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from With Light and Death

by Odysseas Elytis

translated from the Greek by Olga Broumas


Even when they destroy you it will still be beautiful
The world because of you
                    your heart—true heart
In place of what they took from us—
Will still beat and a gratitude
From the trees you touched will cover us

Unshackled lightning how do they retie you

Now that I have no air no animal companion
Nor even a woodsman’s lost thunderbolt
I hear water running
            maybe from God
(And I blaspheming) or from the mouth
Of a solitary who approached the peak’s most Secret
And opened them
            for this I address You
Night of a Holy Tuesday with the irreplaceable pelago
Facing me—so you can tell it goodbye and thanks.


Odysseas Elytis was born in Crete in 1911. He studied law at the University of Athens and in 1960 won the National Prize in poetry. He received the Nobel Prize in 1979. (1988)

Olga Broumas’s chapbook, Soie Sauvage, will be published this summer by Copper Canyon Press. Beginning With O, from Yale University, appeared in 1977. (1979)

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