The Meaning of Simplicity
by Yannis Ritsos
Translated by Rae Dalven
I hide behind simple objects so you may find me,
if you do not find me, you will find the objects,
you will touch those objects my hand has touched,
the traces of our hands will mingle.
The August moon gleams like a tin kitchen kettle
(what I am telling you becomes like that),
it lights up the empty house and silence kneeling in the house
silence is always kneeling.
Every single word is an exodus
for a meeting, cancelled many times,
it is a true word when it insists on the meeting.
One of Greece’s most prolific and widely translated poets, Yannis Ritsos (1909-1999) was born in Monemvasia. He lost his mother and an older brother to tuberculosis when he was young, and later contracted the disease himself. A lifelong, committed Communist, he fought in the Greek Resistance to the Axis occupation, sided with the Communists in the Greek Civil War, and subsequently spent years in detention centers and camps for political prisoners. The dictatorship of 1967-1974 landed him in internal exile yet again. Despite these many obstacles, Ritsos wrote more than a hundred volumes of poetry, plays, and translations. In 1976 he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize. In his prolific output, he is at par with Pablo Neruda.
This poem is amazing. I read it as the parting note of a lover (needn't be that way) and the last lines are poignant.