Constantine P. Cavafy

29 April 1863 – 29 April 1933 / Alexandria

Days of 1908

He was out of work that year,
so he had to live off card games,
backgammon, and borrowed money.
He was offered a job at three pounds a month
in a small stationary store,
but he turned it down without the slightest hesitation.
It wasn't suitable. It wasn't the right pay for him,
a reasonably educated young man, twenty-five years old.
He won two, maybe three shillings a day -sometimes.
How much could he expect to make out of cards and backgammon
in the cafes of his social level, working-class places,
however cleverly he played, however stupid the opponents he chose?
His borrowing -that was even worse.
He rarely picked up a crown, usually no more than half,
and sometimes he had to come down to a shilling.
For a week or so, sometimes longer,
when he managed to escape those horrible late nights,
he'd cool himself at the baths with a morning swim.
His clothes were a terrible mess.
He always wore the same suit,
a very faded cinnamon-brown suit.
O Summer days of nineteen hundred and eight,
from your view
the cinnamon-brown suit was tastefully excluded.
Your view has preserved him
as he was when he took off those unworthy clothes,
that mended underwear, threw it all aside,
and stood stark naked, impeccably handsome, a miracle-
his hair uncombed, swept back,
his limbs a little tanned
from his morning nakedness at the baths and on the beach.
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