The poet in Samos
Here are the things you left behind:
an old bus ticket to a place with an illegible name,
a stack of government files from distinct regimes,
a pile of rocks, a copy of Cavafy, well-thumbed.
I don’t know how many meals you ate here,
by the seaward window. I don’t know
whether the shutter kept you awake at night
as it banged unheeded on the wall, or whether
as you claimed, it was a kind of comfort.
Reading Parentheses, I see once more how
the world became an adjunct to your poems,
your poems an adjunct to the world.
Here are the things that you invented, even
as they, in turn, invented you. Nothing was inanimate.
You turned each movement of the head,
each falling leaf or bicycle into the fragment of a story.
You told us that you hid behind simple things
and if we could not find you, we’d find the things instead.
Author’s note: The reference to Parentheses refers to an early book by the Greek poet Yannis Ritsos. The final two lines of the poem refer to the opening lines of a poem in that collection, called ‘The Meaning of Simplicity’: in Edmund Keeley’s translation: ‘I hide behind simple things so you’ll find me;/ if you don’t find me, you’ll find the things.’
Richard Gwyn is a poet, novelist and translator. His last book, The Vagabond’s Breakfast, won a Wales Book of the Year Award in 2012. His next book, an anthology of contemporary Latin American poetry, will be published by Seren in 2016. He writes a blog here.