by Constantine P. Cavafy
That was the year when he stayed
Without work, for a living played
Cards, or backgammon; or borrowed and never paid.
He was offered a place at a small
Stationer's, three pounds a month. It didn't suit him.
It was not decent pay at all.
He refused it without hesitation;
He was twenty-five, and of good education.
Two or three shillings he made, more or less.
From cards and backgammon what could a boy skim;
At the common places, the cafés of his grade,
Although he played sharply, and picked stupid players.
As for borrowing, that didn't always come off.
He seldom struck a dollar, oftener he'd fall
To half, and sometimes as low as a shilling.
Sometimes, when he got away from the grim
Night-sitting, for a week at a time or more,
He would cool himself at the baths, with a morning swim.
The shabbiness of his clothes was tragical.
He always wore the same suit, always displayed
A suit of cinnamon brown discoloured and frayed.
O summer days of nineteen hundred and eight, I recall
The picture of you, and out of it seems to fade,
Harmoniously, that cinnamon suit discoloured and frayed.
The picture of you has preserved him
Just as he would take off, would fling down
The unworthy clothes, the mended under clothes,
And remain all naked; faultlessly beautiful; a wonder.
Uncombed and lifted up his hair was;
His limbs a little sunburnt
From the morning nakedness at the baths and on the beach.
Last updated January 14, 2019