to the small poem and the quiet voice within

yannis ritsos | morning



She opened the shutters She hung the sheets over the sill.
……………..She saw the day.
A bird looked at her straight in the eyes. “I am alone,” she whispered.
“I am alive.” She entered the room. The mirror too is a window.
If I jump from it I will fall in my own arms.

[from STAYING ALIVE, edited by Neal Astley]


  1. jean

    The Ritsos painting… I am reminded of Andrew Wyeth’s girl in the meadow.

  2. norbert blei

    Yannis Ritsos is the author of the poem, “Morning.” He was a famous poet (very political—leftist) among the modern Greek writers, who died in 1990. The first painting is signed “Dali.” The second, a famous work of a woman looking into a mirror by Picasso.

  3. Hatto Fischer

    Freedom ( in memory of Ritsos)
    by Hatto Fischer

    When no money is earned
    and only emptiness brought home,
    then freedom is the ability to live
    the craziness of the pottery man
    Ritsos described as seeking
    shelter from his nagging wife
    by staying in his shack
    to make out of clay naked women
    whose breasts he would bite
    before going happily to bed…

    …but also a lawyer became a fanatic
    about repairing cars like homo faber
    for he too could not take the shouts
    of his wife dressing him down
    over and again as if a small boy
    dreaming of a fast car with a special engine
    purring like a cat when traveling along a road
    leading past the moon to the stars.

    Athens 26.5.2012

    Note: when I arrived in Athens in 1988 I had some phone calls with Ritsos. We made a promise to meet, but then it was too late. That year he died. A puzzle was that he had accepted a prize from East Germany as if he could not anticipate what was to come in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, or what the political system of East Germany represented. This poet who had experienced himself prison during the Military Dictatorship, and who had written about soldiers although killed in battle but refusing to die since they would lie in their graves, their hands clutching the ropes for the church bells, hence waiting till freedom was gained and they could ring the bells, this poet whom Pablo Neruda called his brother when reading his poems at the Round House in London 1969, he is a reminder of the paradox of freedom and political ideology.

  4. Hatto Fischer

    In the poem by Ritsos, should it not be ‘and she hung the sheets out the window’, for right now the ‘t’ is missing and only ‘he’ can confuse the reader.

  5. norbert blei


    Thank you as always for your insightful comments…not to mention your own poetry and view of world culture from the setting of Athens, which you so inhabit physically, morally and spiritually. To have once been in touch with Yannis Ritsos…I envy you.

    Except for a missing period after the word “shutters” in the first line, the translation of the poem, “Morning” was done by Nikos Stangos and reads as it appears here. Given the nature of all translations…we go with what we are given.

    Norbert Blei

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