Concentration Camp

The whistle, the cry, the swishing, the thud;
the reversed water, the smoke, the stone, the saw;
a fallen tree among the killed men;
when the guards undressed them, you could hear falling
one by one from their pockets the telephone tokens,
the small pair of scissors, the nail-clipper, the little mirror
and the long, hollow wig of the bald hero
strewn with straw, broken glass and thorns
and a cigarette-butt hidden behind the ear.

— Yiannis Ritsos

Yiannis Ritsos was a Communist activist and member of the Greek Resistance during World War II. He also fought with the Communist left during the Greek Civil War (1946-1949). Ritsos was arrested in 1948 and spent four years in prison camp at Lemnos, Makronisos, and Agios Efstratios. While in prison, he put his poems in bottles and buried them for safekeeping. He was arrested again in 1967 under the Papadopoulos dictatorship and sent to a prison camp in Gyaros. He was prohibited from publishing until 1972.