Sunday, February 11, 2007

Miltos Sachtouris: The Gifts

The Gifts

Today I wore a
warm red blood
Today people loved me
A woman smiled at me

A girl gave me a sea shell
A boy gave me a hammer

Today I kneel on the sidewalk
and nail the naked white feet of the passerby
to the pavement tiles
they are all in tears
but no one is frightened
all remain in the places to which I had come in time

they are all in tears
but they gaze at the celestial advertisements
at a beggar who sells hot cross buns
in the sky

Two men whisper
what is he doing is he nailing our hearts?

Yes he is nailing our hearts

Well then he is a poet

Translated by Kimon Friar

Miltos Sachtouris was a Greek surrealist poet who has been fairly unknown in the United States. I first came across his work in a beat-up old paperback anthology of European poets when I was living in Santa Fe, but I've always had a hard time finding any of his books.

Archipelago Press, however, recently published Poems, a collection of his work from 1945-1971, so maybe he'll receive a little more attention now.

My good friend and fellow poet, Les Lopes, gave me a copy for Christmas. What a surprise to finally have the work of this long obscure poet in my hands. And what a good friend who remembered me briefly mentioning Sachtouris a couple of years ago and was attentive and thoughtful enough to choose the book as a gift. Thanks, Les.

If you're interested in reading more of Sachtouris' work, there's a large pdf file from Harvard that contains an earlier anthology of his work in Greek, with some translations into English.

There are also a few poems at Poetry International Web, along with an introduction to his work and another essay.


crystal said...

Nice poem!

btw, that Rilke poem came from a page of his poems here. It just said that he wrote it after seeing da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan in 1904.

cowboyangel said...


Thanks for the Rilke info. And glad you liked the Sachtouris poem. He's pretty dark, Ihaveto admit. But then he went through WWII, civil war and other violence. But I do like his work.