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ELPENOR

Takis Sinopoulos

"Elpenor, how did you come....." Homer

Deathscape. Sea, stone, cypress, the low shore devastated
by salt and light, rocks hollowed by relentless sun, neither
lift of water nor bird's wing: only a vast thick unwrinkled
silence.

Then one of us, a young one at that, saw him.
Look, that must be Elpenor. We all turned.
Strange that we should recognise him
for memory had dried up like a stream in summer,
but yes, it was Elpenor among the cypresses,
blind from the sun and his obsessive thoughts,
gouging the sand with his finger stubs.
Elpenor, I yelled gleefully to him, Elpenor,
how did you come here, you were
dead when we left you a year ago,
that iron stave stuck through your side, blood
crusting on your lips as your heart dried up;
we planted you by the sea's edge
so you'd hear the wind's shout and the rough-voiced sea.
How come you're now so alive, how did you get here
blind as you are from bitterness, from your thoughts.

He didn't turn. He didn't hear. I yelled again
and now I was scared. Elpenor, you had a rabbit's foot
hanging from your neck as a talisman. Elpenor,
lost in history's endless wastes,
listen to me, can't you hear my voice?
How did you get here old friend, how come
you reached the pitch-black boat that ferries
us wandering dead everywhere under the sun- tell me,
if you want to go with us, just tell me. 

He didn't turn. He didn't hear. Silence thickened.
Light drilled into the earth, the hollow rocks.
Sea, cypress, shore, stock-still, and Elpenor,
for whom we'd searched so persistently in old manuscripts
tormented by his bitter, unending loneliness,
the sun lancing into his brain,
his blind finger-stubs gouging the sand,
dwindled and slowly thinned
into the empty, wingless, echoeless blue.

Translated by John Lucas and Manos Georginis.