Dimitris Lyacos











Z213: EXIT (excerpts)



Tell those who were waiting not to wait none of us will return. The sky is leaving again, the newspapers soak in the corridor, the same trees pass again darker before us, those who wrench the doors looking for a place, who are coming in at the next stop. The light outside cutting the evening to pieces, harsh evenings that fall among strangers, the story shatters within you, pieces, fading away in the ebb of this time, that melt one into the other before you sleep.  And the snail hurries to go back on its tracks, a tale you remember unfinished, wrinkles that still hold a colour on memory’s transient seed, birds that awake the dew on their wings and you leave with them into the all-white frozen sky, but you wake and are baked again. Not fever, remembrance of sorrow exhausts you, you don’t know why, before you are well awake and the barren feeling comes back again to your hands, the rest suddenly fades away at once, you are one recollection a broken box emptying, after the tempest this calm, you search for support, get up like an old man, feel cold, remember birds’ wings, magistrates’ sticks decorated with feathers the bones of an angel, sink again images and words monotone prayer.






the sun leaves the station chases you, goes up, moves in front of you, find where you had stayed, search, there or elsewhere, on the grey facades that do not recognise you, what do you remember of the road that is lost, turn back to a corner sit down a while, and once again, the roads you are changing, hours that you wander, old women looking at you from behind the window they grow larger grow smaller you walk without coming out anywhere, the roads grow wider narrower bend beneath your feet rise go up again, you get up sit go a bit further, ask someone, go in, church crowded, did somebody die, you rest a little, closed knees, eyes closed, remember something go out again, others along with you, the bell, the door unlocking, porter, you go in behind them to the end of the corridor, then on the right and up the staircase, thick glasses, and a red stain under his nose, he paid no attention to you or took you for someone else, how could he see you him looking from the light into the dark, or he doesn’t see well, go up the stairs, to the top, lie down, cover yourself, it is still too early to sleep. You are cold, cover yourself, you snuggle down, tremble, stretch out, from feet to body to hands a clammy fluid covers you, he took you for someone else and let you in, who else lives here, it covers you, you awake in a dream empty, the eyes that open and separate us again, you cannot pull her to you, you get up, you fall, you are thirsty, you wake up for water, many times the same story, what time is it, the lights outside, count how many on how many off, the plaster tired above waiting, like a cockroach, alone and still like a cockroach, searching here and there for a warm spot to hide in, you sweat, from the heat, the roof comes down to your feet the window comes down to your feet, from there what can you see, only sky, sky without anything, nothing over the roofs, from your feet right up to your knees, you get up go out into the corridor, the other rooms empty as well, apart from where sleep can be heard, you go back to your bed with eyes open in the dark you wait in the dark in order to sleep.






Who are they preparing again for tonight? The scum of

                                                                      the morning

outside the doors, drained heap, arms and legs

as if of statues, half-covered in mud,

and they wait, how could they go (hollow and rotten

boats swallow them to nowhere,


to nowhere joined together, with the smell of the earth


above, their good hope shut down again). And the

rest in a train where to, from a world that was,

until they arrive to where, far, where you can’t feel,


reaches your ears your nose,


only fear. And suspicions, sidelong glances tiredness,

each one a bodiless wing. Beating up in the mind one by one

and together, squalls of sea-corpses, hooves of iron


sunken wheels, chains that sprout from the mud,

a friend at your side that weeps. And yet


in these cavities, light from ruined arms gleams

like a candle as once in those country churches of

Christians, amassing coffins around them. These are

the very ones now buried, naked, and their bodies have


quicker now, without cries and grief


and delay. And yet the steps are heard at midday,

songs, death that sings through the womb of

your mother, through the women that strive to rise up

from the clay. Or hide it under their tongues, like

a secret, which if you had known you would not have



And yet the mind always returns to the places it will not


it grows faint, I grew faint with all that on my mind, in the


this bit does not fit anywhere, me, the head

sagging, the road leading away from the window the

                                                                      astonishment that

you still stand, as the pale lights outside were making me



needles injecting straight into the eyes. And yet, I understand


the road runs also inside me, I see, as if it were eagles


had come down over the ruins stooping, breasts open

over the lungs, hearts, withered

lost. And your brother at your side to weep.


Remember that old story no more, let go, it has already


enough, that world behind you will not emerge again

                                                                      from the dark

already died, no eyes to look upwards, no head

to peep out from the shell. Just a bone

that reminded you of something, but not for long any



We left behind us this harbour as well, now we approach,

                                                                      the sea

already appeared the rock of the burnt out Lighthouse they were telling you of

I am now far away, yet I still think of you for a while that–

you, your cities exhausted, the aged


children, the aching teeth of desire, the carriages full of

the drowned, the truth that tightens, around what

                                                                      happened it tightens,

you say it, they gather together, a circle, the gallows, the


the fruit that does not fall on the ground, the bodies that

                                                                      broke from affection,

the friend you don’t see and don’t hear,


look still that beside you






And I heard the groan and someone that, that told me: walk. Walk in the midst of the sea, and I shall save you and do not stop until you reach the other side. And someone else who said: and you shall take our bones with you. And I rested a while, and I saw in the sky a long narrow cloud. And it stood still all day and all night. And at night as if it would catch fire and the sea red. Red. And I pondered why I had roamed here and who was coming after me. And perhaps he will catch me up at the edge of the sea. And I was afraid. I could have stayed there, die and not travel. Perhaps they left me to see what I would do and then they sent someone after me. Perhaps better in there than dying alone here. And someone that said again: walk and be saved, and take a rod, and stretch your hand over the sea and let the rod fall and rip it in two. And pass along in the middle. And the cloud came and stood behind me and it got dark again. And I took the rod, and stretched my hand out over the sea, and the wind was blowing all night, two winds in opposing directions from the same point. And the sea was gathered together a heap on one side and a heap on the other. And a road between. And I passed then in between, on one side and on the other the red wall. And I heard the groan behind me again and remembered how they were bringing them in the truck down to the beach. And I heard, the voices again, that why, and the reed in the wind beating.






Nobody is coming after me. Surely they have forgotten about me. Nobody will ever come here to find me. He will never be able to find me. Nobody ever. And when I fled they didn’t even realise. They took no notice of me no one cared no one remembers. Now they will remember neither when nor how. Not even I. Tracks only, a hazy memory and those images when I look at what I have written, tracks of footprints in the mud before it starts raining again. Uncertain images of the road and thoughts mumbled words, and if you read them without the names you won’t understand, it could have been anywhere, and then I spoke with no one and those who saw me no chance that they remember me. Every so often a face seeming familiar, from another time, someone looked at you, you recognised him, no, a part of another on a stranger’s face. Or the rhythm of the steps that sound behind you, the rhythm of your own steps, which occasionally you think follow you, they stop when you stop, or for a moment you think he is coming behind you, or you think that someone is breathing behind the door and will now come in. And then nothing, and then back again, and you suddenly turn your head as if you had heard him. But no one. You are far away, no one knows you, no one wants to find you, no one is looking for you. And tomorrow you will be somewhere else still farther away, still more difficult yet, even if they would send someone. They don’t know the way and before they find out you have decamped somewhere else. They know how to search but they don’t know what way. And even if they set off from somewhere they will still be quite far. And they will not be many. Perhaps just one. One is like all of them together. Same eyes that search, same mind that calculates the next move. Same legs that run same arms that spread wide. Ears straining to listen, nostrils over their prey. Always acted like that. Two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, two arms, two legs. The symmetry of the machine that pursues you. A net that thinks decides and moves ahead. The head a fishhook the body a belt. All the same. Me too. One behind the other. Forward back further back, to follow the road. And if you don’t know you run ahead anyway, because someone is always coming behind you. Sooner or later he comes. And sometimes there comes a hand taking you by the shoulder, or a worm that climbs up on your hand. It rolls on a pillow of saliva. Forward. And as it rolls it is growing and wrapping around you. A flat tongue on its saliva with two eyes that rise up to see you. Maybe not you, they look for a confortable place to start from. Like him that, that night we were hungry, that had etched an open mouth on his stomach. Likewise this tongue is a stomach and mouth, always open. From there you go somewhere else, on the inner road opening up, in the twists of the gut, there of course you are unconscious by now, unconscious you take the road of return and when you wake up they have brought you inside there again.









Night had already fallen when I crossed to the other side of the station and came out on to the road. It was still raining, a little. I would find them in one of the arches under the bridge, as he had told me. I would see light. I arrived outside, I waited. We waited. They opened. We entered. We were given a handout. Inside you could see up to a point, then dark. I sat on the dirt floor among the others, ten, more or less, some of them with their dogs. On the left the wall crumbling. Two more coming from there. Three. Lights, high up opposite blue, green on the right and white lamps hanging, five or six, from the ceiling exactly above us, lit except one. On one side the women. Three around a cut-down oil drum, another one fetching newspapers. They tore some up and threw them inside. Fire. It went out. Again. When they moved back for a moment, close to the wall, you could hardly discern them, was it their clothes or the light that was making it look like that. And they kept opening and closing their eyes all the time, like spasms reaching as far as their mouth – apart from the one on the left that was probably younger. Now this man, passing them naked to the waist with a broken brick or stone? in his hand and coming our way. A scar like a word on his chest, from his neck downwards. Sits down, takes two pieces of wood, hammers, he made a cross. Sticks it in the mud. To the side a glass and a bottle. Further back, the shell of a car half-buried, front door missing. On the bonnet a cassette-player and a television, the wind-screen covered by a sheet of iron. A woman comes out from the car. It had seemed empty a few moments ago, you wouldn’t have known she was there. From her nose down, like a mask made of earth, mouth hardly visible. Goes inside again, pulls a wooden cover in front. Drags it shut but can’t altogether do it. Old bits of iron around. Engine-parts. And another man walking about, coming to us. Haggard, torn pullover, book in hand, some papers inside. Four names on the handout they gave me: Narrator – the one holding the book. Like a Bible. Turns the cassette-player on and off. Hum. Goes and helps the women. More newspapers, Chorus – the women. LG – further back, he was hammering something again. NCTV – her in the car. LG, NCTV. These were the names. Title: NCTV. That is how I remember the name of the station, vaguely somehow. Nyctovo. No. Nyctivo. Nichtovo. No. Another hum, louder, going on from the time I came in. Cassette-player. Narrator. Turns on and off, goes away, comes again opens the Bible, tears pages from there and goes and glues them on the wall to the right, one beside the other. Then he waits. He waits. With his back turned, almost. On one side and on the other crosses sprayed on the concrete. He comes here to read. Narrator. Lights above turned out.






And always, night

and day in the tombs

and in the mountains he was crying

and cutting himself with stones.

But when he saw Jesus afar

off he ran

and worshipped him,

and cried with a loud voice,

and said; what have I to do with you, Jesus,

son of the most high God?

I adjure thee by God,

that thou torment me not.

For he said unto him; come out thou

unclean spirit from the

man, and he asked him;

what is thy name? and he answered

saying; my name is legion

for we are many.


He turns and signals the women to start. They start all together.


It’s a while since you’ve been out.

You sit inside and

wait. Sometimes as if heard

or so you think. It seemed this way,

when you went outside and came

to the door.

Nothing. You live with it though.

Same every day


They stop, look at each other and round about


sometimes more so.

like voices somehow, more or less.

It is inside you.


That. Afterwards, though, comes the day

they come outside

you wait for them in the house.

Same day every time.

Sometimes in the morning when

you wake up it is as if you are stuck

and you prise yourself off them.

You want to stay a little more

you don’t want to get up. You turn look

right left in case they came. No.

They haven’t come. But get up

it’s today.

Today. Get up.

Another year gone by and we will


They stop suddenly, for a few seconds, again, who is this?


be all together.

A few hours still.  Then we will sleep,

wake up

will wait. Will sleep.

Wake up. Will wait.


All together. Narrator wipes his hands on his pullover,

signals to them, they stop, they would have continued.

He reads.


accounting that He

was able to raise them up


Smiling? As if he smiled. LG, with the cross, him also with papers, reading from there. Bent over then leans on his elbow, as he reads he stretches out on his side.



one more kick but then

you stop because you are in pain.

Wait a bit until it goes.

The whole arm going in. Opened.

It wasn’t hard. Like that. Then

the mind stops for a little



He stops, wonders


I remember

the last time. I left after that.

After some time I thought I heard something.

After that Him.

Every now and then He would come,

behind me all of a sudden. Telling me go.

She is there. Waiting for you.

I would turn my head.

Nothing. Then again. Then

every so often, many times it would not stop at all.

I wouldn’t believe it. Then it was starting again. Like a

needle inside my ear





and steps.

then nothing. I am sweating. I mop my brow

These hands are not mine, I don’t feel



Stops, thinks about it. Starts again suddenly, as if in a hurry.


I put my head inside for a while, to see.

Hurts again. Wait a bit until it goes.

Sometimes you hear her clearly, now

the others cover her.

One on top of the other.

You hear her.

Like a wave inside you, all of a sudden.

Now I am above

l know she is there waiting for me

I hear her. She wants to come out.

A box and something moving inside it,

open it. Bones, earth. Close it.

Open it. Same again. You leave and

go back to it again. Why though.


I was coming and going. Seagulls.

Wouldn’t leave me alone.

I found a cloth and wrapped it

around my feet because they were

swooping down

and pecking me. I got up again

to go. Going as far as I could.

Someone coughing

behind me, would stop start again,

but I wasn’t turning around to see.

He stopped, finally.


He gets up to leave, Narrator signals to him, he sits down again, continues


I had found a blanket

to cover myself. I was sleeping outside.

Then I came and settled here.

It’s a bit better here.

They might leave me alone.


Until now, every time I used to wake up,

every time


a towel on my face.

They were pouring in water on top.

I was drowning. They were taking it off.

Then I could I breathe for a while.

Then again. Then they would leave,

the others would come.


Night. Long shadow with an eye

behind it looking at me.

Shadows. More. Shorter and darker.

Digging. Stopping. Digging again

A little beyond


He holds the cross.


hammering on top and then

lowering them in. Somebody shouted.

What if they came this way.


The other signals him to stop, stops for a moment and then continues


It hurts but I keep my mouth shut

because they might hear me.

Don’t let it come out. Then they left and I slept

a bit. Silence. I hear her in there. She wants

to get out. Then again



Narrator, goes and stops him. Train, like a heart beating inside the bridge, we wait, it’s gone, now the women, in their turn or nearly so.


A dog had come up outside the door.

Scratches and wants to come in

a little light in the window

but it is still early.                             Out on the street

nobody yet. Let’s go in and prepare. Fire.

They like it. But they will say nothing.

They will sit at the table

like always. They will eat huddled

over their plates, silent.

Last year he was holding a stone

some papers              he was wiping

his lips all the time                         there was

something wrong with his lips

what is he saying


Water. Corn. And a little pomegranate.

They can’t sit properly     the body is hard

doesn’t soften. The arm-pits closed.

They can’t hug you.

Eyes cast down. They will stand up and go

over there to that corner and will stay for a while and

then out in the garden and stand there,

at the same spot.

They will stand still, for a moment it is as if                             they wanted to say something,

as if something rose in their throat,

but it’s nothing.


It has boiled. A table-cloth. I will spread it myself.

Flour. Alright. Mix. A bit more.

Corn. Sugar. Alright. And some wine.

Turn on                                   turn on

Bring chairs. They will sit

where they used to






THE FIRST DEATH (excerpts)





Sea of iron. Moon silent as pain in the depth of the mind. A body swept here and there on the rock like seaweed or a lifeless tentacle, fruit of a womb ship-wrecked by the winds, ensanguined and flesh-filled mire. The left arm cut short, the right to the end of the forearm, a rotted stick raving amid the water’s lungs. Of the ravaged mouth theree remained only a wound which closed slowly. From the eyes a blurred light. The eyes without lids. The legs down to the ankles – no feet. Spasms.






Final concept harbour which has

broken there where it crumpled our faces

there where ikons soaking and dissolving

scoured the rusty beds

with haven sleep and holy candle fading

keeling over amid the wailings

the friendly hug which turned to stone for ever

in a vein where death drips

dispirited nods and flesh-consuming intercourse

and embraces on the slighted

shape of the saint who is baptised in fever

and empties our bodies’ skins

and discharges black ruins of the tissues


the fir tree’s primary jewellery then

as we were nestling below the turf

of the dream noiselessly

in the root of the sickness which was opening

a road and a door leaning tilting into the darkness, light

sure prophesies, whirlpools drowning the promontories

and the place was becoming wrinkled without pathways

and we were casting anchor in our innards

and chains were harvesting the senses

and the affections are shattering

and the forefathers used to navigate in the expanse of madness

close-bound bundles being pressed together into

the pattern of condemnation indescribable

shadows and rent apart

and the mercy which was granted them of asphyxiation

while the pulley-wheel of memories spins red-hot

the un-nailing of my boyhood years

and the funerary gifts which uncover the frenzy

crumb from the stars

coffins under the rain

forests inclining into pubic hair

lonely orgasms crippled lovers

already lost inside the muted branches of their bodies






Because you can no longer stay

because your vision allows the idols to writhe

until the lake congeals, until your hand ceases

to poke among the gizzards and the burning coals

seeking a useless axe

and let the sea scratch the dried blood;


Because you are looking for the mountain and the nails beneath the stars

black crosses leaning towards the triumph

and once more you crawl and

scramble on the earth’s wounds

spitting sulphur which cauterizes your limbs

panting as once upon the whores,

watering the lustful sandbanks

and the croaking of the birds of prey accompanies

the defilement; ecstatic on the mountain.

And the moist stings of the scorpions

show the way

and the mind a map dipped in wine

and the soul within its muzzle


the further horizon of pain.










Dimitris Lyacos is the author of the Poena Damni trilogy (Z213: EXIT, With The People From The Bridge, The First Death). The work, in its current form, developed as a work in progress over the course of thirty years with subsequent editions and excerpts appearing in journals around the world, as well as in dialogue with a diverse range of sister projects it inspired — drama, contemporary dance, video and sculpture installations, photography, opera and contemporary music. So far the trilogy has been translated into six major languages and is extensively performed across Europe and the United States. In its unique style that conflates poetry with prose and resisting classification, Poena Damni is the most widely reviewed Greek literary work of the past decades and Z213: EXIT one of the best-selling books of contemporary Greek poetry in English translation. Dimitris Lyacos is Honorary Fellow at the International Writing Program, University of Iowa. A second edition of Z213: EXIT will appear in a revised English translation in the autumn of 2016 and a new French translation early in 2017.






Translator Shorsha Sullivan was born in Dublin in 1932. He studied Classics at Leeds and has spent most of his working life in England. He has a special interest in Modern Greek theatre and poetry.


Articles similaires