sesame
apart from each small bite
extending its face value.
The light annoys me. Difficult customer.
He doesnt like the paint job
keeps changing it by stirring in
every new passing hour.
Im furious at obedient expatriation.
With every passing hour
it paints the unemployed day.
Soon the difficult customer
I DO NOT KNOW [THE MAN]
Because you keep
especially that of the soul
you will be called someday to Prosecution
for interrogation and identification.
They will lead you in darkness
to a sealed informants hall.
You will sit
at a fist-beaten table
before a fat dossier
of suspects pictures.
Theyll leaf through it one by one,
you will not speak, they will go on.
As soon as you see a finger press
insistent as a gun barrel
against a suspects temple
be ready you will say
I do not know the man
the barrel will move slowly, it will land
on times temple, keep
I do not know the man
equally strong if terrified
your answer in front of deaths
photograph must stand
I do not know the man
and when the Prosecutors finally
irritated and with savage
punches smash your face
upon a faint exquisite sketch
in dreamings charcoal
I never saw it again
you will say.
EXERCISES FOR LOSING EXTRA POUNDS
IN A SHORT TIME
Lie down. On something hard.
At first comforts vertebrae might hurt
but gradually and painlessly the spine
of immobility lengthens like a cypress.
Now contract your bad habits
in a rigid line.
Bring your hands loosely to your chest
like makeshift wings of temporary angels.
Dont shift position.
Deftly the supine rows.
Dont be scared. Fear is fattening,
it contains hunger.
Dont snack on sensations. Too many calories.
Theyre responsible for deprivation bulge.
Eyes closed at all times please.
No misconstruable peeking,
no lollipops of light.
They radiate ultraviolet nostalgia.
Exhale forcefully, lie still,
dont breathe, dont breathe —
you risk imprinting only half
the oarsman on the x-ray.
Surrender now to the slide of sleep.
Ill put on a tape, relax, your mamas
lullaby, sleep my sweet
baby, willing or not.
Weigh yourselves. No moving —
your body has an integrated scale.
I read a most interesting
that we humans are
the only creatures on the earth
And I felt pride that just our own
introversion affords us such
expressive philanthropic glands.
Lets say — as a hypothesis —
I was a little lemon tree in bloom
and my bud hardened to a lemon
and a fiery wind
thirsty for something juicy
twisted the branchs throat
and stole the lemon
cut it in half
with the innocent pocketknife
of a childs small theft
squeezing it hard
to drip the juice
in the roasting mouth
of its gaping breath
and by mistake in squeezing
a tart torch of its drop was flung
into your distant eye
— a wish can fly
as far as you desire —
perhaps — just a hypothesis —
it would be heard
in your tear-ducts court.
YOULL PERCEIVE NOTHING
Youll perceive nothing
youll just read in the morning
some coded lips scrawled
on your bedside glass
with all-night water.
Im thinking of sending my melancholy
to sleep with you tonight
so I can be alone a little.
In her bag
under her evening meds Ill pack
as if by accident one of her childhood photos
in case you sing her a lullaby
and under the lullaby Ill hide
a second set of clothes
in case things change and you
keep her tomorrow also.
Of course, how do you love by night
another without asking? Listen:
eros was an imperative
before it was entreaty.
Besides, youll feel nothing.
Shell not lie beside you exactly
the exact is inhospitable.
In an ample adjacent willingness shell sleep
glued leaning sideways to
the imperceptible — sublime creation:
Love me you tell it and it loves.
A pleasant surprise. Today at 6:30 AM — instead of 7 yesterday — the public streetlights dimmed. Some small birds tripped a bit over their hazy twitter but right away one constantly strengthening hand of light lofted them on high. So now days grown. By half and hour you will say. Is that so small? Just remember the chronovores — finally 2 minutes were enough not even. Then all the rest of the limitless remaining storm was yours.
A pleasant surprise.
Today at 6:30 AM
— instead of 7 yesterday —
the public streetlights dimmed.
Some small birds tripped a bit
over their hazy twitter
but right away one constantly
strengthening hand of light
lofted them on high.
So now days grown.
By half and hour you will say.
Is that so small?
Just remember the chronovores —
finally 2 minutes were enough
Then all the rest of the limitless
remaining storm was yours.
Despite its polite temperature
hustled October to its finish.
Others too sat outside timid
each ones fear
wont easily forgo
that tepid prequel of the wintry
and so I too detoured
your Nordic climate
with an almost summery attitude.
Are you cold? No
we were discussing heatedly
how very black the absent stars
painted the sea
your orange juice sat far
from my coffee
and totally out of context
you whispered love
dies before it gets to age
I barely heard
you pulled your chair
so violently close its iron leg
jammed into my legs thought
and up flared a suspect otherworldly
fragrantly vacant pain
God from your secret and forbidden
heights had squeezed
derision in my cup.
OF VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE
c. Crickets Without Night
I heard the crickets and the stars
praising with incense
you who gives them meaning —
if you dont come they neither sing nor shine
I heard the invisibles
for the absolute silence you spread
allowing their resonance to clamber
safely up awes giant trunk.
I also heard a few cowards
badmouthing you for obscuring us
how can they see to love us
What off-the-wall argument, as if
stars and crickets without night
love has ever clearly seen.
Only by her genetically weak spark
the wind-whipped light enlarged.
NOT ONE EXCEPTED
Dreams are so antisocial.
No friendships or bonds
they sooner see us than vanish
a spark exposed to a squall.
Perhaps injured vanity
since they work down in the mines
of chances lost.
They too had other
dreams, you see.
A late-arriving friend brought by
a basket of flowers progressively arrayed,
white proper roses in the center
fortressed in their buds,
a moat of laurel leaves
around the Achilles virtue of their freshness,
and something else among their vital defended naïveté . . .
And as our torrent of familiarity brought up
a daze of stories, inner-tubes of events,
tree-trunks of seductions, twigs of fame,
their chance and reckless current flung your name
forcefully against the boulders of my hearing
how you had died in Africa too soon
— your heart fell from its horse.
So why had I insured your life
in some newly-constituted little poem?
It searched for a customer like mad.
I dont even remember
what huge sensation I exerted
to ensure your voices mane
the silver melodic identity
— in capital notes inscribed
the purebred name of your hand —
the violent equestrian gaze
and me left below it at the trough.
. . . dark little purple knots, third cousins
twice removed of tears, bury your very early news.
Instead of hyacinths
I thought Id bring you heliotropes today
so that my care might have more upright stems
and its bony already meaning seem
round-faced full of suns seeds.
Heliotropes. Silos of glowing heat.
I prayed youd benefit.
And having arranged aesthetically
by even heights my duty in the vase
I stopped a bit to ascertain
the flowers would rotate
as their name heralds.
Astonished I saw them turn toward
my prayers lunatic fulfillment
gazing not at the sun but you.
Out of respect.
thousands of light years