Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Cyprus, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Greek literature of Cyprus, Κυριάκος Χαραλαμπίδης, Kyriakos Charalambides, Modern Greek literature, Modern Greek poetry, Orestes, The House of Atreus
The oracle of Christ the Counselor and of Apollo
prescribes that I deliver my mother
in the grove of holy Helicon
and with my unequivocal hand
and with the arguments of my blade 5
that I point her to death.
The naked[i] voices of her breasts scare me not
nor do they check the vehemence
whereby the axis of horror I shall set
in the center of the wail. 10
Let others say that I lack the passion
and that I dry my blood; but what?
In truth, it’s all about justice
lost in the sand and sinking
buried where the great sun hides 15
his columnar fire, his epaulettes of gold.
Tityos, Tantalos, and Sisyphos,
Scylla, with her six necks
her three rows of teeth
and her twelve legs, do not suffice 20
to imprint the idol of injustice.
The snake in Aulis devours nine sparrows
nine-year-old bulls sow the bag
of Aeolus with their hides —
it’s all tall tales 25
as solid and real
as the ghost of Odysseus’ mother
down in Hades, which slips away three times
from the hero’s embrace, his labors gone to no avail.
In the entrails of logic there is no mercy 30
and dire like iron is the necessity
to whip amidst the agitation
Poseidon’s horses with the bow
of Apollo the far-shooter, who encloses
every emotion in the center of the mind. 35
Words of the bosom, they moisten fate,
how could they ever hope to make the soul of great
Orestes kneel, who stands aside wringing dry
the courage of his phorminx,
the caresses of his hirsute father 40
and his nobility, alas, as soon as he sees
his fairy of a mother bearing on her shoulder
tattoos of nocturnal indulgence.
How much, how deep inside, he wishes to blacken
the jolt of knavery, with a hand that crosses 45
a thousand centuries like a falling star,
yet on his back the mulberry bids him to calm down.
And if a tear that hesitates splits him in two,
still he rationalizes the right
diamond of his passion with the bile 50
of an order that does not throb in human fashion.
The danger of choice is now his:
a moment which lasted for three hundred years
in the grove of black poplars
and in a bath where the blood-stained 55
goddess of snakes had begotten yet again
her oxen-eyed virginity.
You, who slayed your husband with a double axe,
run fast to Hades like a Maiden,
a Bride[ii] and a Widow, an Empousa of a copper sandal 60
and don’t turn back to look at
my left hand and the golden bands
that tie on my side two necks
scaly ampoules with the blood
of Medusa or of the sacred bull. 65
May I not be contorted by vertigo, may you not avoid being consumed
by a drop of ruination, discharging a counterpoising dribble.
For I shall chain my anger,
lest it escapes, and on a platter I shall place
your breasts, like those of Tiepolo’s Agathe, 70
and the umbilical cord I shall tear asunder.
Words of Orestes, staged words:
‘I wish I had a different Clytemnestra for a mother,
to lighten the fame of her Passion
so that by death, a demigod, she might be covered.’ 75
Words of the Chorus: “If you want to put your mother to death,
first kill her godlike face deep inside you
batter it on the ground, make it an octopus,
while her epiphany rises before you
and while the gods are moving prodded 80
by your own emotions, refracting
leaves, trunk and catharsis of passions.”
[i] In fact, Charalambides is using the adjective γυμνικός, not γυμνός to describe the voices. Γυμνικός, in both ancient and Modern Greek, often qualifies the noun ἀγῶνας, in reference to the athletic games of antiquity in which the athletes competed naked. Clytemnestra’s cries constitute an agon with her life being the prize for either one of the contestants.
[ii] Charalambides uses the intentionally ambiguous word Νύμφη (with a capital Ν), which can mean “bride” but also “nymph” (evoking the earlier characterization of Clytemnestra as ξωθιά, “fairy”).