Peter Constantine reads

Practical Solutions

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A poem by Dinos Siotis (1944—)
trans. by Peter Constantine

Perhaps the Barbarians
were not as brutal after
all as they are described

in the chronicles of history,
even if they drank the tears of
Greek and Romans in cupfuls,

even if they shared their caves
and huts with beasts and reptiles
they did not perfume

their sturdy bodies as did
the youths of Sidon, they
did not sing and did not

dance, with soiled faces
they worshipped the dust
of their war cries and

lay down upon the stones
after yesterday’s battle, they
did not know how to write

or read—it was others
who set fire to the library
of Alexandria—

they were seeking practical solutions:
to become good hunters,
to gather in groups, so that their

wives and children would
have food to eat, and if
the civilized were also to

be included among their prey
barbarians were not to blame,
they were driven there because

their cold climates had repelled
them and they wanted to know the
sea: that too was a practical solution.