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Yannis Ritsos: Diaries of Exile

January 25

For a moment we took refuge
against the latrine wall.
The wind was cutting.
An old man stared at a cloud.
I looked at him smiling
in the light of that cloud—so peaceful,
so far removed from desire and pain—
I was jealous.
Old people agree with the clouds.
And it’s taking us a long time to get old.

By Yannis Ritsos, who is “one of Greece’s most prolific and widely translated poets, Yannis Ritsos (1909-1999) was born in Monemvasia. He lost his mother and an older brother to tuberculosis when he was young, and later contracted the disease himself. A lifelong, committed communist, he fought in the Greek Resistance to the Axis occupation, sided with the communists in the Greek Civil War, and subsequently spent years in detention centers and camps for political prisoners. The dictatorship of 1967-1974 landed him in internal exile yet again. Despite these many obstacles, Ritsos wrote more than a hundred volumes of poetry, plays, and translations. In 1976 he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize.”

Courtesy of PEN AMERICA THE FREEDOM TO WRITE.

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