Once every week,
on a given day,
and always at the same hour,
three handsome ships,
the Cleopatra, the Semiramis, and the Theodora,
leave their berth
at nine o’clock
for Piraeus always,
for Brindisi and for Trieste
always.

Without manoeuvres or fuss
or hesitation
or unnecessary blowing on the whistle,
they put out to sea,
the Cleopatra, the Semiramis, and the Theodora,
like certain well-bred people
who take leave of their hosts
without uncouth and superfluous
handshaking.

They leave their berth
at nine o’clock,
for Piraeus always,
for Brindisi and for Trieste
always – rain or shine.
They sail
to daub the blue waters
of the Aegean and the Mediterranean

with smoke.
They sail to cast their lights
like topazes on the sea
at night.
They sail
laden with passengers and luggage….

The Cleopatra, the Semiramis, and the Theodora,
for years now
on the same route,
arriving on the same day
sailing at the same hour.

They resemble white-collar workers
who have become such time machines
that an office door
might come tumbling down
if they were to miss work
even for a single day.

(If the route is always the same
what if it is across an entire Mediterranean
or from one house to another neighbourhood?)
The Cleopatra, the Semiramis, and the Theodora
for a long time now and for many years
have felt the tyranny of boredom,
ploughing always the same route,
mooring always at the same ports.

If I were a Captain,
Yes – si j’etais roit! –
if I were a Captain
on the Cleopatra, the Semiramis, the Theodora,
if I were a Captain
with four gold stripes,
abandoned on this same route

year after year,
on a moonlit night,
in the middle of the sea,
I would climb to the bridge deck
and while the music from the first class saloon
played on,
with my best uniform,
my gold stripes
and shiny decorations,
I would trace a most perfect curve
from the bridge deck
into the water,
gold braid and all,
like a shooting star,
like a hero of inexplicable death.

Alexandros Baras, ‘The Cleopatra, the Semiramis and the Theodora’, from Compositions, I, 1933, trans. Yannis Goumas in 1970.

More poems and info here: http://www.poiein.gr/archives/2193

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