Paraklausithyron–Poetry Rehab 101–Partition

Paraklausithyron is a term used to refer to Ancient Greek and Latin poems based on the conceit of a jilted lover complaining to his mistress’s locked door as if it were a human gate-keeper. Sextus Propertius, in poem 16 of his first book of elegies, inverts this trope and gives voice to the door.

Translating Propertius is a long-standing project of mine. I feel that his ironically political elegies, overshadowed by recent wars and scarred by romantic strife, speak to our own age in a special way. I have already posted one of my older attempts to translate him on this blog I wrote a lot of Propertius-based poems at the time of the 2003 Iraq war.

This is a new ‘translation’ of Propertius I.xvi that I knocked off tonight in response to Andy Townend’s Poetry 101 rehab challenge prompt on the theme of Partition.

My work in this medium tends to employ a chorus of voices, not all of them very nice—most of them, in fact, not very nice at all. I feel, therefore, that I should both apologize to those who may be offended by them, pleading that they are not my own, and, at the same time, plead my right (duty even) to include disturbing voices in my verse.

Propertius himself liked to play with quotations within quotations, one character quoting another quoting another, creating a sort of disturbingly distorted discursive hall of mirrors. I try to echo this in my own take on his work.

Paraklausithyron (after Propertius I.xvi)

My old door, once thrown open in joy

for heroes returning home from wars

or wept on by red-handed servant-girls

leaving in disgrace, is now battered

at by belligerent drunks, the stoop

littered with used condoms, needles and cans.


The whore on the third floor is beyond

redemption, the screeching arguments

& cars parked outside blaring out rap

worse than the smut you see these days on TV.


“You got some nerve, you fucking tight-assed

cold-hearted bitch, shutting me out.

I’ll thump you down. Daddy gonna bed down

here in the snow, rain twinkling in the streetlamp

lit night, cuddling a gun, listening out

for your shrill hinges’ creak. I’ll knock over

the nosey cow peeking out, slip through

the crack, up the stairs, shouting, dissing

you. You melt, sugar, at the sound

of Daddy’s voice & don’t mind that I

knock you about a bit for your own good;

turf the sissy boy you’re shacked up with

out, in my blizzard-of dreams. It’s you

door-keeper, nosey cow, I blame,

as the dawn chorus starts up

& the hangover kicks in; you who

can’t be won over with cheap perfume

or a punch. I sing to you

with the rhythm of a pneumatic drill

digging up the street.”


I poke my nose through

the crack in the chained door

& dial 911 again, wondering

about the girl upstairs,

what I could have done,

where it all went wrong.


3 thoughts on “Paraklausithyron–Poetry Rehab 101–Partition

  1. A very powerful contribution to the clinic this week, your translation project is fascinating and as you say, a little disturbing, but then art often is and part of the role of art is I believe to disturb / disrupt?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s