Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The dream of the Greek tax collector 2012 - 2015



 I  Three poems as entry into the crisis


The dream of the Greek tax collector


Tortured as you were by the sun,

chained forever against the stone,

this ancient myth has become real

since debts have become your fate

they drag you down in the Aegean sea.

Sadness is what Van Gogh painted

when showing a smoker's skull

being empty inside, eye sockets just caves,

made cold by a wind rushing in and out

to shrug off times not alive nor dead.

What people endure with money gone

is no Memorandum of Understanding

but a need to perform to unreasonable demands

so as to become a smooth operating economy

oblivious of all the temples and olive trees.


Only marble bleached by the sun understands

the ancient measure of nothingness

as the only true distance between then and now,

while atop the Acropolis a poetic ground exists

to let the wind in-between pillars whisper:

                'Enough! We want to live!'.


But what is afoot when the tax collector

drags his feet instead of rushing on

like a devil knocking at every door,

is that he knows no one will let him in,

thus he might as well take a nap

and dream his son will do the job instead.




- in memory of Ritsos **

When no money is earned

and the risk ever greater

to come home very late

to a wife just nagging,

then sole freedom may be

to live ones own craziness

like Ritsos' pottery man

who stopped coming home

but stayed instead in his shack,

and while running around

with but a simple loin clothe

made instead of flower pots

naked women out of red clay,

and whose breasts he would bite

before going happily to bed...


...but there is also this lawyer

in the neighbourhood who loves

to repair cars like homo faber;

he too could no longer take the shouts

of his wife dressing him down

over and again as if a small boy,

for he dreamt always of fast cars

with special engines purring like a cat

when travelling along a road

leading past the moon to the stars.


Athens 26.5.2012   

         Assistant to lawyer in his car repair shop




in memoria di Ritsos


Quando non si guadagna nulla

e il rischio maggiore e perfino

ritornare a casa tardi

da una moglie brontolona,

allora l'unica libertà può essere

lasciare la propria pazzia

come il fabbricante di creta di Ritsos

che smise di tornare a casa

e rimase nella sua baracca,

e andando in giro

con un semplice perizoma

invece di un vaso da fiori fece

dalla rossa creta donne nude,

i cui seni poteva mordere

prima di andare felicemente a dormire...


...ma c'era anche questo avvocato

nel vicinato che amava

riparare le macchine come homo faber;

ance lui non sopportava più di sentire le urla

di sua moglie fargli una lavata di capo

continua come fosse un bimbetto,

perché sognava sempre macchine veloci

con motori speciali miagolanti come un gatto

quando andavano lungo la strada

dirette oltre la luna verso le stelle.


Translated into Italian by Anna Formosa

Published by Luca Benassi, "La Via D'Uscita - quattro poeti greci sulla crisi" in: 

a r g o 2015, p. 29 - 48



Gone the smile

for the youth of 2008

Many will want to undo

what was not done before.

To show human kindness

is another flavour of life.

Once swept away by a crisis

politics succumbs to anti politics.

People gathered on Syntagma Square

to find out what is the public truth.

Yet all mistakes of the past not withstanding,

they wanted to comprehend the public debt.

But before they could, they were swept away

by brooms of the cleaning crew

the city under Kamenis had employed.

Now Athens shows an emptiness

since gone is the smile of the youth

and with it a kind of happiness linked

to the infinite blue of an imagined future.

Many of them will now emigrate

like the Greek diaspora has done before.

They too shall pay a high prize

for left behind shall be memories

of friends and neighbours

whose hospitality gave them

extra moments of trust in themselves.

Now they are just like a pigeon

sitting with a broken wing

beside the road to await

a still unknown fate.


II Learning what out of a crisis?



    "We grew up in a bus stop, but did not learn to travel."


The Silencing of Pain

If only I could look out of my window up front,

but I am stuck in-between dreams and closed doors!

Still, noise can be heard outside; it seems to come

from the street below, yet I cannot see who wants

to disturb all so late at night since near midnight.

Once that noise fades away, ghost riders in the sky

begin to cloud my mind, forever puzzled by illusions.

It can happen as well whenever children begin to seek

anew answers for questions their parents have silenced.

But what to say when adults say meekly: "Life is only 'so so'"?

They say it with such elongated faces, as if determined by futility.

Still a child images the possible by standing on toes to touch the stars.

Again I hear some strange noise outside! Now it is a stray dog howling.

If only my story about this night would not bore the technocrats so much.

I know that they do not like to be disturbed at lunch by poetic prisms

which transform criticism into a humane understanding of cultural matters.

Of course, business is not going so well as of late, they admit,

but while they work out the figures, extremists let off steam in the streets.

They do so first against all politicians, but later on, when in politics themselves,

they add to the equations worked out by the technocrat a calculated statement

that the budget is in need of still further explanations owed by a Europe confused

in what role it has to play when it is a matter of resolving national debt?

Money has gone astray like the gravy souce of last night's meal, since so sour,

it did not go down so well despite having with the meat a special red wine.

With their taste derailed, they begin to wonder if the cook was not up to date?

Since technocratically in power, they determine who has the Right to speak,

but they do not switch off the microphone out of regret of having all the power;

they just claim no one has the Right to complain as they shall fix the economy.

To do that, they rule out democracy since it disturbs their pace of reform.


These reforms are like a man who hits a woman to sideline her forever,

while she no longer weeps, except in silence where she lets out her screams.

Apt is to say from that moment on, they started to dig their own grave yard

even though they had been buried alive already long before in futile work

on a technocratic clock not designed to keep man atuned to life itself.


Athens 6.7.2012

Athens in the summer of 2012

All what the city seems to have

is a whisper, and some thoughts

sneaking through the backyard of the mind

like boys about to pinch some apples!

If only they are not caught by the wind

and frightened off by red monsters

lurking from behind fences

reaching up sky high so that a peak of future

is out of question and no where to go

on such a hot summer day in Athens.

Fenced in are boyish dreams of yesterday.

Lets imagine, it was said on the news last night

there was again an uprising in Exarchia.

No one really knew how it all started,

but this time is was very different from 6.Dec. 2008.

Certainly it was not by chance that the North Wind

had died down the day before because then it heats up.

Normally it is also quiet around this time of the year.

The hot summer months prompt many to flee the city.

Still, during the previous evening before the uprising

music was played on Strevi through the entire night.

The beat was tight, hard the drum, the guitar a scream

while the vocal sound suggested something

shall happen next, if only out of disgust with this kind of life.

They said after wards, it was the police

which let things get out of hand but the recruts are young.

They only intervened once all shop windows

had been smashed and the smell of burned tires

filled once more the air to underline a disgust with a wasted life.

Ritualized are attempts at some kind of explanation.

Lets be fair: Sugar dandy has no cane, the beat is long gone,

while the blind man wears his sun glasses

to darken out even more his non-sight.

Still symbols stuck graffiti like on walls limit communication.

Many moan and complain about these times,

but they look on as if a world without government

can be sustained even when no agreement

substantiates the prevailing self understanding.

It is like beholding an empty sky made by Socrates

into a puzzle how can the sun shine daily

to perpetuate infinite life in an endless blue?

It leaves people working not on urban fields,

but on dreams gone sour and made into a liturgy for rituals

to be performed in the streets as if a church like hymn

with the refrain being loud and clear: 'we shall overcome!'

No expectation sweeps any more clean the pavement.

Visitors of the Olympic year have either left or never returned.

Now only stray dogs see that the city is under siege

by its own admittance to inadequacies galore

as if a sailing ship without wind in a world of indifference.

The agony of those waiting still for a turn of fate

is perpetuated by a wish for the Northern wind to return.

They do so by confessing in a poem gone light

that they feel abandoned for many have left the city

not for the summer, but for an entire life

no longer stretched out before them

like a cat taking a nap on an empty pavement.

Athens 30.6.2012 - 8.8.2012


Instead of evening prayer

I would not know why to rumble on;
it is anyhow a haphazard guess
as to who stands outside the door
and listens carefully if you forget any names
when about to say your evening prayer.

It may shock my Catholic friend, but instead

of prayer I prefer to look out the window.
The street below seemed empty enough.

It is if all have fled into the setting sun
to become in a haze of rays invisible people.

I can attest with my own eyes a prayer blinds

If you look at the same time into the brightness

Of a candle light flickering bravely on the altar

Despite a draft in the Gothic church due to tourists

Coming and going to see a religious attraction.

Many years ago a rock was discovered on the moon
by Armstrong with an inscription about people on earth

having swept clean the streets with invisible brooms,
but to no avail; they still left empty in their pockets

since no morality of payment prevailed for work done.

Then once again a bomb went off without any mercy.
It hit those standing near the hole the previous one had created.
It was a terrible shock, and finally silence befell the people
as if they too had become rocks. To lift them was impossible,

since they weighed down on the poor souls without perspective.

It is not the task of poets' task to carry a lot of poetic images.
They know too well a crisis takes a long time until these rocks
can be removed, if at all shouldered by coming generations.
As to what lurks around the next corner, they can image
shadows make a dash for the last dance before light comes in.

Left behind in darkness are streets filled with tears of those in pain
while more is to come the next day when a prize has to be paid
to judges who look at you as if guilty of a hideous crime
by not honouring enough their system and interpretation of law.

But they too lurch forward to find water, if the well has gone dry.

Less than obedience full compliance does not fulfil the Troika's rules.
Escaping totality is still possible when a child asks the question,
but why do judges sweat so much when passing sentences
they know are unjust? A child can raise its voice and answer thereby
the silence of darkness with its own torch of light being just a dream.

So looking out the window I saw a wonderful little balloon floating up.
It let my eyes focus again on that red spot drifting off at a distance.

Athens 25.7.2012


III What to expect as outcome of the election on Jan. 25th 2015?


Strong images

If I could only rip apart those rocks

against which lean the winds of the seas;

they come and go at free will, but chained

to them is the magic projection of Camus' Sisyphus

as if we live only now and then in virtual worlds

reflecting how our imagination stretches out

like the hand of a hungry beggar for some food.

If I could only cry out loud, but drowned in silence,

the injustices in the world are like the waves created by

large boats cutting through the water while ignoring

whatever small sized vessel might be close by, in the way,

so like the blind man I do not see so far, only hear

the sounds the winds make along the shores of the island

on which I have been stranded for years by now, by now.

Dusk writes with a pen things to be remembered

for tomorrow will be another tough day full of tasks

left incomplete since many people have left the island

in preference for another way of life, and being abandoned,

I walk alone through places where I hear only my footsteps

like sounds of by-gone times curling now around lamp posts

as if paper wishing not to be carried away by the winds, the winds.

Step by step I scale the stairs till at the top I find the answer

to what I have been searching for. I wanted to know news of elections

in a far away land near the Aegean sea since it has undertaken

to try a different way but left uncertain what shall be questioned first.

Metallic is the sound of change when women hit heavy pots out of protest.

It is no longer just the winds which are making the sounds of change.

Swept through streets are newspapers screaming out the news of today

while history fades into shades since unable to say what has come to exist.

Time and again, news are a reminder of the precarious nature of life itself.

Swept along are also memories which flow down the stairs like wine.


Athens 23.1.2015

and in Greek

Έντονες Εικόνες


Αν μπορούσα μονάχα να σχίσω τους βράχους

που πάνω τους ακουμπούν οι θαλασσινοί αέριδες·

εκείνοι πηγαινοέρχονται ελεύθερα, αλλά αλυσοδεμένη

πάνω τους είναι η μαγική προβολή του Σίσυφου του Καμύ

σαν να ζούμε μόνο τώρα· αργότερα θα ζούμε σε ουσιαστικούς κόσμους

και θα καθρεφτίζεται η φαντασία μας όταν τεντώνεται

όπως το χέρι του πεινασμένου ζητιάνου για λίγο ψωμί.


Αχ να μπορούσα να φωνάξω, αλλά έχω σχεδόν πνιγεί στη σιωπή,

οι αδικίες σ’ αυτόν τον κόσμο είναι σαν τα κύματα

που σηκώνουν τα μεγάλα πλοία όταν σχίζουν τα νερά κι αδιαφορούν

αν κάποιο μικρό σκάφος βρεθεί στο δρόμο τους,

έτσι κι εγώ, σα νάμουνα τυφλός δεν βλέπω μακριά, μόνο ακούω

τους αέριδες που πνέουν στις παραλίες του νησιού

που σ’ αυτό έχω αράξει χρόνια τώρα, χρόνια.


Το δειλινό γράφει με πένα αυτά που πρέπει να θυμώμαστε

γιατί αύριο θάναι άλλη μια δύσκολη μέρα με πολλά έργα

που ποτέ δεν περατώθηκαν αφού οι περισσότεροι κάτοικοι άφησαν την πόλη

γιατί προτίμησαν έναν άλλο τρόπο ζωής· με εγκατέλειψαν,

μόνος περπατώ στους άδειους δρόμους κι ακούω μόνο τα βήματά μου

όπως οι χαμένοι ήχοι περασμένων καιρών που τυλίγονται τώρα γύρω απ’ του δρόμου τα φανάρια

σα νάταν χαρτί που δεν ήθελε να το πάρουν οι αέριδες, οι αέριδες.


Βήμα-βήμα σκαρφαλώνω τις σκάλες ώσπου στην κορφή να βρω μιαν απάντηση

σ’ αυτό που πάντα έψαχνα. Είναι τα νέα για εκλογές

σε μια μακρινή χώρα κοντά στο Αιγαίο πέλαγος, που αποφάσισε έτσι

να δοκιμάσει κάτι το διαφορετικό, ενώ αφήνει αναπάντητες επείγουσες ερωτήσεις.

Μεταλλικός είναι ο ήχος της αλλαγής όταν οι γυναίκες διαμαρτύρονται χτυπώντας τις κατσαρόλες τους.

Δεν είναι πια μόνο οι αέριδες που φυσούν την αλλαγή.

Στους δρόμους τώρα οι εφημερίδες ουρλιάζουν τα σημερινά νέα.

Έχουν σβήσει μες στην ιστορία οι σκιές από τις ημέρες εκείνες όταν δεν ήταν σωστό να υπάρχεις.

Ξανά και ξανά τα νέα θυμίζουν την επικίνδυνη φύση της ίδιας της ζωής.

Σαρώθηκαν και οι αναμνήσεις που κατρακυλάνε τα σκαλιά σαν το κρασί.


Hatto Fischer, 24.1.2015

μετάφραση από τα Αγγλικά: Κατερίνα Αγγελάκη-Ρούκ.


Starke Vorstellungen / oder was als Ausgang von der Wahl am 25. Januar zu erwarten ist

Wenn ich nur die Felsen zerschmettern könnte,

Felsen gegen die sich Winde der Meere lehnen.

Sie kommen und gehen ganz ungehindert, aber an den Felsen

sind angekettet magische Projektionen die Sisyphus nach Camus betreffen.

Es ist als würden wir jetzt nur noch in virtuellen Welten leben,

und unsere Fantasie spiegeln als würde sie sich hinausstrecken,

gleich der Hand eines hungrigen Bettlers für etwas zum Essen.

Wenn ich nur laut aufschreien könnte, aber ich ertrinke fast im Schweigen,

denn die Ungerechtigkeiten in dieser Welt sind wie Wellen

von Riesenschiffen verursacht, wenn sie durchs Wasser schneiden,

und dabei kleine Boote in der Nähe kaum achten ob im Wege.

Gleich einem blinden Mann sehe ich nicht weit, nur höre ich

Geräusche die der Wind entlang dem Strand der Insel verursacht,

jene auf der ich seit dem Schiffbruch ganz alleine gestrandet bin.

Der Abenddunst schreibt mit einer Feder auf was morgens zu erledigen sei.

Es warten vielen Aufgaben, viele davon die Unerledigten weil die Menschen

die Stadt verlassen haben. Sie zogen ein anderes Leben vor, so fühle ich mich

einfach und verlassen; darum wandere ich alleine durch leere Straßen

und höre nur meine Schritte neben Töne längst vergangener Zeiten

die sich jetzt um Lampenposten wickeln wie Zeitungspapier

das nicht davon getragen werden will vom Wind, vom Wind.

Stufe nach Stufe steige ich der Treppe empor bis ganz oben,

ich eine Antwort nach der ich schon lange suche, finden will.

Ich will wissen des Wahlergebnis in einem fernen Land am Mittelmeer.

Wie ich höre hat es sich vorgenommen einen anderen Weg zu gehen,

und darum ungewiss lässt was zuerst in Frage gestellt werden soll.

Blechern der Ton wenn die Frauen aus Protest auf die Töpfe schlagen.

Es ist nicht nur der Wind der Geräusche von Veränderungen ertönen lässt.

Durch die Straßen wehen Zeitungen die Nachrichten von heute ausrufen.

Verblassen sind die Schatten jener Tage als es sich noch ziemte zu existieren.

Wiederholt erinnern die Nachrichten wie prekär das Leben selber geworden ist.

Mitgerissen werden dabei Erinnerungen die ähnlich zum Wein den Treppen runter fließen.



Dure immagini


Se solo potessi fare a pezzi queste rocce

contro cui i venti del mare si inclinano;

loro vanno e vengono a piacimento, ma a loro incatenata

e la proiezione magica del Sisifo di Camus

come se vivessimo solo ogni tanto in mondi virtuali

che riflettono come può estendersi la nostra immaginazione

come mao d'affamato in cerca di cibo.


Se potessi soltanto urlare, ma quasi annego in silenzio,

le ingiustizie nel mondo come onde provocate

da grandi barche che tagliano l'acqua e ignorano

qualsiasi piccola imbarcazione che possa essere attorno, attorno,

come un cieco io non vedo lontano, solo ascolto

il rumore dei venti lungo le coste dell'isola

su cui sono rimasto arenato da anni ormai, ormai.


Il crepuscolo scrive con una penna le cose da ricordare

perché domani sarà un altro duro giorno con molti compiti

rimasti da fare da quando la maggior parte della gente ha abbandonato la città

preferendo un'altra vita, e abbandonato,

io da solo cammino per le strade vuote e ascolto solo i miei passi

come suoni persi di tempi andati che si arricciano ora attorno ai lampioni

come se la carta desiderasse di non essere trasportata via dai venti, i venti.


Passo dopo passo salgo le scale finché in cima trovo una risposta

a ciò che ho da sempre cercato. Sono le notizie di elezioni

in un paese lontano vicino al mare Egeo che si e impegnato

a cercare un modo diverso rimanendo incerto cosa dovrebbe interrogare per primo.

Metallico e il suono del cambiamento quando le donne protestano fuori battendo pentole

Non sono solo i venti ora a suonare il cambiamento.

Spazzati lungo le strade sono ora i giornali che strepitano le notizie del giorno.

Sbiadite nella storia sono le ombre di quei giorni quando esistere non era divenir.

Ancora tempo, le notizie sono un promemoria della natura precaria della vita stessa.

Spazzate sono anche le memorie che cadono dalle scale come vino.


Translated by Anna Formosa

Published by ARGO 2015




* It all started with Basho's road by Norb Blei. He quoted Seamus Heaney and that prompted these four lines. Once he had received them, Norb Blei asked, if I could not write three poems about the crisis in Greece. In short, the following three poems are a first answer to such a request by Norb Blei in the United States and editor of Poetry Dispatch:


Thus while the first three poems were written in response to Norb Blei's request to have something related as to what is happening in Greece, the other poems emerged in due course after the poetic correspondence with Najet Adouani had started.

**Note: when I arrived in Athens in 1988 I had some phone calls with Ritsos. We had promised each other to meet, but then it was too late. That year he died. A puzzle was that he had accepted still a prize from East Germany as if he could not anticipate what was to come in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, or what the political system of East Germany represented. This poet who had experienced himself prison during the Military Dictatorship, and who had written about soldiers although killed in battle but refusing to die since they would lie in their graves, their hands clutching the ropes for the church bells, hence waiting till freedom was gained and they could ring the bells, this poet whom Pablo Neruda called his brother when reading his poems at the Round House in London 1969, he is a reminder of the paradox of freedom and political ideology.



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