Poems by Lito Seizani

The prehistoric lion of Kea

In a rock is the lion immured
He looks far away, he feels sleepy
This philosophic relic
Contemplates eternity

For years he’s sat in the same place
Countless images he must have seen
Perhaps he feels sad
As he cannot turn left or right

ON YOUR ISLAND

A poem by L.Seizani
translated from the Greek by Therese Sellers

The stairs creak, the icons fade
The furniture has worn out
What is left of you crumbles
But what you left still lives
Because you were something greater
Beyond what is human, far from what is mortal
You were history and religion
All that is humble, all that is Greek
Your shabby little house on Skiathos
Your pen and your papers
Are only a poor remembrance
Of what you really were

Skiathos, 21st of July 1991.From the collection The prehistoric lion of Kea

Ravenna 2

“Holy lust for life
sweet Venus of rimmel”
Sang a guy on the sidewalk
In Ravenna, the beautiful city where I missed
The tomb of the great, inspired Dante
“Holy lust for life”
He sang with guitar in hand
And I gave him a few liras
For a much-loved tune
By a much-loved, famous Francesco
The street musician found the money very little
And he was right, it was very little
For a godlike song that rose to the sky
And flew over the roof-tops of byzantine Ravenna
Piercing the heart of an artistic and oversensitive Lito
Who was ready to abandon family and country
And sit down there on a street corner
To sing forever with an unknown musician
Asking passersby for their change
Lito Seizani, Feb.2002.

Note: The street musician was singing Francesco De Gregori’s Rimmel
Thanks to Therese Sellers for her help with the translation

Guiding Proust through my childhood

Reading Proust these days, at last
(One has to, I suppose, he is a classic)
And as I’m visiting his childhood
His aunts, his mother, grandmother
His servants, his neighbours
His uncle, the philanderer
As he describes the churches, the old houses
The landscape, the garden at Combray
I am revisiting my very own childhood
Quite different than his of course
But equally exotic
Our childhood is the only place
We can always find again
Through our memories
It’s the one place we will never find again
Because we’re not the same anymore
And because most of its inhabitants are gone
*
So Proust takes me into his crystal ball of the past
Or is it a magnifying glass?
And guides me through his childhood
With every detail, with every shade of joy and sorrow
I, too, can taste his savoury madeleines
And drink hot chocolate in the company of Monsieur Swann
Whose intentions I still don’t know
‘Cause I haven’t come so far in the book
I would like to take Proust by the hand
And guide him through my childhood
Make him taste the salt of the sea
Go around in a bathing suit for three months in a row
Although somehow I can’t picture Proust in a bathing suit
Still, I’d like to make him feel as I was feeling
Those nights under the stars in Greece
And this one night when we stayed up to wait for the sunrise
But we were looking at the wrong place
Me and my friends, stupid children
Thought the sun would rise from the same place we were used to see it setting
The side of the sea, but it rose from behind the mountains
What would Proust think seeing me grasping a live octopus my father had caught
And beating it mercilessly on the rocks until it would become tender and edible?
He would find it gross, I’m sure, such an elegant man
But he would probably enjoy the wet sand under his feet
And some evenings near the sea singing songs under the moonlight
Accompanied by a guitar
And swimming at night,- he would enjoy this, too, I’m sure
*
A taste, and a smell, and a piece of music
Will exhume memories, good or bad
And if for Proust it’s the marzipan and the tangerines
For me it’s the lobster and oysters and fish
All kinds of fish
From the simplest, cheapest, sardine type
To the most expensive ones
Whose names in English I don’t know
But their smell and texture is still here
Along with the sense of the sun on the body
When none of us had heard of SPF or such things
And we were comparing our tans: the darker the better
*
Going to beach tavernas always in the swim suit
It was still wet but soon would get dry
The hair was carrying the salt from the sea
A pleasant sense that
Although not so pleasant on the body
After a few hours it would feel strange on the skin
And I didn’t like the dry sand under my feet
Whereas walking on pebbles, hard as it might be
Was good exercise and felt cleaner
But what beats everything
Were the evenings at the beach disco
Where you would dance with somebody you liked
And the music would bring you closer
Then you’d want to leave the other friends
Go away, far from the madding crowd of dancers and drinkers
Just the two of you go sit on some boat or sea bicycle
Turned upside down on the beach
And talk and kiss in the moonlight
The sky so huge, the stars so bright
The Ursa Major and the Ursa Minor, the Milky Way
*
Childhood, adolescence, beautified through remembrance
Remembrance of things past
Childhood turned into a monster through distance
Or through examination of details
Some sounds are omitted, some feelings are left out
Some events are forgotten
A tourist in my own childhood
A tour guide to my own childhood
I’d like to show Marcel Proust these little sea shells
You need a knife to detach from the rock
They are very small but so persistent
So tight are they grasped, almost glued
To their environment
I’m a person of habit
I cry my heart out for every habit I’ve lost
For every person who dies or simply doesn’t choose to remain
In my circle, in my environment
I cry my eyes out for every summer that is gone
*
Dear Proust I wouldn’t dare to you to compare
It would be unheard of, a sacrilege
But if you can teleport me back to time
To your imaginary village of Combray
To your everyday routine, to your pictures
So can I, I think, so can I
LS, August 2017 (published at http://leipglo.com/2017/11/25/guiding-proust-childhood/)

MOLYVOS I

Don't look at my turquoise beads
On the castle the flag waves in the breeze
The turrets are clearly visible
Yesterday when the sun was setting
A sentry had to strike the flag
His thirsty roving eye
Looking about for foreign girls
My holidays finish tomorrow
Don't look at my turquoise beads
I'm going back to my old routine
I will not see these rocks again
Rising sharply from the sea
Naked they spread their white bodies
Which never get sunburnt
I'm sharing this beach
With Norwegians and Swedes
And other Scandinavians
Whatever they feel
I'm feeling too
Perhaps even something more
No, I don't need long words
"This is my own Greece"
I'm not strong enough
I don't want to be exclusive
Only to lie on the sand
A body that gets a tan
On the seaweed which gives off a discordant smell
I am squandering my love for my country
My holidays finish tomorrow
I will remove from my hair
My turquoise beads

Molyvos (or Methymna): ancient city on the island of Lesbos
Translated by Lionel Scott and Susan Scott

 

ECHO OF HORSESHOES

We'll go some day together and you'll see them
You'll see the pines at Mistra with my eyes
You'll see the red churches and the palaces
I was young when I was told for the first time
That, if you want, you can still hear at Mistra
The echo of the horses' hooves
Climbing powerfully up the cobbles
As they carry the Villehardouin knights
Back to join their princesses
In their stately sunlit chambers

One day I'll take you and we'll go to Mistra
You must not die without seeing this marvel
It will be noon and the sun will burn fierce in the sky
You will appreciate this place more in the heat
The sun will polish the history of Mizithras
Its Byzantine domes will look the more splendid
I'll take you there one day to see the valley below
And to hear, if you can, the sound of the horses

Mistra (formerly Myzithras): Byzantine city,
capital of the Greek imperial dynasty of the Paleologi;
in the 13th century under the domination
of the French dynasty of the Villehardouins.

Translated by Lionel Scott and Susan Scott

One more Roman spring

Now it's the time of Rome
Spring fragrances spreading from the borgate
Up to the gardens of Villa Borghese

The sun, not loud in its glory here
Shines reservedly as it  becomes
The nice red colour of the buildings

Rome -Rome of Pasolini's, of Moravia's, my own
In the countryside roads, people are selling artichokes
And the nearby fields are full of poppies

Spring must have entered Rome by now
Others must be enjoying it; others, and not I
Who suffer of nostalgia here

LA SERENISSIMA

Most serene is Venice still
Quiet her palaces, her churches
Her thronging visitors do not trouble her
Nor rain nor storm perturb her

Most serene she endures the centuries
Her cupolas glorify God
The doges and their intrigues have vanished
Their benedictions alone have survived time

Most serene for her people and for strangers
For all who can perceive her eternal grandeur
In the canals, beneath the muddy water
Behind the carnival masks

Most serene for me is Venice
More and more I love her
As time goes by I know her less
Yet more often do I sing her praises

I feel the all-powerful magic
The myth exercises upon me
And the reality of today
Most serene, in truth, remains my Venice

Translated by Lionel Scott and Susan Scott

The Spring by Botticelli

What does she want from me?
Her face, somewhat ironic
Pale on cheap reproductions
Somewhat coarse on copies
Still always Spring
Always by Botticelli

(from the piece «Beauty and the paintings of Botticelli»
that you can read here )

Ostrich

God's animals face problems as well
They fight among themselves, or against heat and hunger

The bird that looks like a camel
Puts its head into the sand

Often humans have to go through the same torments
They're hot or cold, they have nothing to eat

Even myself when I want to clear ugly thoughts from my mind
I dream of a hole in the hot sand to hide my head

Resonance

Even the empty house
Can now create verses
An almost human mouth
Is through its walls expressed

Abyssal fish

There are fish which live down in the deep
In dark blackness, in hideous waters
They look hateful and not of this world,
Transparent but frightful and fearsome

The fish with the masks of hate
In dark blackness, in hideous water
These fish which live down in the deep
My wish is not ever to see them