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With Light and With Death by Odysseas Elytis

May 22, 1988

Where shall I speak it, night, in the wind Among the loquat stars, in the blackness reeking Of sea, where speak the Greek of bitterness In capital trees, where write it so The wise will know to decipher Between the second and third wave Such heavy burning mood of stones that didn't sink You, St. Salvador, who dress in storms Raise the sea's eye and let me travel Miles in its green transparence To where the masons excavate the sky And find again that moment before birth When violets filled the air and I knew not That thunder knows nothing of its flash But strikes you thrice--all light!

From "The Little Mariner" (Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, Wash., 98368: $9, paper; 128 pp.; ISBN 1-55659-014-8); translated by Olga Broumas, preface by Caroyn Forche. Elytis, born in Heraklion, Crete, in 1911, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1979. The poem above is only a section of "With Light and With Death," itself the seventh section of this book-length work in which prose and poetry alternate even as personal and national histories intertwine.

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