Το πρώτο ποίημα είναι γραμμένο και αφιερωμένο στην Μπίλη Βέμη από τον Γιάννη Γκουμα

 

 

Μπίλη Βέμη (1954-2012)

 

Ο ήλιος έδυσε περίλυπος

πίσω από την ποίησή της.

Τα κύματα να ομοιοκαταληκτούν

αποκαρδιωμένα. Τα σύννεφα

λαμπύριζαν ελεγειακά.

Ο ουρανός σκοτείνιασε,

μελαγχόλησε, ελπίζοντας ότι

θα μπορέσουμε να υπομείνουμε

την ιδιορρυθμία του θανάτου.

Απώλεια, απώλεια που κρατάει

τη δάδα της φλεγόμενη.

Για μια στιγμή

είδα μια άλλη άποψη

του εαυτού της, μετασχηματισμένη

από τις μεταφράσεις μου

των ποιημάτων της. Έπειτα

έστρεψα το βλέμμα μου στον καθρέφτη

και είπα: «Τι σε κάνει να πιστεύεις

ότι επειδή είμαι ζωντανός

έχω μεγαλύτερη ελπίδα

από την απεικόνισή σου;»

Ο θάνατός της

με μετέφερε έξω από το παρελθόν

που δεν ήθελα να εγκαταλείψω,

να με οδηγεί εκεί που ξέρω καλά

ότι η ζωή δεν υποσχέθηκε τίποτε, σε κανένα,

εκτός από το όνομα «ζωή».

Χρόνος είναι να κοιτάζεις προς το μηδέν

για μια δεύτερη ματιά. Όλοι μας

ζούμε την προϋπόθεση τού να ζεις.

 

Φίλη, αγαπημένη φίλη,

τα ποιήματα που είχες στην καρδιά

πέταξαν ψηλά

σε συσσώρευση νεφών,

στην καρδιά του Θεού.

 

ΓΙΑΝΝΗΣ ΓΚΟΥΜΑΣ

12/12/2012

 

 

Billie Vemi (1954-2012)

 

The sun set sorrowing

behind her poetry.

The ripples rhymed

despondent. The clouds

shimmered elegiac.

The sky grew dark,

melancholic, hoping that

we shall be able to condone

death’s idiosyncrasy.

Loss, loss carrying its torch

aflame.

For a moment

I saw a new aspect

of herself transformed

by my translations

of her poems. Then

I turned to the mirror

and said: “What makes you

think because I’m alive

I have more hope than

your reflection?”

Her death

carries me out of the past

I’m unhappy to leave,

leading me where I know

that life has not promised

anything to anybody

but the word “life”. Time

is to look towards nothing

for a second sight. We all

live the stipulation of living.

 

Friend, dear friend,

the poems you had in your heart

have flown away

in cloud formation

and in God’s heart.

 

YANNIS GOUMAS

12/12/12

 

 

 

*****************

 

FROM «THE COCK OF FOUNDATIONS» (1971)

 

THE LAD WITH A BELL ROUND ITS NECK

With a childish laughter the twilight dries
in the garden’s bottom corner
the men’s voices
stagnate again tonight in coffee shops
and the mother is bored
playing patience
alone
Only the child
still goes about with a bell round its neck

keeping awake the sleepy streets

*

THE MOON

Their bodies were white-coloured

Once in a while the moon passed
and took away their faces
further on children filled with earth
the mouths of flowers
and listened to the voice of the girl
they had sent to fetch the gold
and still descended

in the bowels of the earth

Once in a while the moon passed over them
and took away their faces

and the girl in the depths

*

NEW YORK

From the pigeon’s wounds
flowed blue water
and all the more children crowded the pavement
dragging along their crippled dolls

The pigeon looked on high
as its strength rolled on the slabs
and the air vanished on its wings
and the children’s hair

*

THE COCK OF FOUNDATIONS

Quietly quietly
opened the trapdoor
leading way down to the cellar
where sat singing
devoid of spilled blood
the cock of foundations

Through the trapdoor
first the mice were lost
that drew closer to the singer
and died
then down went
the dog
and the cat
and died
grandfather and mother
and died
father and the eldest brother
in turn
and on hearing knocks at the door
the children drew back

It was the home’s most secret part

There the children changed shifts and kept awake
transfusing juice from the dead
into the bird’s veins
that its song should glow
at night

*Custom has it that when building a house you slay a cock and bury it in the foundations.

*

WITH THEIR FINGERS

The dead
embroider strange shapes
with their fingers in the light

*

TO A LITTLE GIRL

You locked death out of your teeth
but like dogs
it sniffed
the corners of your mouth
with a steady step it wandered on your morning eyelids
your youthful joints wept for life
and the mountains had something
reminiscent of war 

I looked at your star in the sky
it walked like the cigarettes of drunkards at night

I looked for you in the eyes of children
and they had forgotten you

*

THE OLD TOTEM

The old sleeping totem
woke up late at night

An old song
embittered its mouth
and it couldn’t swallow

It wondered where the voices had gone 
that ousted fear in the forest
who would hear the dreams of its nightmarish sleep
when creaking and smiling
the votive skulls
sought to saddle it
with their stories

Now it was its turn to sing
and keep fear
away

And the ancient totem realized
that never again would it be able to sleep
with this song of fear

always filling
its mouth  

 

 

***********************

   from THE RUST OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT (1978)           

 

STROLL

My wounds grow beard-like every morning
I neaten them with a small razor
that they should not be seen
not cry

I take to the road
carried by my thought

I loved him but I never bent over him
he’d be lost on my long legs

and the stroll continues
along the remnants of neoclassic houses
and the moon’s scales

Sotíris wants to leave
Dimítris wants to be liked
Grigóris doesn’t

their anguish has encircled me
like clotted cream
but I don’t want
to meet my end
in such sweetness

I call out their names and of course
they can’t hear
immune in glass jars
they champion their manliness
with dry teeth

sufficient language
insufficient life
and you my old darling
you swathed me with a wooden story
that I’ll drag like a leg
loathsome, precious and unmanageable

   
*

THE DOG

A

The dog returned again with a mouthful of bones
an electric lamp under its tongue
makes a transparent membrane of its brain
and the carnivorous dreams whistle in the light

B

No one saw the dog leaving
but the bones it hid at the foot of the wall
crackled all night
regardless of the various names we gave them
to keep them happy and quiet

They came out every night
exhorting each other in a stifled voice
they came out and pointed south
to remind us
that a dog grinds its teeth elsewhere.

*

WREATHS OF SMOKE

Forget me now
plant with silent leaves
now my mind dresses
with wreathes of smoke
from beloved lips

*

POEM

In this and the other poem
the bandages are the same

 

 

 

*************************

 

from «LANDSCAPE THEY CALL POEM» (1987)

 

LIKE MINOR EXPLOSIONS

Days for creativeness  days in
intermediate silence leaving
things to echo inside me like
minor explosions  eyes on
the knees  ears underarm 
      you crazy spring

you’ve hidden your hair everywhere
 
     31.5.84

*

BODY

A

I’m afraid that my body keeps awake
I’m afraid that I’m not wholly awake
and I shut its mouth with snow

B

Strange body
strange mind that rests
and doesn’t understand
and gives life to symbols   

C

These bodies thrown aside
without identity without thought
tender as they crawl on human surfaces
they get lost in the damp darkness
which they look for
      and fear

D

Dumb body disappearing like an animal
and my losing you

*

THE MACHINE

It’s a machine and he can see that
only when the machine breaks down
and then he says I’m ill
In hospital he counts his own parts
and the deaths of others

Quickly quickly
let’s count ourselves

The hour’s innocence tends to be
illusory

Lights are what make colours
exist
even though we forget it  

*

THE RETURN

Smooth without corners
is the return

Wrap yourself
in sweet gulfs and olden feelings
inhaling leisurely their salty light

But who’s that shouting
Hurry up, you’ll rot

*

SIN

Not even poetry will excuse us
Absence from the present is a sin
It’s a sin walking the same streets
with the same eyes
sinful is a self-conscious
recurrence

A wasted reason
time means nothing
let it be late and let us spend ourselves

*
Groundless passions
that drain us

*

A POROUS POT

    to Marie-Henriette Marcilhacy

I

The snow created mirrors on the mountaintops across the way    The trees attained meaning when you looked at them for long like coffee dregs    The look encircled the entire mountain and became vast
              What reason for words?

II

Can one keep an inner balance?   To contain experience, himself a pot, its inner sides allowing osmosis   a porous pot out of which everything could scatter and yet a curious frame keeps it intact?    

*

OUR FINEST MATERIAL

We must realize
how our finest material is prevented
from being
that we are not mere carnal coverings
of a sick mind

*

SHORT POEMS

Mundane society
Nonexistent seedbeds
Silent skintight
lamina

Where do birds go and fix up
their worn parts?

They oiled them like the new trains
and they run flat out
whereas I forget
to speak

Who reminds the wound up doll
that she doesn’t have
her key?

Low entrails lying
stagnant
Horizontal speech
having a go at renewal

The hour of creation shall arrive again
a ship with filings on her sides
repose for stowaways and prodigals

Don’t let anyone in
don’t let anyone interrupt him
since his desire is right there

What house?
The only thing I know about the house
is its key

O loving flower of the mind
I’ll give you my last few pennies
to buy little red airplanes
and silk ribbons

when misfortune soaks the dreams

Description of a happening and which one
a chance walk in the street
Why are you lying to me inward element
and spook?

The olive tree’s leaves keep on asking
why they weren’t birds

Poems are like problems
when you can’t finish a line
and the solution escapes you

Fixed up lime
slaked  

Naked we saunter
on beeches washed by the sun’s
mixed fingers

There’s no sound anywhere
there’s no mercy anywhere

Love has disinfected us

Flesh flowering after death
you come after me like a new kiss

I stir myself with a spoon and perspire

Moon, I look at you and you eat me

You’ve contracted light

A poem is haven
in its deep folds I want to hide and breathe
in the dark where words are reborn

Poems that always sink
and no one pulls them out

Poems that always sink
can you awaken them?

The bridge is finished
I change size   

 
*

THE WHITE HE LOVES

Man draws circles on the wall with his hands     He strokes the white wall with his palms as it brings to him the white he loves 

*

LIGHT-CUM-VOICE

Bang on a copper bowl and wake us you shan’t

Long ago that other one also ceased
the one you’d call a voiceless exclamation

Mute mouth, how can you stand
my no longer having a voice

I search my throat inch by inch
for the vowels
Where are you, light
My voice is lit up
My lung echoes anew
Your music is a blow at the nervous system
says the doctor and cuts with a sharp instrument
You part, O flesh
I see the freed words roll
and dingdong on the cold marble

I appreciate your silence now
I cannot follow the song’s lyrics
or the friends who discover their bodies
in the neighbouring darkness

Light
how can you stand my no longer having a voice  

*

METAMORPHOSIS

Halfway through the poem the poet started growing    He couldn’t fit into his old ones    And strangely as he grew his mind boggled    He felt shy coming out of the poem in these shorts    He ran the risk of never coming out of his words

*

THE MAGICIAN POET

I’ll envy you blindly with music
You touched the truth with reluctant hands
now it’ll perish on your forehead

I leave you and go deep down
I keep an eye on the race’s magician
as he drains his bones of phosphorus
to ensure the new day
Afterwards he comes out and summons the spirits
he turns into asbestos  he lays symbols on the pavements
he turns into a stiletto  he dances in all squares
Then he puts on his robe and records
the magician poet

      26.5.79

 

 

 

***************

 from THE PLANTS OF SLEEP (2000)

 

 

STRANGE PASSENGERS

Everyone was taken aback that I stopped the bus, but I didn’t answer.  I simply induced the driver to put it into reverse, enabling me to photograph the snow at sundown as it startled me.

I walked around without being able to find the right conditions, whilst the exposure meter kept on indicating the death of each moment.  Nor could I hope for the same light, since the stop, the waiting and the return were impossible.

Port.  Huge ships moored for repairs.   I hold the camera among the crowd, and upwardly I see the vertical stem of an enormous rust-red ship with a bulbous bow.  A sea passage?   We would continue.  Ship, bus or train.  All means of transport surrounded us.  And if we had a choice, it was only the means.  Not installation.  Never would the same light find us in the same place.

On the train, squeezed together close to the engine driver, we steam the window with our breaths.  I don’t know whose idea it was.  The train was already thundering along when I remembered the camera I dragged in my hands.  And now its nighttime, and as it is speeding I can only take photographs on board.  Of our very selves in the train’s belly and almost at close quarters Snap!  Glum faces, the flesh yellow in the lamplight.  Moustaches, mixed glances, dark clothes a breath away Snap!

 Never shall the same light find us in the same place.             

*

THE HANDS

I explained to my dead father
that my hands always troubled me.

I was hampered when writing on the blackboard
they tire easily and I must pause;
nor could they hold something heavy, I fainted.

“And what keeps you mostly
    busy?” he asked.
“I write,” I said to myself, or even aloud.
“You see,” my father said, who could hear,
“this is done with the hands.
You write with the body.”

Suddenly a connection developed
between the fact that I stopped writing
and my hands.
His look, if not his words, led me to what
he suspected:
someone in the past had cast an evil eye on my hands.

I thought father had come just for this
but to my relief I watched him get up
to take me to someone he knew:
the only one

who could cure
such impairments

*

THE SOUL SAVER

She took her basket and made for the mud
plunging her hands into it and retrieving something here and there

We too stood talking on the mud’s edge
searching now and then in front of us
without zeal 
Till I raised my eyes and saw her
a Millet figure in the fading evening hues

Thus shone how much passion she had in her work
how much love
 Neither did she realize when she advanced
 when everything became so remote
 yesterday’s company, feast’s leavings
How much she differed from us amateurs
How her passion for work
brought her up to the knee in mud

digging up a flooded village  

*

PERSEPHONE’S SYNDROME

I found you half asleep and given to dreams
half of you tossing about in life as in the past
You sleepwalked almost day and night

Half of you lived and breathed in a wondrous
world
settled
in timeless time
and the other half in a bogged down day
lit only by a dream from the deep

Persephone
what did it atone for, that descent into sleep?
To the earth’s centre?
How were they and weren’t they
those underworld palaces
with the gardens in the earth?

I remember their walls being defined by masses of brown soil
earth in lieu of sky
A cloudy day’s
diffuse light reigning always
Dreams coming in a row:
the first one was:
and the second one was:
and the third one was:
 
And the first one spoke of writing
and the second one spoke of love
and then there was the dream with the three fathers
and then the dream with the two mothers
then blood
then the Teacher   
the faceless lover
the rival with a gypsy’s face
death with a swarthy singer’s face

Their words laconic and sharp oracular-like

And so
you learned
     
      27.2.92

*

RED AUTUMN LEAVES

It’s pouring down
Without water
And I walk on

In front of me is the silent child
I don’t know where he’s leading me
I don’t know why I’m following him
It’s hardly a building where he’s taking me
Just a staircase
with a wooden handrail
And I’m the child that stopped to face me

I remained
looking at him looking at me

Like a serious child in a long top
he touched with his hand the base
of a winding wooden
staircase

Head turned towards me
he looked at me right in the eyes
He neither spoke nor nodded
But from his sleeve I noticed
red autumn leaves falling

He stood motionless on the lower stairs
and with a slight movement of his palm
he released one by one like playing cards
crimson autum leaves

They fell quietly on the tiles

Why did this scene bite me so?
Obviously it was my self bleeding
The leaves were his tactful way
of concealing the nature of that disaster

Sheets of rain and moisture
where the light turned muddy
Small puddles
receive more rain
and splash
— What do you see and fall silent?
What’s wrong with you and you feel pain?

 

 

 

 

********************

Η Μπίλη Βέμη γεννήθηκε στην Αθήνα το 1954. Σπούδασε αρχαιολογία στην Ελλάδα και συνέχισε με μεταπτυχιακές σπουδές στη Σορβόννη, όπου έκανε το διδακτορικό της. Από το 1990, δίδαξε βυζαντινή αρχαιολογία και βυζαντινή τέχνη, με εφαρμογές στη μουσειακή εκπαίδευση, στο Παιδαγωγικό Τμήμα Δημοτικής Εκπαίδευσης του Πανεπιστημίου Θεσσαλίας και στο Αριστοτέλειο Πανεπιστήμιο Θεσσαλονίκης. Πρωτοεμφανίστηκε στη λογοτεχνία πολύ μικρή, στα δώδεκα χρόνια της. Τα δυο πρώτα της βιβλία, «Νέλτο» (1966) και «Ο κόκορας των θεμελίων» (1971), χαρακτηρίζονται από τον τρόπο θέασης του κόσμου μέσα από τα πηγαία συναισθήματα ενός κοριτσιού. Από το τέταρτο ποιητικό βιβλίο της, «Τοπίο που σε λένε ποίημα» (1987) και μετά πέρασαν στο λόγο της τα μονιμότερα θέματα που την απασχόλησαν, πλουτισμένα από τις συχνές αναφορές σε πρόσωπα και καταστάσεις της αρχαίας και της μεσαιωνικής ιστορίας: η αγωνία για τη συντομία του χρόνου, η έλλειψη πληρότητας του ερωτικού βιώματος, η αίσθηση της οντολογικής μοναξιάς. Εξέδωσε τα βιβλία: «Νέλτο» (1966), «Ο κόκορας των θεμελίων» (1971), «Η σκουριά του Μεγαλέξανδρου» (1978), «Τοπίο που σε λένε ποίημα» (1987), «Φυτά του ύπνου» (2000), «Το δέντρο που το φέραν στο μουσείο» (δίγλωσση έκδοση, 2003). Επίσης, φρόντισε, μαζί με τον εκδότη του περιοδικού Εντευκτήριο, Γιώργο Κορδομενίδη, την έκδοση κειμένων του Κινέζου ποιητή Χι Ουέι, που έζησε στην Ελλάδα (2003). Έφυγε πρόωρα από τη ζωή τον Δεκέμβριο του 2012. Ήταν μέλος της Εταιρείας Συγγραφέων.