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Selected Poetry by Andreas Karavis
by David Solway

The Dream Masters

Friend, if you want wine, it comes from vats

where the dogs are drowned

if you ask for bread, they slaughter a goat

and serve you the horn

if you need light, they cut off a small piece of

the moon and burn it in a grave cup

if you wish for oblivion, they put a pack of cards

in your hands with photographs on the back

if you ask for a pen, a candle drips its scald

between your fingers

if you ask for paper, snakes and onions

couple on the table

if you need a woman, the squint-eyed crone with

the brass foot that rings on the cobbles leers through the pane with coins for teeth

if you require solitude, you get it

if you crave dice, a small box of gecko

bones rattles in the drawer

if you call for a priest, they send a nun with

a platter of apples and a paring knife

if you hunger for company, bats hang from

the windows and squeak into your ears

if you need a home, they show you the three

white villages in the hills and no road

to get there

if you beg for mercy, they will sell it for a profit,

but never to you


I have committed the one betrayal for which there is no reprieve or absolution. Women do not understand this kind of treachery, which has nothing to do with cowardice or infidelity. I am speaking of the transgression inherent in the document, the unforgivable duplicity of turning love into literature, imprisoning the demon who is our salvation in the twists and fibers of the scroll from which he can never escape. When the flesh is made word, the world fades. I should rather write nothing, say nothing, but only listen to her voice, she who makes the language beautiful by speaking it.

Letter to a Young Poet

Open your mouth and let the flies swarm in.

Desperate, you need never go hungry.

Look at the spiders: they fatten off dust,

candle smoke and particles of air.

On the jetty fishermen sort the catch,

clean the nets: they leave behind a feast

of russet cucumbers and red scorpions

which also delight the eye. On lean days

you can work the chapels for lamp oil

(who knows? you might find a barley cake).

And there's always an abandoned hive

you can sack for honey corks. On good days

you can chew artichoke and cactus pear.

Complain, you'll get no sympathy from me.

Just open your mouth as wide as your eyes.

Saracen Island


I am the one who speaks,

a voice become your voice

as you read, aloud or silently,

tracing a course with your finger.

Yet I am spoken by another

whose voice I cannot hear,

whose recitation escapes me,

whose language is adrift

in dark uncharted waters

even the shark and dogfish avoid.

I am the channel

between one I cannot hear

and one I cannot see.

I am the exile

in the desolate margins,

the sentinel on the coast.

I stand by the broken jetty.

The sun turns me to salt.


Poets know nothing

of this desolation

which no longer even resembles us,

which resembles only itself.

Not even the country

which hurts you

wherever you may travel

is like this

place that records

in its parchment of dust

the shattering of the pool's cool surface,

the myth that might have saved us.

To force the lemon or the apricot

from this stony-hearted earth

we must create

something out of nothing,

make green assumptions.

We are completely on our own.

This is Saracen Island.

No one answers our letters.


When the wind started

a week ago, two weeks, a month perhaps,

we did all the usual things-

nailed the window shutters tight,

planed the grooves and flanges

of the door planks,

placed chimney pots upon the roof tiles.

Now the very shape

of the mountain has changed.

The earth is bare,

its skin of red dust

flayed from its bones of ore.

The village is a heap of stones.

We take whatever shelter we can

in the caves by the sea

or in the dried-up watercourse.

I record everything

with the doggedness of the tamarisk tree,

with the memory of the heavy stone,

to keep what is left

from blowing away

in this endless, anonymous wind.

Translated by David Solway

(Copyright retained by David Solway)


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