A Greek Verse for Ophelia
by Giovanni Quessep
Translated by Felipe Botero
The afternoon I knew your death–
the summer’s purest, the almonds
had grown up to the sky,
and the loom halted in the rainbow’s
ninth colour. How, by the white rim, did
her movement go?
How was your flight by that thread woven
which gave almost the name of destiny?
Only the clouds uplifted in the light
told everybody’s writing, the ballad
of who has seen a kingdom and
another kingdom and remains
within the fable. They carried
your body, snow between dust branches
that have already heard the song and keep
peace of the nightingale among the tombs.
I shut the garden gates, the
castle’s high windows. Indeed I grudged
the troubadour, transmuting wood
to water, flower and lute, entry.
He sang his song; time has unravelled what
the Lord has ravelled, silver tapestry
already happening, moonlit wandering,
yet returning to the skein. Alone
you may find the shape that awaits you.
I don’t know what blue was, there and then, lonely,
I don’t know what forest imparted to
the bitter moon its enchantment, the sunflower found
under the ship on voyages that recall
the Mediterranean clear waters.
The afternoon I knew you
were leaving was death’s purest: you
were in my memory talking to me
among the lilies, in some lines by
Saint John of the Cross. What sky was there,
what hand knit slowly, what songs
brought the pain, the marvel
that is awed of being at that hour
in which the moon burst on the almonds
and burned down the jasmines. You came
by the side of the sea from where a song
is heard, perhaps from a drowning
virgin, as your steps on the land.
Then you departed through my soul, you queen
of ancient fables, dust kindred to those ships
that once seeded from sandal-
-wood and cedar the wine sea.
Alone you travelled, beautiful, in silence,
stone-beautiful; in your shoulder
a violin stopped in its tracks. The almonds in
the courtyard and the jasmines announced
a summer storm. The sky
shattered my house’s mirror, death
resounded deep in the cistern. I was
thus lost in that fiery bramble, in which
our memory conceals our loved ones.
I wore blue mourning and remained alone
“on the eve of the longest day”.