Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

20 poems for an imaginary poetry festival 2012

From Anguish to sounds of colours


20 Poems by Hatto Fischer




Vincent Van Gogh

The drowning ship

The flight of the sea gulls


Promise of Atlantis


Dialogue between generations

Cruel truth

Trees flounder – dispute with Lenin

The song of freedom

Silent water

Refrains of the Blues



Stomping on the dancing floor

Continuity of life

Poem about love in a world divided

Getting up – in honour of Elytis


20 poems



What is love, if not that intractable aspect

which matters most

when we seek to refine love by such notions as




and convictions,

or a kind of certainty based on intuition,

to know what to do

after too much pain has slammed shut her door

to let doorbells ring in vain.


For sure, to uphold emotions of love is not like running uphill.

Rather it is building a house holding dreams of love since childhood.

And nothing should be reduced to whimsical wishes.

Love is an art. So the kiss and the warm embrace.

A hug is crucial since a love not given freely demands too much.

That the self is hard to be convinced, is often not understood,

but once there is manipulation in play, then rules are made up

along the way and over which the other can stumble and fall.

For sure, no true love lets the other fail by taking his or her

mistakes as an excuse to say good-bye, or to keep the other

off balance, but rather loving support out lets experiences speak.


It is claimed to love the other despite mistakes having been made

is most humane, yet it only holds if adults learn out of them,

and do not continue the same mistakes over and again.

Yet too many mistakes are made already when still children.

How then to stay sane? Be convinced in the other? With so much pain?


Love is like rain running down the window pane: droplet after droplet.

The path they take is like a love poem written on a fogged up window.

From the signs she draws one can tell something about her sadness.

A hand does reassure her that authentic feelings are not so bad

as is good the advice she should not give up the protest against his dishonesty.

But what happens once two lovers confront by what they long for?

Fear of silence does not tell them more than what books do.

And even if there exists a myth around love, other things wait

around the corner or forty pages on to be discovered in this world.


A true tune was sung by Tom Sawyer, that rascal.

O yes, love can be like a clever thief and steal your heart.

But Mark Twain reminds of times when boys

could still rampage across pages of history,

and forget out on the Mississippi slave society does exist.


Certainly love should not be confused with other things.

If not in the morning, then at night, love is gently alight

when she wants her way and he demands her now.

And once they embrace, it is a promise by both to be true!


In life, love is a gift, a bliss of kiss and something more.

And even if lost for a while, love can return like Odyssey

who found out that the natural and the social go together.

like the wild and tamed olive tree under which he

found shelter when finally washed ashore in Ithaca.

Once back home, he knew that the two of them

could go further and further than he did on his journey

since faithfulness is affirmed by listening to the right advise.


Strength of love is what the earth

once asunder

tells us all.

For even favourable winds cannot bring back the sailing ship,

if it does not know its harbour. The same holds for truthful love.



Un-remittent are our disturbed souls,

even when they cling to wishes we cannot fulfill,

but then life is not just a dream.

Reality catches me most of the time out of breath.

Stars, tell me what to do!

Sea, how can I heal my wounds?

Sand, what figure to draw to change my fate?

Wherever I went, it has never been easy.

As if my country is filled with thorns,

A stony path down to the sea not the greatest of all obstacles.

Still, the wind does not make me feel alone.

I love the wind and the sea along with sand and stones.

Only pathways through my heart are more difficult

and cumbersome the resurrection of my heart

after I had been left standing to bleed nearly to death.

I saw the light shining through the holes in the roof.

I found myself in a hut on an empty beach.

Slept there like a pirate whose wife

drank all night with the men.

Yes, I dare to joke about their toothless swords

and asked them if they could see themselves in the mirror

of a dark eyed woman who they desire like a 'Fata Morgana'.

They look only up when someone shouts 'land ahoy'.

O yes, I forgot to pay those bills. Don't remind me of that.

I wish a donkey could spit out money or some other trick will do

like the goose able to lay some golden eggs

for poor as I am, it would save my soul from tax collectors.

Indeed in this world, there are many thieves

who do not take into account the value of my life

even when these robbers cannot count to ten on their fingers.

Yet I do not tell them how many lives I saved

out of sheer courage of my heart.

No monument in my name exists on the village square.

It is just a surrealist fact that makes only sense to the parrot.

A cat can do better than that and see through the dark.

I know it is time to be modest and redo the kitchen floor.

And if I find the time, I will clean the rest of the house.

For life has a tendency to bring itself into disorder.

Good is that it keeps me busy all day long and through the night.

I go often without sleep, or if I do, I dream fully awake.

I dream about some windfall: a ship at anchor in the harbour

with treasure on board and ready to be taken like a beautiful bride.

Time to act but also to wait till the wind picks up to fill the sails.

I hope to find a secluded bay, a shelter from the winds,

In order to throw the anchor of my ghost ship.

Yes, I shall share the loot with my parrot but not tell him

the tale of Ali and his forty robbers coming out of a cave.

Yes, I would like to share that kind of life with a woman,

but she needs to be careful for I am armed to the teeth with love.



Vincent Van Gogh

In his paintings,

one walks out onto corn fields,

all alone.

It does no matter if it snows, rains

or shines the sun.

Sadness descends like ravens do

on fields ploughed by a heavy hand.

And he lets potatoes pickers eat

their food with the same hand.

Time goes by in all his paintings.

One stands on the fields after harvest

while above, on an embankment,

the train heads towards the city.

This abandonment underlines

how year after year every autumn

leaves behind the summer.

Underneath the railway bridge

rain water still drips, drips, drips

with only footsteps echoing off the walls,

but then they are drowned out

once the train thunders overhead

- again and again.

Always around that time of the year

yellow becomes the dominant colour

to show what life promises to be

like the harvested fields.

And again ravens appear on the horizon.

He lets them fly on for nothing is just in vain.

Only in the tavern the unemployed

gaze into their glasses

with the waiter a butcher of time.

There Van Gogh sees no one

striking a chord of agreement

with his fellow men.

Quickly the brush goes over the canvas.

It sees and detects Japanese shades of colours

to let everything become a daze

as if already drunk while gazing into the sun.

Here insanity dances in front of the eyes

till concentric like circles

reinforce the blazing sun

now burning deep inside his head

from which there is no escape,

even if Dr. Gachet attests that he is worse off

than his after-death-to-be-most-famous patient.

Yet with his forever blue eyes

Van Gogh did not answer him, but instead

looked inside of himself. Deeper and deeper

he looked courageously enough,

as he stayed steadfast even when he began

to see only nothingness.

It is the most cruel aspect of all emptiness.

Still Van Gogh could recall his father, a priest

dressed in black robes,

leave the mine shaft and while

crossing over the snow fields,

he thought Rembrandt could have painted

that scene much better than he.

Recognition of others was his art.

It shows how he draws the hand.

All alone, he reflected himself

as a tree standing all by itself,

outside the family circle, alone,

without leaves, while the other trees

would frolic around, love each other,

their leaves still intact,

dangling from every branch

to recall longing of the heart

is like having in front of the eyes

a human body to be drawn.

But nothing could have altered his fate.

As a painter he searched for the atelier of the South

since he knew not alone, but many together

would have the energy to take up then subjects

worthy to be painted.

There he lies, his brother Theo beside him,

in a cemetery in Arles, near that church,

around them an open field and that horizon

with that special light of the South.

Both are covered by a blanket of ivy!

Forever are true his letters to his brother.

In them he describes art lesson of proportions -

the greatest of all arts!

This he maintained when painting a chair

standing beside the bed.

It reminds of that gaze into the sun,

for the room wobbles a bit,

but not the blue door beside the yellow floor.


The drowning ship

Who thought the world would be just a big whirlpool?

Far away from the centre of the town, there exists

a man calling streets great old trees tumbling down.

What follows is a story made out of wood, but not only.

This material can be found in every household store,

where things are sold like ready-made shelves,

or built-in kitchens and even doors.

Wood gives mankind a good feeling once work has been done.

Polishing wood till blank for a sailing ship is like a song.

Wood made available envisions trees crushing down: timber!

Men are not distracted by house wives when they test the wood.

They run their fingers over the wood to see if it is smooth like her skin.

After such an experience men enter marriage as if the moon light

would skid across the floor to line up with the wooden door.

What does that mean when wooden floors begin to creak?

It seems no one speaks any more, nor has anyone ever conversed

with windows why should remain closed the door because of the winds?

To hear resounding footsteps in the sleep is like noticing the next day

that waves after waves have washed ashore drift wood,

while the wind tidies up the tiny space behind the house,

there where grandmother used to live in the garden shed.

The old oak tree still remembers her in the rocking chair

now swayed only by the wind since she is gone, and with her

the big hat and wrinkled face, along with her friendly laughter.

Amazing were her eyes, for they could fix any time in a simple gaze

that stretch of loneliness Marquez described years ago

until death entered with the soldiers the village of eternal time.

Once it happened, grandma called her grandchildren

who all came running through the garden on a Sunday.

with their letters of wishes for her to take to the other side.

All of this is to say memories dance like butterflies through the air,

and somewhere along the shore a trumpet would resound

to greet the morning sun, or on the other side of the river

a lazy dog would bark occasionally at the milkman

clattering from cottage to cottage located between birch trees.

These sounds of life are like children mumbling to themselves

when they would memorize sentences for dictation,

while fathers think about Prometheus who brought writing

so that man can go down memory lane, to where she used to live

near the blue cottage or close to the dreams of another life.

Since then dreams are gone and life has become quite dull

as stories take on no more wood, but instead use plastic strips

to tie down feelings belonging otherwise to sailing ships

venturing across oceans of hope and despair. They leave all in wonder

when they will return with the whales to plough through the water

on sharp keels to sail onwards, parallel to untouched shores.

Such shores are open to receive the wandering souls searching for

grounds to lay down to rest, as if some unusual happiness shall mark

both the beginning and the end on this earth, but not in the way

cucumbers are shaped nor like those huts with tin roofs to become

drums when it rains - rather like light throwing fragments of shades

in odd patterns at the winds strolling in while waves resound

over deep blue waters mentioning names like sea shells listening

to time narrating what people do on a single day -

if that is not a curse of money disguised as a beggar in a limousine,

then who notices a deep pessimism to indicate but another self defeat?

Since then, deep down, sunk to the bottom, there is a sizzling feeling

ready to ascend and to jump out of the water like a flying fish,

in order to beg from curious eyes searching the horizon,

for ways to live. And granted shall be the wish to finally see

the bearded man being washed ashore, exhausted after years at sea.

Indeed, Homer's Odyssey continues in our minds as measure of time.

The long journey left him the choice to survive like children do

in their fondness of belonging to secret places, ready to discard

what makes no sense. Always purpose links to the imagination

at risk to run wild, if perpendicular to the rays of the moon and not

to the sun. It leaves the children with incomprehensible feelings

imprisoned like birds, thus easily frightened by metallic sounds,

especially if voices of men are hard and tough, too shrill for ears.

These barriers to understanding are not made out of wood, but are

elicit complaints by those who do not understand the longing of the soul.

Amazed by this universe, love remembers sea gulls swooping down

to crumbs strewn out like a farmer his seeds into the sea behind the boat.

Once made out of wood, people stand still and risk to be left behind

not by the waves nor the tides nor by the children growing up,

but by the times themselves going on, going on, fading off.

It is like the sailing ship drowning at the edge of the horizon.

Thereafter the troubled waters are completely still:

a mirror of life and of unbelievable strength.

Athens 1994 (2nd version: 2011)



Flight of the sea gulls

Spaces do matter,

so also dances,

but why breathe so heavily?

Everything is lighter

than your dreams

when longing like unwritten wishes

to go out onto the street

passing by the house.

beside the sea

with hills behind

to watch over the horizon

like grandparents do

over their grandchildren

growing up

with the speed of light!

Over and again, wisdom says,

love and care spreads its wings

like seagulls do

when they sail onwards


until they dive suddenly

down to the water.

With a fish in their beacon

they return to lofty heights

to show off their happiness

now that they have something to eat.

For human beings that is the same:

needed is only some bread, a glass of water.

Such simple things can let the human spirit

soar up again in the air

to join the flight

of the seagulls

now turning their heads

towards the fishing boats

heading out into the sea.




(for lotte)

Signs in the snow seen from far away

look like shadows lying on the ground,

but closer up, they appear as if eyebrows

drawn over the surface of the earth

as if a part of a human face.

The snow is marked by feet of children

dancing around in evolving circles.

They seek to reach the destiny of their imagination.

It is lit by a lantern at the next street corner

around which awaits spring

for the time when to lurch forward

like a cat would do suddenly,

so that even the birds up in the trees would be startled.

Eyes would, till then forlorn, start to focus

on what lies ahead as trust in change

lets the snow recede to make way for new waves

of grass growing till the wind can stroke it like a brush

to ensure no hollow space is left behind.

All of them are filled by simple messages

written back then in the snow,

and kept there, as if the earth is Freud's wax plate.

Everyone tries now hard to read those letters

now tossed up in the air by spring tides moving in fast and swift.

If only the imagination could sojourn for the day

possible once the wind has died down.

Inside the house at the cliff

someone repairs his socks worn thin

after walking endless miles

through imagined snow fields.

Soberness is a full reality left behind.

The grounds are no longer ploughed or protected,

but now the eyes can look around

till they finally spot some snow rests

shivering in the corner, in a cold shade.

They do remind of pockets of resistance

against seasonal changes.

Sonderborg 18.12.2010


Promise of Atlantis

Poets would say: sojourn!

A day is like a breath of life

stroking the leaves

in the olive trees

to transform them

into a school of fishes

swimming beside the sea.

They look at shore lines

drawn softly by rocks and sand

to take on the profile of a face

turned towards the sea and the sun.

At the end of the day

elongated shadows appear.

Stretched out, what wonder!

Magic like, they skate

over the water

along an empty coast

of volcano like rocks

with a promise to return

once they have found


Athens 8.9.2011



Whatever I have to offer, it is too forlorn, if not loved like I do

with glimpses of light escaping the shade of the trees

to show the way down that familiar road where cats play

and neighbours greet each other as if days are years gone by

without ever so much noticing how everyone grows older,

and the children becoming adolescents, a boy just last summer

and now in for a spell of the military service as this is sustained

in a country never freed from a fear it might loose independence

not to drunken sailors or some romantic fools like Byron,

but more subtle to those who recklessly cheat everyone

and leave behind an empty stage when the time has come to pay.



Dialogue between generations

After all these strange thoughts

it does some good, if there comes

to the mind Dylan's melody

about the story of the hurricane

or when the body dreams images

of running freely through the forest.

It is like when lovers are ready to kiss

that fills life with colours of happiness,

Since the blue stands for maturity and faithfulness,

it urges on red, green, yellow, purple and orange

to join in the frolic dance, especially when she

gives him chase and he knows she belongs to him.

How different all that is from childhood days!

Then, he tagged along, behind his parents

who strode ahead in military like walks

on Sundays only meant to demonstrate the family.

At such a pace, they missed out at the next intersection

the imagination passing by silently, but still greeting

with a nod the next generation to say,

the time has come to take another path!



Cruel truth

Stand back!

That command can still be heard even sixty or more years later on.

Everything seemed black that day: the clothes people wore, the rain

and the night itself – everything was covered by its own darkest


Only cats could see what museums collected in the aftermaths:

a lot of shoes, hairbrushes and suitcases.

These things were left behind by those who had entered

the concentration camps.

Going through Auschwitz in 1999 underscored that silence

which greeted all of them as they got off the trains 1942-44.

There ruled the only command:

Stand back!

The barking German shepherd dogs rebelled against their leashes.

They showed their teeth.

It made Solzhenitsyn utter while the wolves are right,

the German shepherd dogs are 'verbissen'.

Only few survived as if they had a guarding angel

watching over them.

Jean Amery was one of them.

He traded in his food cards for cigarettes.

Over three years he survived the camp.

Afterwards he said as a Jew to survive

meant not to touch the electrical fence.

By comparison, he felt, German soldiers

had to shot faster than their enemies.

Therefore both were exposed to the same command to survive.

That was his offer of redemption: a humane way of understanding

dilemmas when there exists only the language of command.

Never before had arrived so many trains.

They unloaded countless people: men, women and children.

After Auschwitz Adorno doubted poetry was still possible.

But life without poetry would be such a cruel truth.

It would be perpetuated, if no one would say a word

if something goes wrong and thus risk

that the human condition deteriorates still further.

Left all alone to wounded screams, no one

could turn the next page in the history book.

For to hear themselves, says George Steiner

language and silence need each other,

provided there is this ethical dimension

that touches man with truthful words.

Auschwitz 1999


Trees flounder – dispute with Lenin

Trees flounder

in streets

going nowhere and everywhere

with leaves confused

as they fall

to be swept aside

when pain recedes

with the wind

pushing after the rain

the clouds onwards

till sunshine brings out again

brilliant colours

to dance

magic like in the imagination

reflected in the puddle

soon a telescope

with which to gaze

into the universe

from this spot

called earth.



The song of freedom

- for Tahrir square in Egypt -

Thoughts fade away into the grey sky,

when dexterity as a precaution is cast into the sea

while forgotten are kisses by strangers

no longer called Judas but brothers and sisters

for the voice of betrayal comes from within

as the darkened souls fear nothing more

than the light which can play with the shadows

cast by those grey figures of power and abuse

always looming large and tall in the corner of the eye

even when people are now ready on Tahrir square

to imagine a blue bird singing the song of freedom

like Egyptians used to hear near the Nile.

Athens 5.2.2011


Silent water

Silent water


a silver lining of the moon

along the shores

bleaching the stones

right now

still untouched by waves

but when they do come

they rush ashore

if only to tumble back

and to hover again

in silence

as if wanting

to use the calm moment

now disturbed

to wait for the next storm

to rough up

the silent water.

May 2011


Refrains of the Blues

O man, when electrical guitars

start to wail against walls in Harlem,

you start to hear refrains of the Blues.


But see how that community in New York

has gone down and under?

See how everyone has disappeared!

With all the boys in jail or close to a fight,

they all fear more than death

the armies' wrath against unrest.

But man, if it were not for the Blues,

they would not dare to keep up the beat

and dance down the street to rhythms saved well,

so cool it, man, cool it,

for it all depends on you and the Blues

to restrain yourself from doing

something foolish.


If only the boys could find an escape

from such ugly dog fights,

and leave behind their broken homes,

the bleeding lips, the nose in tatters

and the shirt torn

one ear badly damaged

due to fist cuffs or worse an iron bar,

then they would have a chance.

But even if they run off,

turn at the next corner,

they would hear the voice of authority

screaming at them, screaming to get lost.


So man, get a hold of yourself,

especially if you don't know

how to save your skin.

Everyone reckons that with the Blues

you can go yonder and go back to Harlem

as it used to be,

with all of them joining in the Blues.


So don' be afraid, man, or a fool, man,

the sockets in the wall are not meant for you,

unless you wish to hip hop over the edges

and stretch your muscles in the electric chair

till you budge no Mo, till you budge no Mo,

while everyone else smokes a joint at the bar

safe those who manage to escape this trap

to set the stage for you to sing the Blues.


Here then the refrain of the Blues comes through

loud and clear, first the guitar, and then the voice.

It is that vocal sound bringing out a heart felt laugh

once everyone realizes she loves him no Mo.

No man, that is not the way to go down that alley.

So listen how the wolves howl to the moon at midnight,

listen to the silence of the plains swept by the moon light.


Yes, I see you standing there

to make sure this earth stays a magic place,

still your home, and even when her voice

has gone over to the other side of the moon,

then remember the tale about the blue cheese

found in the cupboard after many moons

with only the Blues wailing through the nights.


So let the Blues fire you up again,

to sing to rhythms coming out swell,

for crucial is just that one refrain

tucked away in your pocket

like some forgotten love

only to be recalled when she sang

to you the Blues now waiting

to be heard thanks to your voice.


So step into the public light, sing the refrain,

like that never ending whistle blow of the train

moving slowly out of the station and having you

jump on board, as if you intend to go on your last journey!

O man, no wonder, you've got the Blues,

but man, jump off the train before it is too late,

before that train moves faster and faster

into the twilight zone, for what can save you

are the Blues your mother sang to you

in her wish you could curtail your wildest dreams.

Athens March 21, 2008



I want to understand

why that person prefers to stay

underneath the bridge

and wait till the rain ends.

Were I still a child,

I would wish also to know

why the longer path will not do

to reach the other side of the mountain?

Ask the traders,

answered my mother,

but when I asked them

they knew only

when a fetish is not a fish

sold on the market!

Naturally a melody

could bring back


but who remembers

those days gone under?

Only the blind guy at the corner

seems to know

why he blows on his harmonica

such strange tunes

I only heard when someone

was sent hanging.

No wonder that all preferred

to leave town before it was too late.

They left at the stroke of the hour,

virtually with the last train.

There were many of them

who made their way out of town;

first the tall, strong ones,

and then the smaller guys.

All chewed tobacco, if only

to spit it out as they passed by me

in disgust of my presence

being like a witness to their fears.

It seemed to me as if all of them were heading

straight for the next town

because of the big casino.

Came next morning and sunrise,

I saw some had stayed behind like me.

Unfortunately they were burdened

since they ended up carrying

heavy loads on their shoulders.

Overburdened by this task

the entire day stretched out

before them and forced them

to walk straight into the setting sun

on a tight line cast by their shadows.

It made them feel

exactly what is not fatigue,

nor exhaustion after love,

but being tight out of lack of money.

Skeptical, if not altogether pessimistic,

they no longer expected

to find a solution to their woes.

Yet my orientation remained the same

in that lonely town,

for gone missing had my love.

Therefore every morning I started

endless waits for her, and this

through to the next day, and still

she did not come around the corner

on six white horses.




Whisper to trees for they will bend over and listen

till their branches sweep the streets

to clear them for people to experience

a sky free of smoke of battles long gone

with only the cemeteries back in the woods

coughing out messages of the dead

so that the living can draw their faces in the sand.


Ambivalence has spread to the edge of the city

known for centuries to have been on the waiting list

for recognition by the winds and travelers

all while miners were finally freed to sudden fame

after two months under ground in this land

called Chile where once Neruda

created a river out of the silence of people

longing to escape oblivion and hate.


Now, who ever gives up hope these days,

in the belief the rescue work shall not succeed,

he risks to take the impossible more serious,

but here the youth gripped by bursts of energy

are like those cities imagining invisible love

shall return one day to warm up again every corner

too long left in the shadows of after thoughts

trailing behind like the teddy bear a child.

Pecs 15.10.2010


Stomping on the dancing floor

No one seems to know the norm!

No one understands a thing any more!

And this even though the times ring out loud

what is happening on stock markets

and in the basement of the biggest company,

namely the treasury where all machines go wild

to print money even though everyone knows

it is fake in value but conjured up like Al Capone once did

when the states stutters, spouts and leaves behind

just an endless paper trail of an ever growing deficit.


Short cuts are out of question,

a quick solution not in the offering

and a turn around to undo the mistake impossible,

while the demand to lower the deficit

hurries on austerity measures without justice.

Galloping news overtake the lady as a tramp

while swinging times compare more with oil

washed ashore after another disaster has struck

to leave the environment exposed to man's neglect.


A man stamps his feet as the dance gets into full swing.

He wants to forget for the evening what awaits him outside

once everyone leaves the night club and goes to the parking lot.

Trouble awaits there as if in a film with the victim getting robbed.

Nowhere has anyone seen a sign of relief from turbulent times

which sweep up now all those who have left behind relatives

and a life in Europe to follow the American dream.


In Rotterdam, there exists the New York hotel; from there many left

for a land where everything was supposed to go upwards, upwards,

till enough money was made to allow a decent life free of worries,

save for the neighbour who may not greet one any more so often

after he got through in court an ugly divorce to keep the children

while she has to live now like the fugitive in the streets of Paris

rather empty save for wax figures imitating the revolution.

Even if they shoot no longer horses, it leaves all those

stomping on the dancing floor exposed to the last dance

before the stock market comes crashing down once more.



Continuity of life

We believe we go blind

when in fact time elongates awareness,

provided we avoid looking into the sun.

Icarus didn't heed that advice, and when he flew too high

he no longer descended gently, but fell, fell, fell.

Tumble and fall, that was Humpty Dumpty's last call.

Yet sunshine galore shows during daytime

what graffiti was painted on house walls the night before.

It seems no longer just another day.

It seems no more to be a lovely time

even if beauty goes to sleep at noon.

Dreams enter barefooted.

While the cat may snore or the dog just yawn

guests sip tea after nap.

In such a setting every rustle of a leave

has a similarity to the stroke of a pen.

Soon metaphors awake to run not over water,

but over blank pages, and leave the universe of doubt

in the shade.

A banana in Europe has much to say

about those norms not letting everything in,

while in wild gardens things still bloom.

Unfortunately she did not come around

all year long to say just 'hello',

as neighbours would do over the garden fence.

If only the whale fish would undo the puzzle.

We heard a scream, we heard about the loss,

now only a lantern swings where once was the boat

gone out to sea; if only those times would come back.

Every new generation looks out from the white cliffs

where below waves asunder to create a difference

between land and sea.

A melody may be sung or another story told,

but comes along the postman to pick up the letter,

nothing is ready, the ink still not dry.

Rather things shall reveal themselves in traces

on dusty window sills.

For many write absent minded a poem of a thought

and make it to look like the man

who went to the moon with Armstrong.

It is a story which goes on in the belief

there exists something called continuity of life.



Poem about love in a world divided

I would not know

where to put my love poem,

if not underneath the pillow,

then where?

For when I sleep and dream,

I see a world at my threshold

of consciousness.

It appears to me

in vivid colours, all alive,

as a terrain

where only philosophers and poets could walk.

They do so in-between city walls and historic routes.

They are the ones which pilgrims used to take.

Now beggars sweep them with their bare hands,

their daily loan only those metal chunks

caravans have left behind many centuries ago.

Strange as it may appear, the night air is filled with other scents;

as if rose petals float above the roofs

to give to the next day in the sunlight a shade of dust.

It is something not known in the Western world until now.

Overwhelmed by all these many challenges

from the Islamic side, people articulate new sounds.

It seems as if many no longer understand human sounds as signs of love

when compared to someone calling close by for those far away,

and this in the name of a distant land.

There are some down by the river washing the feet

of those who have carried out of the city

all day long the rubbish and other things left to foul.

They freed those stranded in the city from an anxiety

that in this night they would need to fear sickness

or the laughter of death stalking ever closer in.

Instead the call of love resonates within the city walls

to ask now who cools the forehead of the body in feverish pitch?

Shaken by a temperature soaring up to nearly forty degrees,

no wonder when wild fantasies are created by the body.

But then the one still in fever begins to view a woman veiled,

as if only eyes could talk in the darkness and are about to descend

to let sleep put to rest even the wildest dreams about love.



Getting up - In honor of Elytis

During the night everyone froze

for none of the windows would really close.

The next morning things were made far worse

by everyone out of step, the voices hoarse.


Still, the pilgrims made desperate efforts

to get up early, just like on any other day,

but to no avail; they simply failed

to keep their promise to be up by dawn.


They were very tense. During the entire night

they had sat up, if not to listen to horrid stories

which could haunt them later on, then to assertions

that religions were the cause of war!


Someone had referred to Constance de Volney!

He claimed religions would uphold inequalities

through a belief in one God, and thus they

would assert themselves by sword and crucifix!


That argument was still pounding in their heads

when finally they did manage to leave their beds.

But instead of getting ready for that day,

they got entangled in new battles of words.


They argued about the meaning of the ‘holy land’.

That heated up the debate, and let them forget their host.

Instead they threw words at each other as if stones.

Everyone was hit hard. No one escaped unhurt.


The dispute was so intense, that they lost all measure.

Unsure how to get out of this fight, they just continued

blindly, mad at each other, that is until the poet entered.

He wished them a very good morning with a warm smile!


Immediately his presence pacified their angry thoughts.

Yesterday, after dinner, he had invited them to stay the night.

But now lacking sleep, they felt dazed by the morning light.

No wonder! The evening before the poet had sensed their pains.


As pilgrims always on the road, sand and sun their constant enemies,

they had moved on with the caravan, always through the desert,

till finally, water bottles already dangerously empty, they reached

this strange city. Immediately they sensed something was about to happen.


Everywhere hung broken mirrors - from trees, balconies and even rooftops.

Not knowing what it meant, they were afraid to make any sound. They crept

like shadows along the houses. Still, their steps would ricochet of the walls

as if the entire city wanted to mock them for their fears to be seen.


Finally they came upon a solemn house with a large wooden door.

They stopped. Stood still. Held their breath. Heavy their thoughts.

Something on the door of the house had caught their attention.

Someone had written on the wood: ‘Praised be – Axion Esti!’


Before they had a chance to ask themselves what it meant,

an elderly man stepped out of the house and invited them in.

Still shaken from their journey and their throats dry,

they followed him suit, but only after much hesitation.


Unsure what awaited them, they feared a rejection of their souls

or else a trap with no escape! For sure, their doubts about his hospitality

made them feel like fools! Or something worse than that. Even lunatics!

It is always the same with travelers since lost in many secret ways.


They entered a huge room with wooden beams upholding the ceiling.

In the middle was a fire place with big logs burning.

Above the fire hung a large cooking pot. Everything was so inviting.

Along the walls, there were many bookshelves, and in-between paintings.


A pleasant scent filled the entire room. It intoxicated the pilgrims

to the point of being confused by their own thoughts about this man.

He seemed to know their needs as much as the time zones they had crossed.

Without much ado, he gestured to them to sit down at a long table.


The table was made out of solid wood, slim in width and thus elegant.

Once seated, the pilgrims asked themselves, but who is this man?

Instead of getting an answer, he started to set the table and to serve them.

He brought good wine, some bread to break, and soon after came warm food.


The pilgrims became conscious of one main fact: in this room

there ruled another tone, one which is not harsh, but gentle.

There was no aggression in the air. Only true words counted.

Then the man introduced himself as a poet of simple words.


He graced his introduction with still further gestures of hospitality

to ensure everyone was at ease, indeed felt to be equal at the table.

When compared as to how otherwise they were treated, this was soothing.

In this warm atmosphere they started to open up slowly, even smile a bit.


They had experienced along the road many kinds of societies,

but none would have ever invited them in out of fear of strangers.

Rarely had they been shown so much trust as by this man.

All too often hospitality vanished to leave them in doubt.


"Dear guests, allow me to say a few words to welcome you.

We have to acknowledge what affects human relationships.

It can be our families, money, but also something else,

something which opens up an abyss in which we all can fall.

Yes, the fall of human beings can be quite steep,

especially when one person betrays another human being,

and even worse has given up his own dreams.

Often the latter is overlooked; we see only Judas,

but forget what dreams we had when still children,

while as adults we no longer recall their colours.

Any betrayal relinquishes co-existence; it converts

prejudices into convictions, which once challenged,

instead of being open to doubt prompts a lashing out.

This is what Brendan Kennelly meant when he wrote

'most difficult is to unlearn learned hatred!'

It connects with what Michel Foucault conceived to be

the problem of communication, insofar no one speaks

with the other, as long as victory is necessary.

Since victories leave the many defeated, their silence

strengthens only the powerful ones in their convictions

not to trust the defeated, and therefore demand still more

of the same. But to just obey, that is not really life,

while those who command seal only their fate as shown

by what took place on the land with the poison ivy.

It was around the time when resistance broke out in Greece

during World War II. It prompted German troops to round up all the

men. They had to stand in a row like soldiers. Then the German officer

placed himself in front of them and commanded everyone

to step forward, give his name, and step back.

When it was the turn of Manolis, he refused.

The German officer shouted out his command once more:

'Hervortreten!' Manolis did not move. Just a second passed

before the officer pulled out his gun and shot Manolis.

At this point Elytis stepped himself into the poem, and said:

'little did this officer realize then, there ended his life,

while that of Manolis just began! Life be praised! Axion Esti!"


The pilgrims realized by referring to Elytis, their host

wished to draw their attention to who has future, who not.

While thinking about it, the poet put fruits on the table.

It reminded of Cezanne's still life. Then the poet continued:


"As to this city, its people know 'a past of the future' exists;

but they do not know the present, and thus depend upon written messages

which are slid underneath the door to keep them informed about life.

Hence doors are not simply opened; they require many keys to be unlocked!"


Silence. The poet looked at them. Briefly he closed his eyes.

Then he looked up as if to follow the flight of a bluebird.

The pilgrims understood that he wanted them to listen carefully

as to what 'Axion esti', embedded in the Greek light, can mean.



There are crosses to bear.

There are crosses to be made.

People come and go.

Churches open their doors.

Many come back. Take a second look.

Affirm what they see.

Others do not. Why not?

Tell me, where have they all gone to?

Tell me, pilgrims, why war?"


That sudden question at the end perplexed them.

None of them knew what would be the right answer.

They knew only one thing: history is full of wars!

If one lesson they had learned, then not to take sides.


The poet continued:


"If only people would observe more the nuances in daily life,

then they could understand much better man's search for justice!

Here a kind word, there a good question or some keen observation,

that and more can make all the difference. And to tell a story,

the incomplete must link up with what was left incomplete.

To Michel Angelo a stone was more complete than his own sculpture.

For sure, true stories do not to leave everything till the bitter end.

Rather they begin with an insight which works itself through time.

It is like grasping the hands of the others, since friendship and

Trust are needed to go along with spoken words resonating with the past.

That is the search for new meanings with a future yet to be seen!

The same applies to boys who climb up trees or run down stairs.

Or think of boats tied to piers; they await the men who shall go

fishing when the morning breeze signals the coming of another day at sea.

But Minotauros did not capture a fish; instead he brought home

a big, strong bull. With him he entered the labyrinth to discover

that the dead ends had not mirrors as King Minos wanted, but walls.

It made many of those encountering the wall look older, only few

came out looking much younger. Here the writer Ernst Schnabel

conveyed a message about the 'I' in dialogue with kings: Daedalus gains

freedom by trusting that nothingness in-between columns is the

right distance. Seldom people find that in their relationships.

Still, when in love, it suffices to just dangle your feet in the water,

eat figs, or dream while looking into the horizon. Indeed, life is

without a definite end."


Because the pilgrims were listening to him so intensively,

they did not notice at first that a woman had entered the room.

She was most beautiful, had fine lips and a serene composure.

With sure steps she approached them to greet each one of them.


The Pilgrims were taken back by her grace and beauty.

But just when she was about to speak to them, they were

startled by something. A strange noise had erupted directly

outside the door. It filled the large room with weird sounds.


Outside a donkey had broken loose, gone wild.

He seemed to crash through the marketplace.

Judging by the sounds, he must be leaving behind

a huge path of the most terrible destruction.


One could hear ceramic pieces crashing to the ground,

or it seemed the donkey toppled everything in the way.

Mixed in were the screams of people; some swore,

others shouted out of despair or were just alarmed.


Someone said later that his flight from slavery

was a courageous dash into freedom, but to others

it seemed to be more a wish to show his anger at man.

The people ran in all directions, more confused than ever.


Inside the Pilgrims sat up straight and started to fear

what would follow such an incidence? Was it a kind of omen,

a kind of sign? This upheaval on the market place may mean

a lot. They looked to the poet to say something.


Yet despite the frightening sounds outside,

he stayed calm and just listened.

Only once the noise outside had subdued,

and the woman had come to his side, he spoke.


"Now you can understand why people are disturbed.

Most likely to them the donkey signals new times.

Once many changes are about to happen, they fear

that nothing shall be the same again. Gone the past!

People fear as well everything shall stay the same,

so they are caught in-between past and future.

This 'past of the future' is an uneasy form of existence.

It leads to experiencing only certainty in uncertainty.

Once upon a time people knew that the market and morality

were intertwined to ensure just prices. Now, they think,

those times are by-gone. This is why in this city they reflect

existence in the broken mirrors as fragmented realities.

Many feel their lives to be incomplete and regret a lot.

Unable to live intensely, they end up being unfulfilled.

And without love they cannot stay together in a natural way.

Instead they submit to power and believe in a fake unity.

Panic breaks out if the fake unity fails to give them security.

Distrusting the others, they are hedged in by fear.

For power is vindictive, unnatural and very far away

from any nuance of understanding what human reality entails.

Only when free in the imagination to roam freely

like children do in the city's streets, then people

shall not be drained of life. Yet if they lack poetic words,

all will desire just one thing: leave me alone!

But to be left alone, it shall mean wealth and market forces

can intertwine to give the rich more power and force all others

to accept things as they are, while becoming poorer than the poor.

They end up leading a life marked by a poverty of human experience!"


There was a long pause in the room. Some pilgrims sighed.

They started to understand what poetry and philosophy together mean,

namely to let words speak to reveal practical wisdom in a poem.

Only then they noticed that the poet listened carefully to them.


The poet took then a book, opened it, and took out a letter.

Before reading out aloud the content of that, he explained

that the woman beside him had written this to him one day.

So, dear pilgrims, here comes into play a story about mankind.


"We describe like in ancient stories our understanding of love as a

home of silence. But how come that no one speaks about true love

anymore? Has happiness been delegated to be a mere dream? What is left

to normality to say? We fear that soon there will be no water and no

land for our sheep to graze. Thus, if it is true that delayed actions

are about man's search for truths, then why distort feelings even when

we feel ourselves to be out of step and time? Naturally many a poem may

have been created out of pain, especially out of that pain which

follows a loss of love. But have all poems been written out of

awareness as to what has been lost? To apprehend this, we still need to

go a long way before we can say truly what happened. Needed are sober

voices. We need to include as well other feelings, in order to be able

to give those foolish ones, who want to try out love and risk more

pain, another chance, more courage than we had before. Indeed, if

redemption does not work here, and we do not learn from our past

mistakes, then no forgiveness shall open up doors. In view of so many

doors staying shut, the question has to be asked about the story being

told here! People need to know what can be ascertained with a degree of

certainty about the motives of man!"


The poet put down the letter and gazed into the round of the pilgrims.

They were all deep in their thoughts. And sensed what difference

it would make if mankind would understand delayed actions as a wish

to be truthful, and patience to mean not to demand everything



The art of waiting for things to come forth all by themselves

can be matched by a life seen in all humbleness as active waiting

like a canoe which slides silently through the water.

Such emotional inscriptions help eyes to avoid a trivialization of



Many shape their lives like poets do when at home, in private.

They are ready to transform mirrors into sand to write in.

Out of that springs the archaic wish to travel through the universe

with the speed of light back to earth. And it opens up doors.


At this point the young woman besides the poet

gave the pilgrims to understand every human being

is like a living picture, ready to tell stories

to which they can listen throughout the day.


Touch the sky, the moon is not far away.

Touch the known and wonder about the open sky.

Unlimited is the horizon, limited an infinite unknown,

hence when love comes unexpectedly your way, just trust.


„With such prospects for the future,

getting up should not be a problem“,

concluded the poet.


He said that so suddenly that the pilgrims were startled.

Creative tensions had given their imagination wings,

but this conclusion was like sobering down, at the risk

to destroy the last illusions they had kept for special times.


In so doing, he was asking the women to show them the way out.

The streets of the city with the broken mirrors waited for them.

But after this encounter with the poet, they seem to reflect their faces

in a mirror of his seeing eyes. They wanted to thank him for the hospitality.


Now they understood him quite well what it means to be praised well,

they all got up silently, bowed deep down their heads and thanked him.

They wished to show their deepest respect, but were unsure if enough.

As they passed him on the way out, he was like a child wishing them well.



Since then ‘Axion Esti’ has become a breeze of salt in their lives.

It gives them new conviction, a confidence in themselves.

They stepped out into the streets without complaining

about the leaking roof above or that the windows didn't close.


To be perfect risks a determination to be destructive no matter what.

Once overruled, people cannot come to see a house like their conscience.

Nothing crosses then their lips as if everything stops at the threshold.

And reason is no longer a seeking the right distance to the next person.


From such terrible things people must recover by what brings out love.

It should not end in the master commanding the dog to fetch the stick.

Thrown far away to be fetched, it distracts only about normal distances.

Do not let expectations and fulfillments be candles snuffed out by the wind.



The original poem was written in German under the title: “Aufstehn” as part of the collection called ‘Wunder Schrei – wounded scream’ written in Berlin and Athens 1995. The poem was translated by the author one day after the burial of Elytis in Athens, namely 21.3.96.


Most of the these poems were re-written as part of the preparation for the World Poetry Movement Festival in Medellin, Colombia to be held in June 2012. Although originally invited, participation did not come about.


Hatto Fischer

Berlin / Athens 2012

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