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* 01 May 1909  † 11 November 1990
Midnight
 
A great starry night showing its bear claws,
foreign footsteps stealing your sleep,
what is this shadow climbing on the ceiling
cutting the room in half ?

Footsteps, a motorcycle, the trigger's sound —
the lantern through the windowpanes,
the cockroaches in the soldiers' shoes and helmets.

What's the use of the moon's compassion now?
Some have hidden in the trunks of the night,
some have entered the coffins and travel,
some have taken the cashier's keys and surrendered their earth,
and this dog that forgot us barks again at the moon,
awakens the sentries at the distant watchtowers,
the first explosion blows up the bridge,
then the doors creak, at the corner stands the squadron,
the street lamps fall face down and the train's whistling is heard
when all five roads are closed by the bayonets.
                                                                  (Athens, October 1941)

Yiannis Ritsos
/Translated from the Greek © by Athan Anagnostopoulos/

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