Rogr Lee: “Half the world is waking from the shaking of the earth!”

Rogr Lee

In Exile



At first, life without you

didn’t seem so bad

I could do what I want to

and keep your picture in my hand

But things have gone so crazy

in this world of extremes

-half the world is lost inside

a dream within a dream!

An’ that’s why I am so lonely

why I am in exile

why I am so disenchanted

by the human profile

why I always feel so heavy

why everything feels hostile

why the dam is breaking

why I am in exile

(Y’know I’ve come to see that)

life without you doesn’t offer much

except your face

in everything I see and touch!

An’ that’s why I am so lonely

why I am in exile

why I am so disenchanted

by the human profile

why I always feel so heavy

why everything feels hostile

why the dam is breaking

why I am in exile

So I live without you

and that doesn’t make much sense

but I do what I need to

to “keep the wolf behind the fence”

when there’s half the people sleeping

from the moment of their birth

and half the world is waking

from the shaking of the earth!

An’ that’s why I am so lonely

why I am in exile

why I am so disenchanted

by the human profile

why I always feel so heavy

why everything feels hostile

why the dam is breaking

why I am in exile…

(I’m so lonely

I’m in exile…)


© D. Roger Lee 2003

Keep some of you hidden



One error can set you back

Truth is different from the facts

One lover can set you free

One idea can shatter and bleed

And in the end

You’ll tell your friends

Everything as it isn’t

Keep some of you hidden

Keep some of you hidden

Keep some of you hidden

One day I will happen

Upon another stranger

There won’t be any reason

To fear over-exposure

One error can set you back

Truth is different from the facts

One lover can set you free

One idea can shatter and bleed

And in the end

You’ll tell your friends

Everything as it isn’t

Keep some of your heart hidden

Keep some of your heart hidden

Keep some of your heart hidden


© D. Roger Lee 201o




Élève la voix



Building a life

Buidling a beast

Building ten times what you need


Scrape the stars

Addicted to buildings

Addicted to cars

Build a temple

Try a new form

Élevez la voix

Levez les normes

Building your mansion

building on fault lines

Clear-cutting forests like there’s

No end in sight

Reaching far

Beyond his grasp

Man breaking every

Thing in his path.

Build a temple

Try a new form

Élevez la voix

Levez les normes


French phrases:

Élève la voix  –  Raise your voice

Levez les normes  –  Raise the standards


© D. Roger Lee 2010



Rogr Lee was born in B.C. and spent his 20s in Toronto’s acoustic music scene with various musicians and poets.  He  then moved to Vancouver where he started to explore painting and home recording, producing his 2nd and 3rd indie CDs.  Recently Rogr found the love of his life and is planning a wonderful future with him – and some cats.

Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz: “Stupid, conceited Men…..” / “Hombres necios…..”


Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

(1651-1695, Nueva España/México)

Hombres necios



Hombres necios que acusáis

a la mujer sin razón,

sin ver que sois la ocasión

de lo mismo que culpáis:


si con ansia sin igual

solicitáis su desdén,

¿por qué quereis que obren bien

si las incitáis al mal?


Combatís su resistencia

y luego, con gravedad,

decís que fue liviandad

lo que hizo la diligencia.


Parecer quiere el denuedo

de vuestro parecer loco,

al niño que pone el coco

y luego le tiene miedo.


Queréis, con presunción necia,

hallar a la que buscáis,

para pretendida, Thais,

y en la posesión, Lucrecia


¿Qué humor puede ser más raro

que el que, falto de consejo,

el mismo empaña el espejo

y siente que no esté claro?


Con el favor y el desdén

tenéis condición igual,

quejándoos, si os tratan mal,

burlándoos, si os quieren bien.


Opinión, ninguna gana:

pues la que más se recata,

si no os admite, es ingrata,

y si os admite, es liviana


Siempre tan necios andáis

que, con desigual nivel,

a una culpáis por crüel

y a otra por fácil culpáis.


¿Pues cómo ha de estar templada

la que vuestro amor pretende,

si la que es ingrata, ofende,

y la que es fácil, enfada?


Mas, entre el enfado y pena

que vuestro gusto refiere,

bien haya la que no os quiere

y quejaos en hora buena.


Dan vuestras amantes penas

a sus libertades alas,

y después de hacerlas malas

las queréis hallar muy buenas.


¿Cuál mayor culpa ha tenido

en una pasión errada:

la que cae de rogada

o el que ruega de caído?


¿O cuál es más de culpar,

aunque cualquiera mal haga:

la que peca por la paga

o el que paga por pecar?


Pues ¿para quée os espantáis

de la culpa que tenéis?

Queredlas cual las hacéis

o hacedlas cual las buscáis.


Dejad de solicitar,

y después, con más razón,

acusaréis la afición

de la que os fuere a rogar.


Bien con muchas armas fundo

que lidia vuestra arrogancia,

pues en promesa e instancia

juntáis diablo, carne y mundo.




Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz

(1651-1695, New Spain/México)

Stupid, conceited men



Silly, you men – so very adept

at wrongly faulting womankind,

not seeing you’re alone to blame

for faults you plant in woman’s mind.


After you’ve won by urgent plea

the right to tarnish her good name,

you still expect her to behave–

you, that coaxed her into shame.


You batter her resistance down

and then, all righteousness, proclaim

that feminine frivolity,

not your persistence, is to blame.


When it comes to bravely posturing,

your witlessness must take the prize:

you’re the child that makes a bogeyman,

and then recoils in fear and cries.


Presumptuous beyond belief,

you’d have the woman you pursue

be Thais when you’re courting her,

Lucretia once she falls to you.


For plain default of common sense,

could any action be so queer

as oneself to cloud the mirror,

then complain that it’s not clear?


Whether you’re favored or disdained,

nothing can leave you satisfied.

You whimper if you’re turned away,

you sneer if you’ve been gratified.


With you, no woman can hope to score;

whichever way, she’s bound to lose;

spurning you, she’s ungrateful–

succumbing, you call her lewd.


Your folly is always the same:

you apply a single rule

to the one you accuse of looseness

and the one you brand as cruel.


What happy mean could there be

for the woman who catches your eye,

if, unresponsive, she offends,

yet whose complaisance you decry?


Still, whether it’s torment or anger–

and both ways you’ve yourselves to blame–

God bless the woman who won’t have you,

no matter how loud you complain.


It’s your persistent entreaties

that change her from timid to bold.

Having made her thereby naughty,

you would have her good as gold.


So where does the greater guilt lie

for a passion that should not be:

with the man who pleads out of baseness

or the woman debased by his plea?


Or which is more to be blamed–

though both will have cause for chagrin:

the woman who sins for money

or the man who pays money to sin?


So why are you men all so stunned

at the thought you’re all guilty alike?

Either like them for what you’ve made them

or make of them what you can like.


If you’d give up pursuing them,

you’d discover, without a doubt,

you’ve a stronger case to make

against those who seek you out.


I well know what powerful arms

you wield in pressing for evil:

your arrogance is allied

with the world, the flesh, and the devil.



Traducción del español al inglés  /  Translation from Spanish into English:   Alan  S.  Trueblood



In his biography of Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695), Octavio Paz states that the self-taught scholar and nun of colonial New Spain (later called México) is the most important poet of the Americas up until the arrival of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson in the 19th century.  We must include the Aztec “poet-king” Nezahualcóyotl (1402-1472) in a statement so broad, yet de la Cruz does have something unique:  a prototypical “feminist” point of view.

Juana Inés de la Cruz lived in México City from the age of 16 onward, and died during a plague at the age of 43 – after tending to the stricken.  The out-of-wedlock daughter of a Spanish captain and a Criolla woman, she was an avid reader from childhood, and though she begged to disguise herself as a boy so as to continue her studies “more openly, in the Capital”, still she was “found out” and barred entrance to the university.  That didn’t stop her – she kept on educating herself – and she’d already had a good head start, sneaking ( – in colonial society women were strongly discouraged from becoming literate in all but religious devotional texts – ) her grandfather’s books to read from his hacienda library.  By her mid-teens she could speak and write in Latin, as well as Náhuatl, the language of the Aztecs.   Devout and a “Daughter of The Church” though she was, yet she challenged male hypocrisy in the poem featured here, Hombres Necios/Stupid, conceited Men.  Written in the conventional rhyming-quatrain verse form of the 17th century, Sister Juana addresses all Men;  the poet analyzes their attraction to, and efforts to attain, women who will have sex with them — women whom the men reject and judge utterly, afterwards.

Ann-Marie Scarlett: “La Vida” y “Quien yo soy” / “Life” and “Who I am”


Ann-Marie Scarlett

La Vida



Viviendo en un mundo sin paz,

De poco amor que no dura

¿Cuándo terminará  la guerra?

Todo trabajando juntos

Y amándonos  la una a la otra

En la Vida no hay límites

No hay satisfacción

Sino mucha distracción

Cavemos dentro de nosotras mismas

Buscando estar completas

Resultados, arrepentimientos,

Pensando en el tiempo

Cuando no lloraremos más

¿Habrá un tiempo de gozo puro

Un tiempo sin dolor?

¿O será siempre el desdén?

El Tiempo no espera a nadie

Y aún, solo el Tiempo lo dirá.







Living in a world of no peace

Little love with no endurance

When will the war stop?

Everyone pulling together

And loving each other

With Life there are no boundaries

No satisfaction

But lots of distraction

Dig into ourselves

Looking for completeness

Results, regrets

Thinking of the time

When we’ll cry no more

Will there ever be a time of pure joy

A time with no pain

Or will it always be disdain

Time waits for no one

But still; only time will tell.




Quien yo soy



Siempre estoy pensando en ese tiempo

Cuando yano estaré asustada

El tiempo cuando estaré liberada de mis miedos

El tiempo cuando no me preocuparé

El tiempo cuando diré:

Ésta es quien yo soy.

El tiempo cuando diré:

Me importa un bledo.

El tiempo cuando diré:

No necesito un hombre.

El tiempo cuando diga:

Ésta es quien yo soy.

El tiempo cuando no me sentiré tan sola

El tiempo cuando me sentiré bienvenida en casa

– el tiempo cuando diré:

Ésta es quien yo soy.




Who I am



I always think about the time

When I’ll be scared no more

The time I’ll be free from my fears

The time when I wouldn’t care

The time that I’ll say

This is who I am

The time I’ll say

I don’t give a damn

The time I’ll say

I don’t need a man

The time when I say

This is who I am

The time when I

Won’t feel so alone

The time when I’ll

Feel welcome at home

The time when I say

This is who I am.



*     *     *     *     *

Traducciones del inglés al español / Translations from English into Spanish:

Alexander Best and Lidia García Garay

La poesía lésbica mexicana: dos voces pioneras / Mexican lesbian poetry: voices of two pioneers

Nancy Cárdenas  (Coahuila, 1934-1994)


Si habitamos en el Distrito Federal,

las pueblerinas románticas tenemos que


la vida no transcurre junto a un estanque,

sino a un costado del Periférico.

Allí, Muñeca del Asfalto

– bajo la lluvia –

decidiste que esa noche dormirías conmigo.


If we dwell in México City,

we romantic ‘country bumpkins’ must

resign ourselves to:

Our Life not taking place next to a pond,

but on the side of The Periférico Highway.

There, Dolly of the Asphalt,

– beneath the rain –

you decided that that night you would sleep with me.

_ _ _ _ _

Entre tantas Liberacionistas que conozco,

sólo tú – de apariencia tan frágil –

has querido llevar a la cama

esos principios básicos de la teoría.


Among so many of the Liberationists I know,

only you – who appear so fragile –

have wanted to bring to bed

those basic principles of theory.

_ _ _ _ _

Soy peligrosa,

es cierto:  siempre busco vengarme

de los dueños del capital,  los burócratas,

los curas… y las mujeres que abusaron de mi cariño.


I’m dangerous,

that’s for certain:  I’m always looking to avenge myself

on the owners of big money,  the bureaucrats,

the priests… and the women who took advantage of my affection.

_ _ _ _ _


que el amor declare su santo nombre

en cada uno de nuestros tejidos, estratos emocionales

y apetencias más escondidas

antes de comprometernos por las dos leyes:

la tuya y la mía.


Let us  allow

Love to declare its holy name

in the very fibre of us, in our emotional strata,

and in our most hidden appetites

before we commit ourselves to those two laws:

yours – and mine.

Rosamaría Roffiel  (Veracruz, nace 1945)

La Suave Danza


Nos besamos

por el puro


placer de besarnos

listones de lenguas

dientes como peces alados

festín de salivas





tu boca ranura



mi lengua gaviota



se encuentran

se tocan

se enredan


marineras de un viaje

sin ida ni vuelta


tu boca es el mar

mi lengua – un barco de vela.


The Smooth Dance

We kiss each other

for the pure


pleasure of kissing each other

ribbons of tongues

teeth like winged fish

a feast of salivas,





your mouth-slot


red currant

my seagull tongue


they meet

they touch

they become entangled


sailors on a voyage

with no departure,  no return


your mouth is the sea

my tongue – a sailboat.

_  _  _  _  _

Sin título

Hasta mi noche llegas

y te recuerdo fiera

celosa en mi caverna

y te recuerdo sirena

nadando entre mis pechos

y te recuerdo tierna

como paloma, tierna

y te recuerdo fuego

encendida de deseo

y te recuerdo plena,

antes del miedo.




You arrive…to my night…

and I recall you, a wild animal,

protective, zealous, in my cave

and I recall you as a mermaid

swimming between my breasts

and I recall you tender

like a dove, tender,

and I recall you as a fire

lit by desire

and I recall you as fullness – complete –

without fear.


Translations from Spanish into English / Traducciones del español al inglés:   Alexander Best

La poesía gay mexicana: una muestra de Monterrey


Jorge Cantu de la Garza (1937-1998)

Antes de partir

De amor, amor, nunca he escrito un poema.

He de hacerlo ahora pues me dicen que la muerte se aproxima

y sé que Amor amorosamente me ha tocado

como la aurora, con uno de sus rosados dedos.


No es sólo del joven que, apenas salido de la adolescencia

comparte hoy sus días con quien esto escribe

de quien escribiré.  Si hablo en singular

es porque todo el amor es uno

y de ello pongo a cualquier hombre por testigo.


Fui al pozo del limo con mi cántaro vacío

infinitas veces, como amanece.

Y siempre fue, como la primera vez,

la inauguración del Universo

con sus arreboles y huracanes

llenos de siempres, nuncas, vida mía.

Y luego había que partir, dolorosamente.

Recuerdo tantas despedidas.


Ven, amado, y contempla el ejército

de ángeles que te precede,

ven y mira cómo sobrevivieron

aunque ellos, igual que tú, que yo,

pensaron que el fin de nuestro amor

era el fin del mundo.

Toma ejemplo, amado, para que vivas

cuando yo te falte.


Cánceres, escorpiones, acuarios, sagitarios

nadando en la pecera de mis sueños,

como el joven obrero aquel, en Guayaquil,

que una noche me llevó a su cuarto de madera

donde bajo una débil bombilla, sobre la duela,

había una sábana por cama

y en la pared un clavo por guardarropa de su atuendo.

Qué limpia su pobreza, qué amorosa su hospitalidad,

tanto, que me avergoncé del hotel de lujo

a donde aquella noche yo regresaría cargado

de sucres que no necesitaba y que le di

– para que te compres una camisa que te recuerde al mexicano

le dije para vencer su resistencia al pago que tranquilizara

mi conciencia por su pobreza inmerecida y mi opulencia,

también inmerecida.


O como aquel japonesito brasileño que una noche

de cachaza en Belo Horizonte me acompañara al hotel

y más tarde, por la mañana,

al aeropuerto, donde nos despedimos

como amantes de mucho más que unas cuantas horas, como amantes

verdaderos que se despiden llenos de promesas,

para siempre.


Géminis, virgos, aries, libras

de Los Angeles, de México, Caracas, Bogotá,

Lima, Río, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Sevilla o Monterrey,

apurados en la certeza que da la partida inminente,

la seducción irresistible de lo efímero,

la libertad irrenunciable del anonimato.


La barbarie en que creciste, amado,

no podré borrarla jamás de tu memoria;

los saltos de tu madre y sus golpes en el vientre

para que no nacieras me duelen más que a ti.

Después de nacido, te dicen, fuiste el mejor,

el bienamado.  Y sin embargo,

quién sino yo con mis manos torpes

podría tranquilizar tus noches inquietas,

tus pesadillas de horror.


En cierto modo, nuestras infancias se parecen,

sólo que de la mía me separa un medio siglo

y he aprendido a olvidar – o casi.


Cómo te amo.


Sé que también tuviste por años un amor prohibido,

que no sabías que era amor ni que era prohibido.

Cómo te envidio.

Yo nunca tuve un hermano así.


Xorge M. González (1952-1997)


Fueron los meses de beber Villaurrutia

con las voces del poder de los relojes

Tus iconos lamían la noche

la luna

del espejo                     ágil                 se alejaba

Aprendí                                                 la distancia

los bosques

la selva aún miedosa

dibujó un cuerpo

Dijo                                                                           adiós

aquel 6 de diciembre de álamos.


Estos cantos

desenvueltos entre estrellas

declinando días

por los montes que no dicen

y desgarran la mirada

esas nubes de letras

esos bosques antiguos

te dibujan


Pudiendo precisar la luna

en una cama sola

veo esas inmensidades

silenciosas ahora


otros ojos

otras manos

– éstas que juegan con el aliento

de los gestos


Entre una naranja y risas

– tan viejos como el amor –

las calles de la ciudad

por donde siempre he andado.



Me pusiste en la calle soledad

fui tus pasos y tu historia

fui los encuentros con las verdades de todo precio

Me pusiste en la calle soledad

y me encontré con mis hermanos.


Aún se podrían guardar otras cosas

entre esas papeletas que algun vez dijeron

las cuerdas de tu guitarra

los platos cansados

los regalos de cumpleaños

que pasamos narrando soledades

poemas sin esperanza de ser leídos

La habitual plática de tus presentaciones

y otras noches no olvidadas


La traición de la rentera

– y de la piadosa amiga –

nos had pedido nuestra intimidad sola

de algunos miles de pesos

para dejarnos

– sin saberlo –

más juntos.


Amargos pasos gritan la noche;

bailan en el abierto estómago,

llave del dolor

de la espera del amanecer

de besos y frutas y ojos;

beben los faunos.


Me desnudaron no sé ni día ni hora


con la misma soledad de Isthar

a beber los presagios de divinidades



No sé ni día ni hora

en mares de luz

aparecieron los rostros míos.


Antonio García (nace 1956)






umbral;   ven,

tu cuerpo ansioso

de la ternura

y frenesí, de

la locura de

mis manos,

a tientas,

a ciegas te

traerá por el

camino sin reclamos.

“Ven”.  Sólo otra  vez,

yo te digo:




Lo                       sé

– y                      házle

como                  quieras

–                                vendrás

tu cuerpo a

compartir conmigo.


Estatua en paraiso

Y los esperamos

se confundieron en el mismo instante

Luego vino Luego queso

Vino el beso

Vino el yeso y quedó tieso

descansando en la llanura amplia

de su vientre amado, de su vientre dueño


Esbozando una sonrisa quieta

desde el sueño-vuelo de su pedestal eterno

Esbozando una sonrisa quieta desde su alma

que pasaba aquel invierno.


Cucaracha’s Inn

Cucaracha en

pared muerta envuelta


de mí y de ella no

hubo comida

está suspendida es pera


su tiempo es pera

el tiempo es perra

y espera

tocar el cielo

y nuestros huesos.

Alejandro del Bosque (nace 1965)

Los nopales

Desde su asiento

él observa la noche capada de estrellas,

copada de ambos.

A su lado yo dormito.

El sigue mirando sin saberse mirado.

La otra vez viajé solo.

El sol se desmayó en la carretera

durante varias horas,

y en el interior del autobús había frío.

El pequeño televisor, casi echado en mí,

proyectaba una película fastidiosa.

Afuera, algunos nopales parecían viejos discutiendo

con los brazos extendidos,

en la espera de asestar un golpe débil;

otros simulaban saludarse entre sí,

como preservando las buenas maneras.

El trayecto será largo.

El busca otra posición

Para estar menos incómodo.


El Volante

Eluno espera a que llegue Elotro.

Elotro sabe que Eluno lo espera.

Eluno fuma los cigarros de Elotro.

Elotro los busca en la bolsa de su camisa.

Eluno mira hacia el camellón.

Elotro maldice a quien se pasó un rojo.

Eluno sonríe a quien le sonríe y cruza la calle.

Elotro recuerda que hay poca carne en el refri.

Eluno conversa animoso moviendo los hombros.

Elotro piensa en las ofertas del martes.

Eluno recibe una tarjeta y promote comunicarse.

Elotro marca y nadie contesta.

Eluno identifica la llamada y apaga el celular.

Elotro arroja el aparato al asiento trasero.

Eluno entra a una fonda y ordena comida corrida.

Elotro detiene su auto y recarga la cabeza en el volante.


La peluca

A cierta hora del día

el metro es un reclusorio de hombres y mujeres separados,

pero Elella se escabulle

y viaja en el vagón de los varones.

Todos los obreros para mí nomás,

– va pensando Elella –

que lo quiere todo, no más, no menos.

La recibe un silbido de mira qué forro de vieja.

Ella se deja hacer.

Le pellizcan las nalgas.

Le aprietan las tetas.

Le muerden los labios.

Le embarran sudores.

Ellos se dejan hacer,

pero Elella necesita cambiar de estación.

Elella se va con un silbido de vuelve pronto mamacita,

acomodándose la rubia peluca,

ciñéndose la morada vida que se le va cayendo.


El amado

Hombre mío

que estás tan lejos,

amado sea tu recuerdo,

ignorado sea tu desprecio;

olvida a quien me besa

como yo también olvido a quien te toca;

no me dejes,

que el dejarnos aún hiere,

y libérame de todo yo.


Alejandro del Bosque (born 1965)

The prickly-pear cactuses

From his seat

He observes the night caped by stars

By his side I snooze.

He continues gazing out not knowing that he’s being looked at

That other time I travelled solo.

The sun faded upon the highway

Over several hours,

And inside the bus it was cold.

The little TV, almost falling on me,

showing an annoying film.

Outside, some prickly-pear cactuses seemed like old people arguing

With arms extended,

In the hope of striking a feeble blow;

Others were pretending to greet one another,

As if maintaining the tradition of good manners.

The journey will be a long one.

He shifts his position

So he’s less uncomfortable.


The steering wheel

The One hopes that the Other arrives.

The Other knows that the One is waiting for him.

The One smokes the cigars of the Other.

The Other searches for them in the pocket of his shirt.

The One looks toward the traffic island.

The Other curses the guy who ran the red light.

The One smiles at someone who smiles back at him and crosses the street.

The Other remembers there’s not much meat in the fridge.

The One chats,his shoulders going up and down, excited.

The Other thinks about the Tuesday specials.

The One takes a business card and promises to get in touch.

The Other dials and nobody answers.

The One sees who’s calling and turns off his cell.

The Other throws the phone into the back seat.

The One goes into a greasy-spoon and orders food to go.

The Other stops the car and puts his head down on the steering wheel.


The wig

At a certain time of day

The subway trains (in México City) are a prison of men and of women

– separated (by gender),

But HimHer slips through

And travels in the male car.

“All the Regular Joes just for me,”

– HimHer goes in thinking –

Wanting it all – no more, no less.

Got whistled at:

“Look at her – what an ass she has.”

She lets them…

They grab her buttocks.

They squeeze her nipples.

They bite her lips.

They cover her with their sweat.

They let themselves do it…

But HimHer has to change stations.

HimHer, exiting the subway car, gets whistled at:

“Come back soon, mamacita.”

Adjusting the blonde wig,

Girding herself for this tough life that’s going down…


The belovéd

Man of mine,

You who are so far away,

Belovéd be the memory of you,

Ignored be your disdain;

Forget whoever kisses me

As I forget whoever touches you

Do not leave me,

Even as our breaking up still hurts,

And free me from all that is myself.

Traducciones del español al inglés / Translations from Spanish into English:  Alexander Best


Estos poemas son parte de una compilación © Arnulfo Vigil y Ernesto Castillo.

Los redactores escriben:

“Lo importante, a fin de cuentas, no es la sexualidad de un poeta

sino el tratamiento poético de la diversidad sexual.”

Flags of Canada: July 1st, 2012

For information about each flag, allow your cursor to hover over the image.

.     .     .     .     .

Konstantin Kavafis / Κωνσταντίνος Καβάφης: “I went into the brilliant night and drank strong wine, the way the Champions of Pleasure drink.”


Konstantin Kavafis (Constantine Cavafy)





With no consideration, no pity, no shame,

they’ve built walls around me, thick and high.

And now I sit here feeling hopeless.

I can’t think of anything else:  this fate gnaws my mind

– because I had so much to do outside.

When they were building the walls, how could I not have noticed!

But I never heard the builders, not a sound.

Imperceptibly they’ve closed me off from the outside world.


The Windows



In these dark rooms where I live out empty days,

I wander round and round

trying to find the windows.

It will be a great relief when a window opens.

But the windows aren’t there to be found

– or at least I can’t find them.   And perhaps

it’s better if I don’t find them.

Perhaps the light will prove another tyranny.

Who knows what new things it will expose?


I went



I didn’t restrain myself.   I gave in completely and went,

went to those pleasures that were half real,

half wrought by my own mind,

went into the brilliant night

and drank strong wine,

the way the champions of pleasure drink.


Comes to rest



It must have been one o’clock at night

or half past one.

A corner in a tavern,

behind the wooden partition:

except for the two of us the place completely empty.

A lamp barely lit gave it light.

The waiter was sleeping by the door.


No one could see us.

But anyway, we were already so worked up

we’d become incapable of caution.


Our clothes half opened – we weren’t wearing much:

it was a beautiful hot July.


Delight of flesh between

half-opened clothes;

quick baring of flesh – a vision

that has crossed twenty-six years

and now comes to rest in this poetry.


The afternoon sun



This room, how well I know it.

Now they’re renting it, and the one next to it,

as offices.   The whole house has become

an office building for agents, businessmen, companies.


This room, how familiar it is.


The couch was here, near the door,

a Turkish carpet in front of it.

Close by, the shelf with two yellow vases.

On the right – no, opposite – a wardrobe with a mirror.

In the middle the table where he wrote,

and three big wicker chairs.

Beside the window the bed

where we made love so many times.


They must be still around somewhere, those old things.


Beside the window the bed;

the afternoon sun used to touch half of it.


…One afternoon at four o’clock we separated

for a week only…And then

– that week became forever.


Before Time altered them



They were full of sadness at their parting.

They hadn’t wanted it:  circumstances made it necessary.

The need to earn a living forced one of them

to go far away – New York or Canada.

The love they felt wasn’t, of course, what it had once been;

the attraction between them had gradually diminished,

the attraction had diminished a great deal.

But to be separated, that wasn’t what they wanted.

It was circumstances.   Or maybe Fate

appeared as an artist and decided to part them now,

before their feeling died out completely, before Time altered them:

the one seeming to remain for the other always what he was,

the good-looking young man of twenty-four.




Translations from Greek into English © 1975  Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard


Constantine Cavafy (Konstantin Kavafis), 1863-1933,

lived and died in the port city of Alexandria, Egypt.

His father had worked in Manchester, England, founding

an import-export firm for Egyptian cotton to the

textile industry.  Between the ages of 9 and 16 Constantine

was educated in England – Victorian-era England – and

these years became important in the shaping of his poetic

sensibility (which would only emerge around the age of 40.)

Though he was fluent in English, when he began to write poetry

in earnest it was to be in his native Greek.

Cavafy never published any poems in his lifetime, rather he

had them printed privately then distributed them

– pamphlet-style – to friends and acquaintances.

His social circle was small and by all accounts he was not ashamed

of his homosexuality – but he did feel much guilt over

“auto-eroticism” – what we now call masturbation.


Cavafy’s early poems “Walls” and “The Windows” might

be read as the mental anxieties of a “closeted” homosexual –

yet there was no such thing in the 19th century as someone

who was “Out” anyway.

The poem “I went”, from 1905, seems to be a break-through of sorts,

Cavafy indicating – at least in the Truth that was his much-cherished

Art – Poetry – that he’s ready to write openly of his love for men.

The poems he wrote when he was in his 50s, such as “Comes to rest”,

“The afternoon sun” and “Before Time altered them”, show a mature

poet describing the universal beauty and sadness of Love – and he

does it describing sex, passion and loss between two men.