The Light That Burns Us

the light that shines forth from the prime minister’s mouth when he says that slowly but surely law and order are being restored / the light that shines forth from the mouth of the police spokesman when he refers to squatters as trash and to refugees as dirt / the light that shines forth from the senator’s mouth when he says that refugees should be transported to desert islands / the light that warms the napes of those drowned in the aegean / the light radiating from the refugee detention camps / the truncheons of the prison guards made of sunlight and polymer 

when we hear “light,” it is human flesh that we smell 

the ever-shining light of greek culture, incandescent for centuries / the light that burns the backs of slaves, immigrants, and people of other faiths / the ancient light of greek culture imparted to fascists in all four corners of the earth / the light that caresses the faces of school children marching with flags / the light that exudes from the statues of national heroes, rapists, murderers / the light that burns down libraries, temples, entire cultures / history fashioned by the sunlight of national consciousness 

your light caught us by your “e” and flayed us all the way to your “g” 

the light that protects the national interests / the light that is necessary for the country’s geopolitical enhancement / the light that boosts the government’s bargaining power / the light that illuminates offshore blocks, exclusive economic zones, continental shelves / the light scattered in the mediterranean by bilateral treaties / the light radiating from the vergina sun in the nationalist rallies for macedonia / the light reflected on fighter jets tearing through the ether / the poets’ silence molded by the aegean sunlight 

what light you waste so that we do not see you
the light reflecting off the teeth of the bosses / the light emanating from workers’ empty pockets / the light caressing the faces of those waiting in line outside the unemployment office / the light radiating from the unemployment benefit package, the heating allowance, welfare checks / the light that warms the needs of the labor market / the light that feeds entrepreneurship / the light scattered by flexible and unstable working relationships / the light that sustains community service programs / labor forged in a kiln of sunlight and blood 

your light leaves our cisterns dry 
— we quench our thirst in strikes and demonstrations 
your light sets our crops on fire 
— we still our hunger with iron and anvil 
your light burns our fingers 
— we keep our fists clenched in our pockets 

your light keeps flaying us the width and breadth of our lives 
us, the sisyphuses of darkness 
us, who pray that there will be more nights than mornings 
us, who devour shadows fiber and bone

we are not forests that will be nourished by your light 
we are not grasslands that will soften the reflections; 
we are rocks that send back the light multiplied 

but you must know that we who embrace the darkness within ourselves don’t want a share in your sun
Translated by Peter Constantine