by L. Seizani

A daughter of Athens

I originally wrote this poem during my student days at the University of Thessaloniki. Perhaps because I am a daughter of Athens, I was always very fond of it; and in 1990 I decided to include it in my second collection of poems, entitled "Cortes and Pizarro", a slender volume published by "Domos" mainly for my friends.
The poem echoes my impressions - then very fresh - from a visit, probably my first, to the Ceramicus, the cemetery of ancient Athens.

Your face much pleases me
As you look at me from the mirror
Your hair of another epoch
Your writings
Your mind
Forgotten in the mist, in your past
You leant forwards to look at yourself in the water
What did you see, Narcissus?
You didn't fall in love with yourself
You were so pale and so tired
So forlorn
On the avenue of the tombs in Ceramicus
You saw a fine representation of Hegeso
And of wealthy knight Dexileos, cut off in his prime
A majestic bull cast its shadow
And you walked towards Eridanus
Which flows from Lycabettus
But now only a swamp
The mist from the past took you
Wrapped you in its veils
Names mentioned by Xenophon
And the sun beating down, pitiless
On the living and the dead alike
Your face much pleases me
Lost now into the dusts of the Milky Way
Don't, don't clean the dust away
There will be for you also
A stele in the Ceramicus
For your life of another epoch
Thessaloniki, 8th of March 1983
(translated by Dr Lionel Scott)

It is now April 2010; 27 years have gone by. Some days ago, the newspapers in Greece announced the reconstruction of Myrtis' face. She was a girl who died in the plague of 430 B.C.
Dr.Manolis I.Papagrigorakis of the Orthodontics Department at the Univeristy of Athens led this difficult work. Along with his team, he "resurrected" Myrtis without knowing of my existence or of the "Myrti" of my poem. My dear friend and classmate from school, Dina Tiniakos, a pathologist and Associate Professor at the University of Athens, kindly sent my poem to Dr.Papagrigorakis, and he used it for his introduction when he presented the face of Myrtis to an Athenian public. I'd like to thank them both for giving such unexpected publicity to my old poem. I'm often impressed by the way in which poetry connects with science. Yet, as Mr. Papagrigorakis wrote in an e-mail he sent me, "the idea of a poet comes first".

L. Seizani
First published on 19.07.10