Yannis Ritsos



                              Penelope's Despair


It wasn't that she didn't recognize him in the light from the hearth: it wasn't
the beggar's rags, the disguise–no. The signs were clear:
the scar on his knee, the pluck, the cunning in his eye. Frightened,
her back against the wall, she searched for an excuse,
a little time, so she wouldn't have to answer,
give herself away. Was it for him, then, that she'd used up twenty years,
twenty years of waiting and dreaming, for this miserable
blood-soaked, white-bearded man? She collapsed voiceless into a chair,
slowly studied the slaughtered suitors on the floor as though seeing
her own desires dead there. And she said "Welcome,"
hearing her voice sound foreign, distant. In the corner, her loom
covered the ceiling with a trellis of shadows; and all the birds she'd woven
with bright red thread in green foliage, now,
on this night of the return, suddenly turned ashen and black,
flying low on the flat sky of her final enduring.


                                                           Greek; trans. Edmund Keeley


Yannis Ritsos, Greek, trans. Edmund Keeley, Yannis Ritsos: Repetitions,
Testimonies, Parentheses, Princeton University Press, 1991.