to the unknown patriot

I don’t blame you
you are a bitch

it’s not a matter of corruption
nor of the train
lying by the rails
bureaucracy in sour
rooms doesn’t bother me
nor the gaze of the immigrant
in the snow the sun the rain
I won’t even touch on
your more than ugly new-borns
the terrified elders

this sweet life
is what lights the fire
and the doctors do not prescribe
any treatment

I don’t blame you
I am a sick dog
your son
running amid wild waves
putting salt on pain

I don’t blame you
you’re a bitch
you desecrated me to raise me

From To Each His Own Grave (2007, 2017)


Frontier line

darkness on the one side
darkness on the other
in the middle a bit of white

when the water level drops
shovels have a head start

at the frontier there’s always a sense of the familiar

-the word ‘nepenthe’
is devoid of meaning

something silent thrives here
as if the deed was never done

a soft breeze embraces
the ribs
before they are covered
in soil

so I ask you

is history a flow
or merely certain of its moments?
-some call them
whatever flows becomes entangled
and flows again

is the outfall really so valuable
or is it all a trick of the mind?

darkness on the one side
darkness on the other
in the middle

From In the Style of An Indian (2014)

I was born in Guzulu in 1913, my records had it ‘15, don’t ask why. In ‘22 half of us arrived in Ravika, next to it there was a town, its name was Drama, we didn’t ask anything further. We had two cows they were no good, we were knee deep in dung. I got married in ’31, built a shabby house, added a few reeds, my wife kept having babies, she didn’t ask much either. We kept the chicken in the bedroom, the youngest child swallowed feathers, drowned, we buried it in the garden.

I wasn’t going to the kafeneion often. I played no cards and I didn’t smoke, not me. Neither to church nor to take the the sacrament. Even if you were to ask me, I wouldn’t know why. I took out my frustration in Albania. I knew snow, I knew prickly oaks. I faced no problems, I killed by the pound. When I returned, the Bulgarians appeared. I had no more patience, I took a cleaver, I slaughtered three at the door. That came to no good, they set fire to my wife, the children too.

It was night when I went up to Paggaio mountain, they dressed me up as a priest. I headed for Agio Oros, stayed there for five winters. Nobody asked me anything and I wasn’t saying much. When I got bored, I took with me some of the gold, as dowry, I said, of God, and used it to go to Crete. I’m now in my final days, this is why I came here. I should not forget to dig out the bones from the garden, of the little girl.

From Dramailo (The Road to Drama, 2018)

Kyriakos Syfiltzoglou, trans. by Konstantina Georganta