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Monday, 23 April 2012

Vassilis Zambaras: After Porchia


 The Ghost of Samuel Appearing to Saul: William Blake, c. 1800 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

Chimeras arrive alone

but have us with them
when they leave.


“The living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing… for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”
Ecclesiastes 9:5


TC said...

Another by the same fine poet.



yes indeed, "no work . . . in the grave"


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
top of ridge, deer reaching toward leaf
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

refer to ground of the word,
not effect but spoken

of subject, material vision,
therefore move toward

grey white fog against invisible ridge,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

Chris said...

This makes me think of Szymborska's wonderful "Letters of the Dead".

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Wow, knockout poem! Beautiful job with the painting, Tom. Thanks.

Hazen said...

Bracing. This puts one in mind of the Spanish proverb: Ellos que tienen prisa llegan primero a la tumba. (Those in a hurry arrive first at the grave. Pardon my left-footed translation).

I've looked at more of Vassilis Zambaras' poems elsewhere and I like them very much.

Nin Andrews said...

Love the paintings with the poem. Love the chimeras taking us with them.
I don't know what the dead do or don't know, but they sure leave a lot of their spirit behind.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...


Thanks for the inspired presentation and to those good spirits who chose to comment on it.

TC said...

Bracing also to hear that the aforesigned cognoscenti share my appreciation of the poet Vassilis, and that the ever discerning and attentive Hazen has taken the time to search out and read more (I've done so likewise, and been multiply rewarded).

The idea that chimeras arrive from elsewhere and take us with them came to seem to me particularly and vividly applicable to life and death as lived and sensed and guessed at (I don't know what the dead do or don't know, but they sure leave a lot of their spirit behind) during my recent high speed night ride (Those in a hurry arrive first at the grave) to the busy Triage Unit of the East Bay Trauma Center... and ever since.

Ghosts, chimeras, alien life forms, which if any of them will take the trouble to come and snatch us away from our precious little selves before it's too late and we have, with our little games, destroyed the Blue Marble?

It must be that Blake's hair-on-fire vision and my own fiery near-scalping collided with Vassilis's poem inside the damaged cranial superconductor to make me think of, of all people, Peretz Bernstein.

Perhaps better known to some as Perry Farrell.

It's the hair on fire that put me in mind of this.

I don't know what the dead do or don't know, but they sure leave a lot of their spirit behind.

There's a Perry Farrell song called Pets that touches on this theme of how other, superior life forms may ultimately dispose of us. If we're lucky.

Children are innocent
A teenager's fucked up in the head
Adults are even more fucked up
And elderlies are like children
Will there be another race
To come along and take over for us?
Maybe Martians could do
Better than we've done
We'll make great pets!
My friend says we're like the dinosaurs
Only we are doing ourselves in
Much faster than they
Ever did
We'll make great pets!

TC said...

Oh hell, the ghosts keep flitting in and out of the dimmed bulb, much as flickering filaments.

I'd missed dear Vassilis's gracious comment (detained in the Blogger holding pen), and too, completely forgot to acknowledge Chris's extremely germane reference to the poem below.

(And though I hate to pry, and never ask such questions, a small bit of the flickering-filament genie can't help wondering whether the Chris who is our good friend here is the same briliant Chris who posted the poem below, and for his trouble was curiously called "Jim" by a blog chimera named "Judy" -- or could it have been "Jane"??)

The Letters of the Dead

We read the letters of the dead like helpless gods,
but gods, nonetheless, since we know the dates that follow.
We know which debts will never be repaid.
Which widows will remarry with the corpse still warm.
Poor dead, blindfolded dead,
gullible, fallible, pathetically prudent.
We see the faces people make behind their backs.
We catch the sound of wills being ripped to shreds.
The dead sit before us comically, as if on buttered bread,
or frantically pursue the hats blown from their heads.
Their bad taste, Napoleon, steam, electricity,
their fatal remedies for curable diseases,
their foolish apocalypse according to St. John,
their counterfeit heaven on earth according to Jean-Jacques…
We watch the pawns on their chessboards in silence,
even though we see them three squares later.
Everything the dead predicted has turned out completely different.
Or a little bit different – which is to say, completely different.
The most fervent of them gaze confidingly into our eyes:
their calculations tell them that they’ll find perfection there.

–Wislawa Szymborska
from Poems New & Collected: 1957-1997 (translated by Stanislaw Baranczak & Clare Cavanagh)

TC said...

And now the flickering-filament genie, tiring of this braindamaged senior tomfoolery, reminds that there had been an intention to provide the proper link to that Szymborska poem-posting by Chris at Passion Task Commonplace Book.

TC said...

Oh well, another case of Best Intentions.

TC said...

And so of course, No, wrong again, old timer, and so much for your silly snooping -- that OTHER Chris is not a Martian either -- but comes from Alaska (close only counts in horseshoes).

Chris said...

This Chris in fact has a Judy who, if she called him "Jim" after all these years (nearly 40!), would elicit much confusion.

I would willingly post Szymborska's words on every wall in town, but I never visited the Passion Task Commonplace Book until today.

Web-identities! As slippery as the real thing.

TC said...

Oh, my. Punch and Judy show here all the time, of course. (My slips are always showing!)

ACravan said...

This is really magnificent and has been keeping me company yesterday and today. Curtis