Poena Damni

Z213: EXIT

(Translated from the Greek by Shorsha Sullivan)



Tell those who were waiting not to wait none of us will return. The sky is leaving again, the newspapers dissolve in the corridor, the same trees pass again darker before us, those who wrench the doors looking for a place, who are coming in at the next stop. The light outside cutting the evening to pieces, harsh evenings that fall among strangers, the story shatters within you, pieces, fading away in the ebb of this time, that melt one into the other before you sleep. And the snail hurries to go back on its tracks, a tale you remember unfinished, wrinkles that still hold a colour on memory's transient seed, birds that awake the dew on their wings and you leave with them into the all-white frozen sky, but you wake and are baked again. Not the fever, the remembrance of sorrow exhausts you you don't know why, before you are well awake and the barren feeling comes back again to your hands, the rest suddenly fades away at once, you are one recollection a broken box emptying, after the tempest this calm, you search for support, get up like an old man, feel cold, remember birds' wings, magistrates' sticks decorated with feathers the bones of an angel, sink again images and words monotonous prayer.


with cotton wool or toilet paper which crammed your mouth, soaks up your saliva, you are scarcely able to breathe. But mainly you are thirsty, this wakes you up and the glass beside you empty. Night still but what time, you will get up to ask for some water, the carriage deserted, farther back, drops on the window, you wet your hand to wet your mouth, further still further back the carriage deserted, and one more, shudder, like voices that swell, a carriage of voices. They give you water. Their animals sleep at the back, they ask you questions you sit among them. You drink water again. Laughter, voices ask you would say something but you feel dizzy. A piece of meat from hand to hand, you go and lie down at the side, they give you food, a bottle from hand to hand, wine, a circle further back singing, the others between the animals sleep. Dark faces, voices fraying in bitter carnival, their heads, changing animal heads, the lamb's body ends in the head of a man with eyes shut. They put someone, between two windows and he raises his hands, tall and broad, they bind him by the wrists to the bars, left right. Lamb's head, they put on his head the skin from its flayed head. They speak to him. He sings. Slow, disjointed song. Dark the cross of the man as day breaks. They dress him in a blue garment, beside you someone was turning a torch on and off from joy emotion their eyes were wet. The alien joy of children, your smile with them for a while, and then as if someone had gagged you but you calm down again and breathe freely. And they were showing the livid scars on their faces, victories that had conquered the world, our faith, they were saying and our body one body in Him, you could hear them singing, it won't be long until the day comes, the season will change. Around you all red. And outside, along the view of the river beating up to the windows, slower now the train in its bend, and wherever they could, all together, a closing circle, the native women trying to climb aboard.

Lorries pouring tons of mud mounting up. Smell of the coffee, boiled in a pot, they gave me a cup, you answer their same words with your hands, you don't know how else. From the window the river like sending out light from within, blinding you. Your eyelids with all the weight. The line of the horizon. Blurs. A wave spreading out of control with nowhere to cling to turning back and cascading to the expanses of snow. The workmen of a gang raising a dyke, and building. Bridges, one almost finished. To the crest of the mountain out of control and shuddering upwards.

Wine again. Every so often they would fill up, once they washed the eyes of the cross of the lamb that was looking around. They were touching and they were singing. As if your hands were pierced. And the nails not to rust from the blood, singing. And something like: the crosses, the crosses ill-omened. With rhythms that made you dizzy again, in the slow whirl of the light growing stronger, in the carriage spinning round with you.


The slow bells from the church which must be near me I stopped for a while and waited and now they were chiming again. And here where I sat, like stains below the slabs as if blooded. Who was there ringing, guesses confused not made clear, who was there ringing the bell waves going down the dome, the echo of an ocean that licks on it and drips here. And the flashes through the window from the one to the other like a searchlight turning around seeking me out. Here, in a flooded pit full of bodies, branches that cover and float leaves that float on faces unknown funerary gifts on the side, phrases by him and the Writ mixed on this page, and further down sea tombs and then something between the frozen palms. Gestures of the walls that invite you. A hole high up opposite, you can hold on to the shoots of the ivy to climb up and see where exactly you are. You don't care, the tracks hold you the people they brought here, something of what they lived, and the pain they felt like you and they came and sat here together like the leaves that came in where from you don't know a pile that gathers in front of the saints, and them all together, one by the other, side by side, opposite all together to look at them kneel, a circle, that will hold them a while. But, release, and what's left, yellow mouths leaving again from those arches which covered them and they dream still for a while of courtyards where the souls find rest, a flower sequence of angels awaiting them there. And then the illusion dries up and it is an empty uninhabited house. The icons below the colour that changes the same shape the same face painted again on all the walls. And there in the corner the body demolished, like metal plates sunken within it, until dark falls completely leaning out from the last fading saint his face pressing lips tight.


A short note on the author

Dimitris Lyacos is a one of the leading contemporary Greek poets and playwrights. His highly acclaimed trilogy Poena Damni (Z213: EXIT, Nyctivoe, The First Death), written over the course of eighteen years, has been translated into English, Spanish, Italian and German and has been performed across Europe as well as the USA. A wide range of interdisciplinary projects including drama, contemporary dance, video and sculpture installations as well as opera and contemporary music have been based on his trilogy. Lyacos' work both straddles and crosses perceived boundaries of literary form - from the journal-like prose in Z213: EXIT, to the elliptical monologues of the distinctly dramatic Nyctivoe, to the pared down poetic idiom in The First Death. Z213: EXIT, translated in English by Shorsha Sullivan, appeared recently in the UK by Shoestring Press. For more information visit the author's site: www.lyacos.net


English translation Shorsha Sullivan. Published by kind permission of Shorsha Sullivan.

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