ON ELEVATION

Certes, lartiste desire selever, mais
lhomme doit rester obscur.
PAUL CEZANNE


The Italian pyrotechnist has set up his frugal and modest, his humble workshop, atop the Attic hill. There he works night and day on his infinite experiments and on the manufacture of the various products of his craft: fireworks, crackers and other shenanigans. For he it is who supplies the merry-makers on the eve of the major Orthodox feast days, and he it is again who on the evenings of the national anniversaries, decorates our skies with all kinds of spectacular flowers, with dazzling ornaments and soaring rockets that end in a kaleidoscopic shower of sparks. Rarely does he leave his work, yet sometimes, at night, he drags his weary and preposterous figure from tavern to tavern, using, as is his preference, the darker back streets of the marketplace. His profession is exceedingly dangerous: gunpowder, and on occasion dynamite, is the raw material of his handiwork. The slightest mistake is sufficient for a terrible disaster to ensue: in a deafening roar the workshop and the pyrotechnist with it are hurled into the clear morning, and we see whirling high in the air, for hours, the Italian and the boards of his hovel and dense clouds of dust, while a strong smell of gunpowder spreads everywhere.
Yet the inevitable never happens, for there is something. A secret. And this secret is most simply his ever vigilant wife. And indeed, his wife, one of us: a devout Orthodox Christian, spends all her days in church, prostrates herself, and constantly prays for him. And in this way she keeps him alive.
In fact, below in the ravine surrounding by the Attic hill, there, in that black place, she has sown the world with countless shrines, the majority of marble, others more humble, yet all with the image of the Virgin or some other saint, and all of them with a box, for the money. Every so often she patiently collects the money, the greater part of which she donates to charitable causes, help for the needy, relief for the sick, the upkeep of churches, while another part she carefully guards, since with this she plans, in time, to construct a church dedicated to Saint Catherine.
(A little further, in the ravine, someone has set up beehives, in a field, and, further still, surrounded by a garden are the ruins of a half-built mansion).
This tale of the Italian is also our tale, Eleni. Am I not the pyrotechnist? Are my poems not Easter firecrackers, and my paintings amazingly beautiful brilliant nocturnal meteors in the Attic sky? And yet, if they still havent mercilessly torn me to pieces, thrown my flesh to the dogs, do I not owe this to you, to your great tenderness and to your love? I know, dont hide it from me, Im telling you I know: you pray for me! Gather the money from our shrines and, with your saintly white hands, spread good everywhere. But keep part of it so that we too might little by little put together a sum to erect a church dedicated to the Queen who bore your name. In there, in that church, Ill marry you. For you are beautiful, you have the most gracious and dignified soul, and I love you passionately.


Translated by David Connolly



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