Exile and Return by Yannis Ritsos

I've been rereading some of the classics I was introduced to in my undergraduate days.  Yannis Ritsos is one of those.  He's a Greek writer from the era of the Greek dictatorship of the late 60s.  His poems have a haunted feel of someone always watching his back.  The poems from Repetitions included in this collection are just amazing.  Ritsos takes Greek mythology and brings it to human, neglected terms.  Buy here.

 

From "Alcmene":

She who, that first night, slept with a god, not knowing / --only because of his heavy worldly odor and his broad hairy chest, / almost the same as her husband's yet so different, did she / seem to have guessed and sensed something--how was she now to sleep / with a mortal?

 

From "Penelope's Despair":

It wasn't that she didn't recognize him in the light from the hearth; it wasn't / the beggar's rags, the disguise--no.  The signs were clear: / the scar on his knee, the pluck, the cunning in his eye.  Frightened, / her back against the wall, she searched for an excuse, / a little time, so she wouldn't have to answer, / give herself away.  Was it for him, then, that she'd used up twenty years, / twenty years of waiting and dreaming, for this miserable / blood-soaked, white-bearded man?

 

From "The End of Dodona II":

With the gods overthrown like that, nobody knew which way to turn. / The sick stayed in bed with their eyes closed. / Their woolen socks rotten away in their shoes, along with two flowers in a glass.