Teucer: …in the sea surrounding Cyprus where Apollo ordered me to live the name Salamis is given to a city in memory of my home-island

Helen: I never went to Troy; my ghost did

Messenger: What are you saying? It was just for a ghost that we fought so much?

‘The nightingales don’t let you sleep in Platres.’

Shy nightingale, amid the leaves’ breathing

you who gift the forest’s musical freshness

to lonely bodies and to the souls

of those who know they won’t come back.

Blind voice, who searches in the darkness of memory

for footsteps and gestures; I wouldn’t dare say kisses;

and the bitter raving of the excited slave-woman.

‘The nightingales don’t let you sleep in Platres.’

What is Platres?

 And this island, who knows it?

I lived my life hearing names for the first time

new countries, new foolishness of men

or gods my fate which pendulates

between the last sword of an Ajax

and another Salamis

brought me here to this seashore. The moon

rose from the pelagos like Aphrodite;

it covered the stars of the Archer, now it goes to find

Scorpio’s heart, and it changes everything.

Where is the truth?

I too was an archer in the war;

my destiny, that of a man who missed his target.

Poetic nightingale,

as a night like this by the seashore of Proteus

the Spartan slave-girls heard you and started lamenting

and among them—who could have believed it—Helen!

The same one we hunted for by the Scamander.

She was there, at the lips of the desert; I touched her, she talked to me

‘It isn’t truth, it isn’t truth’ she yelled.

‘I never boarded the light-blue bowed ship

I never set foot on valiant Troy.’

With her breasts pushed up, sun in her hair, and that stature

shadows and smiles all over

on the shoulders, the thighs, the knees her alive skin, and the eyes

with the large eyelids

she was there on the shore of a Delta. And in Troy?

Nothing in Troy—an idol.

The Gods wish it that way.

And Paris, slept with a ghost as though it was a real body

and for ten years we slaughtered each other for Helen.

Great pain had covered Hellas.

So many bodies thrown

into the jaws of the sea into the jaws of earth

so many souls

given to the millstones, like grain.

And the rivers swelled, blood in their soil

all this for a linen undulation for a ghost

for a butterfly’s flicker, a swan’s down

for an empty shirt, for a Helen.

And my brother? Nightingale, nightingale, nightingale,

what is a god? What is not a god? And what is there between them?

‘The nightingales don’t let you sleep in Platres.’

Teary bird, on the sea-kissed Cyprus that meant to remind me of my home-island,

I moored alone with this fairy tale,

if it is true that this is a fairy tale,

if it is true that people will never take up again

the old deceit of the gods; if it is true

that another Teucer, after many years

or another Ajax or Priam or Hecuba

or some unknown, nameless, who yet

saw a Scamander overflow with cadavers,

it’s not his destiny to hear

messengers coming to tell him

that so much pain, so much life

went into the abyss

all for an empty shirt, all for a Helen.