Two Poems from Carrboro Station

by Stephanos Papadopoulos

Vathi Revisited

There is no silence 
like the sun’s tyranny
over a Cycladic afternoon;
millennial shadows of sailors
and timbers hauled into the sea
lengthen and die on this beach,
in this bay, on this rock
of burnt black and sprung thistle
under a turmeric yellow flame.
There is a wild halo of hornets
and bees in the eucalyptus tree
by the abandoned well in the field---
their hum is an element of silence
like the drone note on a sitar, there,
but not there, a thought unspoken.
At six-thirty, the world awakens---
like the sound of a spoon
hitting the bottom of clay bowl, 
but deeper,
a goat bell thuds on the hillside,
a black shape leaps across a rock,
they come spilling down the mountain in a line
 as though someone opened up a floodgate.
How many times have I heard this
and thought of Mozart. For all I have loved
I'm unafraid to use a word that laughs with overuse
like a sunset over-photographed by eager hearts,
bent on holding what is beautiful and can’t be had.

Ritsos in Makronisos

The sun is a white dictator at noon
with dogs dead in the precious shade
water locked in stone and concrete vaults,
the bounty of flat roofs and rain gutters
from the occasional winter downpour.
An old man walks with a stick
and a black dog along the goat path,
his one arm swings puppet-like
against the outline of the mountains
now ochre stone and death; the earth
will cover no more buried poems
or hide the poet’s suffering.
His body now moved south,
held down by a slab of marble
where someone left an orange rotting in the sun.
His sad notes fluttered through the war, 
and fell in pools that last the summer,
where swaybacked cattle lick the shallows---
their ribs are boat frames stuffed
with fifty yards of empty gut.
The stones here have not yet lost
their melancholy, history will not evaporate
like rain, or the watering hole, or the miserable sea
that has chewed these cuttlefish bones 
and spat them on the littered shore
where the hull of our boat, named Jason,
rubs its scarred breastbone on the sand.
Someone will say, a great poet lived here,
he was beaten with sticks and told to die,
but he still wrote about the moon and bitter laurel.

Stephanos Papadopoulos was born in North Carolina in 1976 and raised in Paris and Athens. He is the author of several books of poems: Lost Days, Hôtel-Dieu, and The Black Sea, as well as the editor and co-translator (with Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke) of Derek Walcott’s Selected Poems into Greek. He was awarded a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship for The Black Sea and the Jeannette Haien Ballard Writer’s Prize, selected by Mark Strand. He has been awarded a Lannan Foundation Residency for 2018.