Titos Patrikios

Titos Patrikios

Titos Patrikios was born in Athens in 1928. He studied Law in the University of Athens and later sociology and philosophy in Paris, at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and at the Sorbonne. He was active in the resistance movement against the German Occupation, but during the years of military dictatorship following the Greek Civil War he was “displaced” within the borders of his own country (to detention camps on the islands of Makronissos and Ai-Stratis), and later exiled outright to Paris and Rome, once from 1959-1964 and again from 1967-1975.

After he received Greece’s National Prize for Literature, Patrikios’ numerous books were assembled by Kedros Publishers into a three-volume Collected Poems, and several new volumes have followed.

A Town in Southern Greece

This town has crippled me, the same way
a town could cripple me in the past,
with its barracks, its empty factories–
the black walls topped with broken glass,
with its narrow streets, treeless, dry,
with its dark, salty women,
agile and fluid, with coal-black eyes,
olive-skinned, sweaty enough
for a quick, fleeting love
along dim, half-deserted sea sides,
with their stones, tar, rust, and thorns.
This town heals me with its nights,
nights of my country that do not change.

Titos Patrikios
From Opposing Mirrors (1988)
© translation by Christopher Bakken & Roula Konsolaki

Appropriation of Statues

We make statues out of the matter
from statues made by other craftsmen
who came before;
we make poems with words
from poems written
in the past, by other poets;
we make lives out of emotions and talents
other people before us
had experienced.
We appropriate works, modify
plans, change perspectives,
invent something new;
we make things entirely ours,
always leaving behind traces
of a prior origin.
We continue by putting our names
next to other names
even next to those
we would like to erase.

Titos Patrikios
© translation by Christopher Bakken & Roula Konsolaki

Molyvos 1

          for Yiannis and Rallou Constandellis

The same landscape for ages:
the stone houses,
the castle, cobbled streets,
the olive trees, beach.
The same landscape,
with a few changes
that would be noted by Alkaios, Sappho,
Orion, Longos.
The same landscape where
I myself arrived
on the boats of Athenians
from the other bank.
Opposite: Troy,
Assos, Asia,
the world, as I see it,
broad, terrific, beautiful.

Titos Patrikios
© translation by Christopher Bakken & Roula Konsolaki

Molyvos 2

I look from my window
at the pomegranate tree.
In the distance, a sea
more cerulean than ever,
and green leaves engraved
deeper in the blue,
today the pomegranates
redder than yesterday.
I see how much the tree
I planted ten years ago
has grown. I look at
the pomegranates, which
flourished this year.
I look at the sea in the distance
and I return to writing.

Titos Patrikios
© translation by Christopher Bakken & Roula Konsolaki

Persistence of a City

Neither King Mark nor the lion of St. Mark,
no distinction between night psalms, incantation,
bats, foreign blondes, rusty swords,
trenches, canyons of blood, continued deep hate,
because inside this pale, lymph-thick time
blazes become vampires, rise again at night
to lick the houses like tame, thirsty dogs,
swaddle babies, light up in luxurious reds
the neighborhoods of skinny children, famished whores,
and old women awaiting daybreak
to bask their sick limbs in sunshine once more.
Nothing, no fleet is going to come,
nor are the rumors of treason verified:
what remains are the ruins of galleys and destroyers
in the closed museum, gaudy seamen strolling
past the old port that silts up with sand.
You can no longer blame the general conditions,
ages, doctrines, confessions of faith, commitments,
even though the most unbreakable steel is made solely by us.
Without such an idea it’s impossible to survive;
it gives me the continuity I seek in a perfect sphere.
Otherwise I dissolve into burning dust,
I disperse into passions I don’t have time to suspect,
into poisoned gifts I once dreamt of offering.
The ship still follows its extra schedule
into a darkness that devours mountains now.
Your fingers protrude like narrow lines of light,
pointing to the reflection of a city that persists
while nearby some passengers say La Canea, La Canea.

Titos Patrikios
© translation by Christopher Bakken & Roula Konsolaki

The Lion’s Gate

The lions had already departed.
Not even one in all of Greece,
except for a rather solitary, evasive
lion hiding out somewhere on the Peleponnesus,
a threat to no one at all,
until it too was slaughtered by Hercules.
Still, our memories of lions
never stopped terrifying us:
their terrible images on coats of arms and shields,
their terrible figures on battle monuments,
that terrible relief carved
into a stone lintel over the gate.
Our past is forever full, terrible,
just as the story of what happened is terrible,
carved as it is now, written on the lintel
of the gate we pass through every day.


Τα λιοντάρια είχαν χαθεί από χρόνια
ούτε ένα δεν βρισκόταν σ’όλη την Ελλάδα
ή μάλλον ένα μοναχικό, κυνηγημένο
κάπου είχε κρυφτεί στην Πελοπόννησο
χωρίς ν’απειλεί πια κανέναν
ώσπου το σκότωσε κι αυτό ο Ηρακλής.
Ωστόσο η θύμηση των λιονταριών
ποτέ δεν έπαψε να τρομάζει
τρόμαζε η εικόνα τους σε θυρεούς και ασπίδες
τρόμαζε το ομοίωμά τους στα μνημεία των μαχών
τρόμαζε η ανάγλυφη μορφή τους
στο πέτρινο υπέρθυρο της πύλης.
Τρομάζει πάντα το βαρύ μας παρελθόν
τρομάζει η αφήγηση όσων έχουν συμβεί
καθώς τη χαράζει η γραφή στο υπέρθυρο
της πύλης που καθημερινά διαβαίνουμε.

Titos Patrikios
© translation by Christopher Bakken & Roula Konsolaki

The Wiles of Odysseus

          for Dimitris Maronitis

Odysseus knew about casuistry
long before Zeno;
he knew that time cannot be clipped;
that Achilles beats a turtle in a footrace,
but to trick him, being so resourceful,
he set up numerous turtles
so there was always one
ahead of that swift hero.
Odysseus also learned from war
that time cannot be reversed.
But after coming home, he employed
his wiles again, hoping to become as he was before:
an irresistible lover and a husband in love,
a popular king and lonesome traveler,
until he admitted in public
that time may indeed accumulate money,
open up adventures, shrink the unknown,
but none of the above could give back
the past that created them.
Odysseus felt, growing old,
that whatever he saw and suffered
was enough for others but not for him.
In spite of tonics and herbs for longevity,
it became more difficult to invent
new things to fill up
his always-expanding desires.

Titos Patrikios
© translation by Christopher Bakken & Roula Konsolaki

Published with the permission of Titos Patrikios