The Meaning of Simplicity
by Yannis Ritsos
Translated by Edmund Keeley
I hide behind simple things so you’ll find me;
if you don’t find me, you’ll find the things,
you’ll touch what my hand has touched,
our hand-prints will merge.
The August moon glitters in the kitchen
like a tin-plated pot (it gets that way because of what I’m saying to you),
it lights up the empty house and the house’s kneeling silence–
always the silence remains kneeling.
Every word is a doorway
to a meeting, one often cancelled,
and that’s when a word is true: 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.