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This translation project was supported by the National Endowment of the Arts

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In a previous issue, Olga’s poetry and scraptals

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Contributor Notes



WHAT SEA?

20 Poems






Kiki Dimoula

by Kiki Dimoula








Olga Broumas Translated by Olga Broumas




Kiki Dimoula

 

 

Translator's Note

 

 

 

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

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 Publications:


   Poems, 1952

  Erebus, 1956,

  Absentia, 1958,

  On the trail, 1963

  The Small of the World, 1971

  My Last Body, 1981

  Rejoice Never, 1988

  Lethe’s Adolescence, 1994

  A Moment’s 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

  We’ve Relocated Next Door, 2007

 


 

 

 

 

LO LALA LOLA

 

 

 

A dream on patrol

in abandonment’s tenements

arrested an old acquaintance suspicion

red-handed, leaning on

a shuttered likelihood,

eavesdropping.

 

“Please understand,” I told it,

“the folks you nab are no garbage. 

Don’t mire them in.  I break my back

retrieving them.  They’re for repair and return.

You’re not their expiration.

A poor exhausted nap is what you are

under the cool of tears

while the repairs occur so they won’t hurt.”

 

A skilled restorer, inspiration,

precisely montaging  all their trials

without which the body doesn’t trust

any reintegration.        

 

New people never did exist.  And even if

we named a couple first-created

it was to win imagination’s

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 don’t 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 what’s the quick?

And is the seam a gimmick

to make us love?

If life is reparable

where’s all that’s 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

is lacking?

 

So old each new sorrow.

So dearly paid for its new box.

 

O millionaire

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

by exception.

 

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:

large

small

smaller

least.

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

so fruitful.

 

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

the large

 

human

except the smallest one

who hides behind

a story.

 

 

 

 

 

I LEFT YOU A MESSAGE

 

 

 

Hello, hello, can you hear me?  Hello?

I’m calling from far away.  What?

You can’t 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.  She’s not there?

Can I scream her a message?

It’s 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

not dry.

 

Tell her to come and change it.

 

If she can’t, tell her please

her old warning ripened, that the old

man would eat me if I didn’t

eat.

 

It ripened. I became

a meal of age.  Not in a small dreamy taverna.

In some popular dive now managed

by the mirror.

 




 

 

 

 

 

LETHE’S ADOLESCENCE

 

 

 

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 curiosity’s 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.

 

Without distance

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 I’d be called

grandmother from birth

equally by eros and grandbabies.

What would the stars then be

without distance’s provident support?

Earthbound silver, some candelabra, ashtrays

for the spent butts of pugnacious wealth,

and fawning’s investment bubble.

 

Without distance

nostalgia would speak to us in thees.

Her now rare timid rendezvous

with our plethoric need

would fatally assimilate

frequency’s street-smart speech.

 

Of course, without distance, our neighbor

wouldn’t seem a far-off star — he’d be

in prime proximity, two steps would bridge

his outline from a dream.

As also nearby the soul’s

ultimate escape would stay.

Why so much wanderlust?  Whole rooms

are empty. We’d 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 — they’ve 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RESURRECTION WEEK

 

 

 

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 stability’s luster.

 

It’s 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

it’s 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

it’s 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.  I’m totally fed up with all

that ineluctable and future  Lord

squawk why-have-you-forsaken squawk—

without exaggeration!

 

 

 

 

 

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

without enthusiasm

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


At night,
that angelform melting,
kneading the body with sleep’s lotions,
creaming its defenses, it is
no physiotherapist.
It is your new employment in storage,
treasuries, safe deposit boxes — you can’t see
blindfolded by the bosses.
Invisible telecontrols
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
are busy growing someone else

on the empty side —

their fluffy anomalies roll him to the dent
your worn attention sinks, your sleeping trust
keeps making room for him till danger
grazes what you guard.

Before these measures were enacted
you sometimes woke up in the morning
on the floor, dream

eye punched
purple, strange fungi sleeping
on pillow-top and foam,
and every store-room open.

Now, before sleeping, latch
windows, bolt the doors
and, as your ribcage is unlocked on either side,
drag tables vanities the wardrobe and the hutch
washing-machine night-table the TV —
blockade and barricade it.

 

 

 

 

 

ECSTASY                                                                      

 

 

 

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

 

God startled

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

light.

 

 

 

 

 

PROVISIONING SUMMER NEEDS

 

 

 

Below, the sea waits always

for a wrinkling wind.

Athos Dimoulas

“Supreme Generality”

 

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 I’ll 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.  You’ll 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 you’d invent it. 

I'll try on an old sunburn

curious whether my back’s

old crazy passion for it peeled.

 

New swimsuit — my decline has gained

a lot of weight.  In fact, I’d 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 sea’s Ss one by one

are carefully hoisted bubble-wrapped

in blue transparent water

by seagull derrick.

 

What sea?  Mere

a distant cosmogony’s refugee.

Corruptingly immense

because of the precipitous

and schistic initial temper of the cosmos.

Harlot escape’s optical pimp.

 

What sea?

Time for the logic of the body

at your disposal to prevail.

 

Get dressed and swim.

 

(Tear-Dumping Strictly Prohibited.                 

Maturity already is
rabidly salty on its own.)  

 

 

 

 

 

MICROWAVES

 

 

 

What are you doing here

a straight working road like you

on an idle bench?

 

Well, I’m 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 other’s microwaves

he heats a breadstick dried by hours

upon the sun’s proclaiming tongue.

 

I’m 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 doesn’t like the paint job

keeps changing it by stirring in

every new passing hour.

 

I’m furious at obedient expatriation. 

With every passing hour

it paints the unemployed day.

 

Finish already. 

Soon the difficult customer

will set.

 

 

 

 

 

I DO NOT KNOW  [THE MAN]

 

 

 

[Matthew, 73]

Because you keep

suspect company

especially that of the soul

you will be called someday to Prosecution

for interrogation and identification.

 

Be cautious

confess laconically.

 

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.

 

They’ll 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 suspect’s temple

 

be ready you will say

 

I do not know the man

 

(thrice)

 

the barrel will move slowly, it will land

on time’s temple, keep

steady insistent

 

I do not know the man

 

(thrice)

 

equally strong if terrified

your answer in front of death’s

photograph must stand

 

I do not know the man

 

(thrice)

 

and when the Prosecutors finally

irritated and with savage

punches smash your face

upon a faint exquisite sketch

in dreaming’s charcoal

 

I never saw it again

 

once

 

            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.

Don’t shift position.

Deftly the supine rows.

 

Don’t be scared.  Fear is fattening,

it contains hunger.

Don’t snack on sensations.  Too many calories.

They’re 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,

don’t breathe, don’t breathe —

you risk imprinting only half

the oarsman on the x-ray.

 

Surrender now to the slide of sleep.

 

I’ll put on a tape, relax, your mama’s

lullaby, sleep my sweet

baby, willing or not.

 

Weigh yourselves. No moving —

your body has an integrated scale.

 

 

 

 

 

VALUE ADDED

 

 

 

I read a most interesting

scientific finding

 

that we humans are

the only creatures on the earth

who weep.

 

And I felt pride that just our own

introversion affords us such

expressive philanthropic glands.

 

Let’s 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 branch’s throat

and stole the lemon

cut it in half

with the innocent pocketknife

of a child’s 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.

 

 

 

 

 

YOU’LL PERCEIVE NOTHING

 

                        

 

You’ll perceive nothing

you’ll just read in the morning

some coded lips scrawled

on your bedside glass

with all-night water.

 

I’m thinking of sending my melancholy

to sleep with you tonight

so I can be alone a little.

 

In her bag

under her evening meds I’ll pack

as if by accident one of her childhood photos

in case you sing her a lullaby

and under the lullaby I’ll 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, you’ll feel nothing.

She’ll not lie beside you exactly

the exact is inhospitable.

 

In an ample adjacent willingness she’ll sleep

glued leaning sideways to

the imperceptible — sublime creation:

 

Love me you tell it and it loves.

 

 

 

 

 

MARCH

 

 

 

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 day’s 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.

 

 

 

 

 

FORBIDDEN SUBSTANCES

 

                        

 

Despite its polite temperature

the night

hustled October to its finish.

 

Others too sat outside timid

each one’s fear

won’t 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 leg’s thought

 

and up flared a suspect otherworldly

fragrantly vacant pain

 

plainly you

God from your secret and forbidden

heights had squeezed

derision in my cup.

 

 

 

 

 

OF VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE

 

 

 

c.   Crickets Without Night

 

 

Night

I heard the crickets and the stars

praising with incense

you who gives them meaning —

if you don’t come they neither sing nor shine

 

I heard the invisibles

whisper gratitude

for the absolute silence you spread

allowing their resonance to clamber

safely up awe’s giant trunk.

 

I also heard a few cowards

badmouthing you for obscuring us

how can they see to love us

without light.

 

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.

 

Anthropophobia?

Perhaps injured vanity

since they work down in the mines

of chances lost.

 

They too had other

dreams, you see.

 

 

 

 

 

 SYNTHESIS

 

 

 

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 don’t even remember

what huge sensation I exerted

to ensure your voice’s 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIVERGENCE

 

 

 

Instead of hyacinths               

I thought I’d bring you heliotropes today  

so that my care might have more upright stems

and its bony already meaning seem

round-faced full of sun’s seeds.

 

Heliotropes.  Silos of glowing heat.

I prayed you’d 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 prayer’s lunatic fulfillment

gazing not at the sun but you.

 

Out of respect. 

You were

thousands of light years

you recede.