Nikos Fokas Poems


Oh miserable patrons of the concert hall,
I watch you as you listen to a piano piece
Ostensibly playing it on the arms of your seat
With fingers twisted, aching and arthritic,
Aping, poor wretches, the distinguished soloist
On stage or, further back, the famous composer,
Ostensibly playing the tune, beating the rhythm
Conducting it for all the world with head or foot.

Truth to tell, what frustrated composers or soloists we all are;
And indeed what frustrated lovers
- In spite of all the loves we may have known - ;
Frustrated yes, but not resigned, playing as we do
Into our ripe old age on the arms of our seat
Or even on the wood of our last bed, the same old tune
Like an answer to a dream long unfulfilled
And on matter that fails to respond to our fingers.... more »


With my own free will, each morning I create
The vineyards and the olive groves as though on a black canvas,
- Just like a painter, leaving no gaps. From time to time
A colorful bird (that too my own invention)
Falls heavily on the foliage.
Like a kite out of the stillness.

Other creations, (open sea, sky, mountain slopes,
Visages of this land, parents and friends)
Through my free will they all appear perfectly natural
- While the breeze (yet another invention of mine)
Drifting across the face of the sea
Ruffles in places the seamless serenity.

With my own free will, in this stagnant season for the senses
(Altogether a construct of poetic wilfulness)
Tears flowing I finally create
The fresh face of a girl; the guileless gaze,
The unready lips, the taut arc of the neck, that petulance
Innocent and precocious of the flesh.

And when my will tires itself out, and leaves me,
Like the day-labourer who dog-weary
Returns home to rest till the break of the new dawn,
I too, a day-labourer you might say
Exhausted by this daily toil
Return straight to my grave as to my home.... more »


I avoid the coastline like a shark.
When a bulge
of land appears
gaining depth and perspective
like an embryo gradually forming
The details steadily multiplying until
as in Creation
Man arrives at last, and human families
start moving about
endowed with cinematic quality,
Even before I discern an individual's
eyes, nose or mouth,
Though I too an anthropomorphic
I take to the open sea.

From a secure distance
the mainland is just another cloud
Though looking back as I flee
I glimpse the phases of Creation
in retrograde, the closer
Lost inside the farther away
The more recent in the older
In this way escaping into distance
becomes a flight into time
Until the signs of an antique age
are all around me
as if God had not yet gone
beyond the horizon, a life
Still bearing the imprint
of apocalyptic scripture:

When waves are low, inclined
to final submission
like scraps of paper hovering
until held motionless by earth
Or when with uneven
momentary peaks corresponding
to uneven degree of horror
on a spiritual scale,
When the sea possesses the dimensions of heaven
Or fits wholly inside a flash of lightning,
I see fleeting fins
tails emerging from water
disappearing tentacles
Like limbs in museums, elliptical, unintelligible
parts of an invisible whole.

As if I were living in a time
before Man
Where the whale too participates
unsuspectingly in some general preparation
waiting for an arrival that
for its own sake shouldn't happen - for truly,
Humans, your faces in the distance
empty yet of eyes, noses, mouths
as if half-finished or hidden
behind a murderer's stocking-mask
I don't want to see you close up:
I'm prehuman, a creature
Indifferent to calm or tempest -
Light in the Ocean, secure
As a floating plank.... more »

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