Brief romantic (self)portraits and episodes
by Antonis Katsouris
Of course I threatened them by saying there is a secret diary. I had to protect my life and I did exactly what my idols -Tara, Jessica, Vivian, Renée -, have taught me. What would I do without them? They’ ve taught me that in life we have to improvise and that in life only the good girls keep a diary because the other girls just don’t have the time. I improvised and I lied. And if these rude gentlemen discover at some point that there is no secret diary, then my life will be in real danger.
It’s getting dark outside and it’s still raining. I think El just passed; only she could have an umbrella like that. The waitress brings my order, smiles, and says something about the length of my hair. I start taking off my gloves, and I’m suddenly shivering. I’m freezing. And, without wanting to, I have a feeling that this may be my the last London tea of my life.
Tara, Jessica, Vivian, Renée …
So this is how it all ends?
March 9, 2011
My knees are scraped
my fingers are red
and the basket is full with
first wild strawberries.
In the evenings I open my window
and try to strike a conversation
with a nightingale
high up on the chestnut tree.
But I whistle like a wagtail.
And the wind
carries my favorite scarf
(a vintage Pucci)
as I reach 150
with this gleaming white
convertible Ford Mustang
– my trophy
for the services I offered
at suite No 8.
Aurora* (Once upon a time)
An old maid opened the door. She took a glance at my condition – I was drenched to the bone from the sudden storm – and she led me to a spacious kitchen. She served me a substantial dinner and then – always in silence -, she led me with a candle through dark corridors to a bedroom. The bed was already made with twenty mattresses and twenty quilts. The maid lit a double candlestick and said goodnight with a small bow.
When the first light of the day started to fill the room through the white curtains, the same maid came to wish me good morning, to give me a silver embroidered dress and lead me to a big room with a garden view.
I was having my breakfast when two fabulously dressed men greeted me, introduced themselves as the King and the Prince, and the first thing they asked me was how I had slept. I showed them the black circles under my eyes, I told them I hadn’t slept at all and that my back still hurt from something hard in the bed.
To my great surprise, they both bowed to me and the Prince said: “You are a real Princess. At last!”, and he proceeded to tell his story… That in the bed there was a hidden pea and that I was the first one to notice it, since a lot of so-called princesses didn’t feel a thing; and that this is the proof of my sensitivity, my delicacy, my grace, my upbringing, my noble descent… And that he would very much like me to be his wife.
I accepted his proposal without a second thought, but I didn’t reveal to them my own story. That the previous afternoon I had left my uncle’s house, that at some point I lost my way and that the storm had led me by chance to the palace gate. And that for the last two or three years my nerves, wrecked from the unbearable tedium of life in the countryside, have caused me a painful insomnia and that I rarely sleep anymore…
And so with great joy they announced to me that the pea would take a prominent position to the Royal Museum and they left me alone in order to bring the good news to the Queen and start the wedding preparations.
Not exactly alone, though. Since my thoughts and concerns were starting to spin in my head… Will I be able to find my sleep and my dreams in the arms of this handsome young man?
Will this prince be my Morpheus?
Or will my difficult nights go on and I, in the company of the exhausting zig zags of my own obsessions, will eagerly anticipate the dawn
In order to become known to the inhabitants of this small kingdom as
the Princess of Insomnia,
the Princess with the Black Circles,
the Princess of the White Night?
*A variation on the tale “The Princess and the Pea” by Hans Christian Andersen.
April 9, 2011
… And my adolescent breasts
swell little by little
kissed by Celestial Venus.
Very late on Saturday,
or very early on Sunday?
A little or very drunk?
At a bus stop.
In the rain.
The last bus
hasn’t come yet.
The last bus
It is snowing…
And I, even though I’m not a poet,
I squeeze a few snowflakes
between the blank pages
of my notebook.
After a while I open it
and there they are,
And you, Southerly Wind,
that’s enough of your
driving me mad!*
I have my ticket.
I also have my information.
The ship sails in two hours for Toter Hafen.*
The small harbour of fear.
The hospitable capital of terror.
The number one destination for all these lucky people who are no longer able to be charmed by anything in this world.
The kind town where the hotel with the most reservations is the Hotel Hollow, the club with the longest line is Disco Limbo, the most frequented website is “http://www.myearlydeparture.com” and the most popular perfume is L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain…
According to my instructions, at the night of my arrival at Toter Hafen, night flowers will blossom in its gardens, processions with prayers for more darkness will commence at its squares and maybe a shadow will whistle softly one of my favorite songs. Also according to my instructions, this last one I’ll have to accept as the first smile of…
*The Dead Harbour or the Inanimate Harbour. From a poem by Ingeborg Bachmann.
May 9, 2011)
The first months of my insomnia…
At a village festival. Photographed by an Austrian traveller.
Without black circles, thanks to grandma’s magic ointment.
“Away from this beauty, oh black circles”,
she sang to me as she rubbed it, every morning, beneath my eyes.
She left suddenly…
So I never learned her secret recipe.
So the black circles became my beauty.
It’s my first real poem.
I wrote it somewhere…
I wrote it in pencil on the back of an envelope.
I wrote it on Friday or Saturday.
…and now I can’t find it.
(In a coming-of-age crisis)
I never had anyone
(or spoil me).
So I took it upon myself
I think it’s only fair.
Photographed by my older brother
on some childhood birthday (when I was 7 or 8?).
The dead paper flowers were a gift.
I made the black circle on the wall – with the smoke from a birthday candle
and I myself chose this black dress.
I also remember passing photocopies of this photo around my class,
upon which I had written with a marker:
(my newest hobby…)
I become the black bird of memory
when I fly above my (new) city
a metaphor (made to measure), or (maybe?)
some amateur death
with good manners,
with a philanthropist ego,
and a French accent.
Part-time at Toter Hafen:
three afternoons a week
I serve smokers
at Café Coma Coma.
June 9, 2011)
In the garden
beneath the palmyra trees, the bamboo, and the australian ferns,
in a small fountain
which spurts out sparkling water
I hide my diamond necklace
(my price for a few nights
in a Palm Springs villa).
Behind the bubbles of the crystal clear water
it disappears, it becomes invisible
and ohso mine.
It is Sunday.
And I, even] though I’m not a painter,
put on my nicest dress,
go out in the garden,
stand among the blossomed rhododendrons
and with a small twig
I draw my name
on the white clouds,
that are passing rather hurriedly towards the South…
Farewell to me.
July 9, 2011
I never learned the name of that small beach that has the clearest and iciest water in the island; a downhill, shaded path leads you there easily.
I go there every afternoon from five till eight -during those hours that the sun can no longer irritate my skin- and, with a black one-piece swimsuit, a white marimekko hat, and my inherent, elegant timidity I sunbathe, reading and rereading La Pesanteur et la Grace by Simone Weil and enjoying small, beneficial ecstasies…
as my ego slowly fades, slowly vanishes
as one by one my desires one after another melt away,
as the unattainable invites me.
Since last week my daily company is a five-six groups of soft-spoken, sunburned nudists, avoid looking at me and treat me, I’d say, as if I were the Spirit of the Beach. For every time I pass next to them on my way back to the village, they put something on, smile at me demurely, then theyapproach, offering two or three elaborate seashells, bow slightly and say goodbye…
– Au revoir, Madame.
– Au revoir, Boys and Girls… and Boys.
What happened to me that afternoon in Verbier?
I had no answer…
I was skiing down my favorite slope (going veryfast or flying?), everything wasso white, I was blinded… And then what?
… I spent two months in a friendlychalet dreamily watching the melting snow, my left foot in a cast, frequently receiving friends who,
with markers and paintbrushes, transformed my plaster into a small and rare psychedelic masterpiece.
The last night of my stay there, during a party in my honor, those same good friends officially proclaimed me First Queen of the Alps On Acid. And then I started to remember…
… what had happened to me that afternoon, when so blinded from the whiteness and so high-on-acid I ended tumbling down the slope like a dislocated Barbie (laughing or singing?).
So High (wasthe answer).
One, like a small forest full of deciduous trees.
The other, like an oasis covered by palm trees.
… And as the second smile of my fortune was delaying and delaying -I’m still waiting for that death with the french accent- I decided to visit them.
My instructions were clear. “When you go there don’t forget to kneel down and read the short stories.” I took my notebook, I passed their gates and read one by one all these farewells and endings (or rather the messages and the rendezvous?) which were carved on the grey and white stones.
I picked13. I‘ve copied them very carefully and I read themat dawn before I fall asleep, before I dream of the ones ofmy own…
The nights there are your own.
I’ ll have mine later.
we two, together
here among leaves
There’s a song for you.
Another is in the silence
Of a windless day.
How quick we came
from where we were.
The day is over
before it began.
“When I was born,
death kissed me.
I kissed it back.”
Still, you were there,
in a dream awakening
if not laughing, smiling.
And when I thought
“Our love might end”
went right on shining
«Beautiful Prince, farewell!»
The first three roses
opened up today, the outer petals
carmine, the inner, rosy pink.
I send you their fragrance.
So many galaxies and you my
my star, my sun, my
other self, my bet-
ter half, my one
leaves, leaves, leaves,
when it’s time,
cover us all.
will you wait for me?All 13 “epigrams” are excerpts from poems by James Schuyler (1923-1991).
Pink Rose of Raidestos
I wish I knew your name…
One day maybe I will.
And then I’ll call you!
(be sure of it)
A lot of things may happen to you,
As you take your breakfast under the trees…
Today I tried for the first time
chestnut blossoms on my bread
– all fresh and white
they had completely covered my small table
and I, out of politeness, couldn’t say no.
don’t ever leave me
I sing together
with the cicadas
(August 9, 2011)
(September 9, 2011)
The Black Pearls of Polynesia
The Imperial Violets
The House of 1000 Windows
The Light of the Cynical Moon
The Chrominance Decoder
The Eldorado Tales
Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook
The Lemon Tarts
The Little Black Dresses
La Dernière Plage
The Hanging Gardens of Reigate
L’ Anonyme Amour
The Sirens Call
La Leçon de Solfege
The Endless September
The Ivory Tower
Death à la Carte
The Prettiest Star
The Great Railway Journeys
The Butterfly Kiss
The 1000 Guitars of St Dominques
The Knee Socks
The Coral Bracelet
Le Cœur Hypothèque *
When I get a bit older and slightly more clever, all this will be mine.
And then, I will miss nothing.
And then, everybody else – out of awkwardness and only – would call me an eccentric.
I will leave them in their ignorance.
Because, I myself, will then be a young crowned
Queen of Bohemia.
And the crow from the fence
bursts out laughing
as I am hanging out my laundry
or it finds unnecessary and funny
their too many colours
or it knows something more than I do
about the afternoon weather…
Clear, penetrating, insisting
the autumn wind
takes with it
all the inevitable – and so tiring –
thoughts of mine.
Therefore, I can, more easily now
or restart my life…
(October 9, 2011)
I move in my new flat in the city centre
spacious but slightly dark
to brighten it up, I start painting it
with the most day-glow paints I can find in the market
I have finished in a week
but the result is disappointing
and I move out again.
a Queen without any subjects…
In a Bohemia without any inhabitants…
Since all of them, mesmerised,
have run behind
the stranger with the flute
in a country, where
some call her
Contemporary Metropolitan Culture
and others call her
and some even with a much worse sounding name…
I, however, will not stop
sending them every now and then,
a few bouquets of
together with my greetings
from a deserted Bohemia
because my rank
send me their chromatic message…
Yellow, golden, orange,
sometimes a red.
Which, in their language means that
nothing has finished
(November 9, 2011)
(December, 9 2012)
I was 18, having troubles at school, kissed by both boys and girls, with my breasts two tiny peaks, and my mother always saying that girls with small breasts are always arrogant and stubborn. I was 14, I was thinking only of the ocean and the waves, and the boys I used to go out in the open sea with to catch a good wave were calling me Icy Ballerina.
It was Saturday, November 1st, on a cloudy day, with a 2 to 3-meter waves in the open, out in the gulf. A good day for some easy dance. I got my board, got down the beach and headed to the open so that I find myself behind the waves, paddling with both hands, when the monster in the grey suit attacked me. It appeared without any noise and the only thing it did was to chop off my left forearm, low down near the joint to my arm and disappear with it. I was picked up five minutes later, half-dead from the bleeding and I was saved.
I am 18, stubborn and arrogant with tiny breasts and one, not exactly your piece-of-cake, fighter of the waves, with my distinct style. I use very few maneuvering when riding a wave, with as little as possible resistance to its force, expressing effortless grace than balancing techniques. And the boys that I go out in the open sea with call me Ghost Ballerina.
I am 18, the only surfer with a single arm in North Coast, only girls kiss and caress me, and in a few days – if this crazy weather persists – I am going to celebrate my 100th wave in my new style.
(January 9, 2012)
Les Filles du Crepuscule
(February 9, 2012)
You will find me by the sea
covered by the flowers of sand…
You will meet me a summer night,
With my eyes shining like city lights…
And if you ask me
I will tell you the colour of your love…
I am a summer rain,
that will clean you off the dust of memory…
You will recognize me immediately
because I am the same as your soul-mate.
I am a small, golden sun
that knows the name of your love
and when you call me, I will be there to walk with you
the difficult days of your life…
I am a guardian of your hidden hope
and I can wait for you for ever…
I am singing from a far-away coast
and only you can bring me back again…
The él Girls (1985-1987)
(March 9-August 9, 2012)
translations coming soon!
From September 2011 to March 2012 Hotel Women was translated by Vassilis Oikonomopoulos.