POETRY

From, The Black Sea                            (Sheep Meadow Press, November 2012)

LISTEN HERE :  http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvJuapRwIU_7FsIv6ELXVew?feature=watch

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The Poet

He walks naked to the window,

looks out across the city, the ancient walls,

the trawlers cinched tight along the promenade,

the dogs sleeping in clusters among the piled nets

and the first hint of light that arrives,

messenger between the hours of sleep, thin line

that holds the horizon to its edge, that holds

his throat to the horizon so that every vista

is a lanyard over-tightened, a clothesline tied

to the olive tree and swallowed by its bark,

a dream he left that followed him in daylight,

oil lamps burning for the blind, fireflies at dawn,

pain’s logic, the lantern in the midday sun—

he dresses slowly like the hangman.

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Melanthe Speaks to God

All night the sea flutters like tin,

ex-voto for the sulfurous zone, dead

as the mute black sky and the stars too thin.

A wish on something falling sinks like lead;

that’s what I think, made my wishes

and wore the paint of icons on my lips.

The priest intones that he who washes

in the holy water is rid of lies.

That’s the language of men, full of solutions.

I buried three children in the cold dawn

by the roadside without prayer or ablutions

and heaped the stones to hold their bodies down

and kept walking through that field of stolen corn

whose husks are paper crosses on the cairn.

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An Oval Photograph

Uncle Constantine, great uncle sadly unmet,

your cream suits are forever pressed to perfection,

with hands like the folded wings of sleeping birds,

soft eyes fixed on some unknown distance,

the phantom limbs of childhood streets.

Constantine, you knew the wind’s caprice,

the names of rivers, the fashions in France,

walked with a cane and banded sun hat

on the unused sands of Athenian beaches.

The fire red sunsets over the Bosphorus

carried in your veins, your sadness

wrapped in cream linen and delicate sheets

of writing paper light as air, letters unsent,

bottles of ink unopened, the sleep of unturned pages.

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Rain Over Trabzon

Heavy raindrops strike the water,

a wafer of dissolving sunlight below the clouds

is a white line on a canvas of storm-blue.

The rain erases and renews itself in puddles

that lean like oval mirrors on the promenade

where the priest hurries, robes lifted from his ankles,

thin white ankles reflected in the rain pools,

dark sky over Trabzon, the mist filtering

through streets exchanged like dirty banknotes,

Rubles, Drachmas, Lira, passed hand to hand,

the dog-eared corners wet with blood, bent

by angry fingers, angry men with sadder wives,

the streets of Trebizond, Trabzon, Trapezounda

washed by rain but won’t wash clean.

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The Circassian Whore

These blond locks are worth a pretty penny, boy.

The Turkman thinks my ass is his, the Greeks are beasts.

But a glass of this sweet wine will bring them to their knees.

Greeks, Turks, whatever—two half-wits make a man, I guess.

I’ve spread these thighs for seven armies

and when they come to fuck the flags are gone.

I’ve seen a thousand pricks that look the same to me.

But what do I know, a whore in a broken world?

A little hash for better dreams is all I want

and a jar of rosewater for my hair.

Let them un-conjure their fat wives when they heave inside me.

I’m paid and they’ll soon be dead, we’ll all be gone

and these fields will grow wild with poppies

always faithful to the color red.

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Voices

                                                               Black Sea South Coast

Voices still rise from foggy hillsides

that drop and fade into the shore of this Black Sea,

sulfurous and dead beneath the upper zone of life

where fish once roiled in silver clouds

and one too many mythic rivers met

in water ringed by mountains without names,

before Ionia, Anatolia,

before Ovid pined for Rome and wept in Tomi,

and Xerxes whipped the straits with chains,

before Thales, Heraclitus, Anaximander,

that army of gadflies and madmen

looked into the sun with arrogance,

before men fought for this view from an open window,

and the harbors burned for the love of burning.

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From Hotel-Dieu       (Sheep Meadow Press, 2010)

 

Memento Mori

There was sunlight deep as punishment

in your eyes when the dogwood trees burst

like party crackers and it was April

with the squawks of magpies and cardinals

sharp as a phone ringing with news of death.

The shovel fell from my burning hands

and I stood under the cornflower-blue

sky while the dumb spring kept unfolding

like a slideshow someone left running.

Better sometimes to stay in the dream,

stand fast and stoke the fire

while the disappearing light still holds.

The worst arrives with stunning grace,

like an usher who suddenly appears

on quiet feet to lead you through the dark

as gathered thoughts burn uselessly,

lights switched on by accident.

And on the same street of secret gardens

the cherries and ornamental pears

were screaming “see me! I’m beautiful!”

while the trucks shifted on Hillsborough,

people talked, bought newspapers, parked their cars

and like hourglasses filled with sand,

the girls rode by on bicycles.

 

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From : LOST DAYS    (Leviathan/Rattapallax, 2001)

 

Unit 649 Samos

 

Father, your image clings to the mountainside

in this half-morning while the tired soldiers sleep.

Dust of the trampled field, dust rising

from the tracks of Steyers in manic traverse.

It is difficult sometimes, being a man.

I would like to fall into the purple light

like a child, like the star that rolled

with its lucent teardrop straight across

Cassiopeia and drowned in the east Aegean.

You would understand this strange, cinematic landscape.

You too stood guard on such dark horizons,

counting days while some magic woman

quietly buried your heart.  Silence falls silken

on these windswept barracks.

Desolate steel, dirt— the hourglass slips.

Memories fail, eyes flutter where the void

swings open like a leaning gate.  Look out

across the charred mountains, the sky stretching

to where the mind is useless anyway.

The flash of Turkey in the distance,

the crippled trees staggered on the ridge’s blade,

surprise me every morning when the sun

rides up the back of Mt. Karvouni

and leaps out white-hot with a violence.

I have seen every sunrise and sunset

for ninety days.  Dust coats my eyelids.

My iris glints like the barrel of my gun.

I am no soldier— when I guard,

I guard the stars.  When I march, I march

for the sad music of these hills, for joy.

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Mavraki   

I.

In the burnt yellow afternoon light of Kouzi,

Mavraki sits with the old men—

leather boots left to dry in the sun.

Wars move quickly, then there is the memory.

The sun moves across the pockmarked wall where

rust stains lead down from railings,

the tear marks of iron eighty years exposed.

The building stands like a sick horse;

walls crumble when touched, crippled foundations

turned to limestone dust, and the memory of plumbing

risen to the surface like veins.

Mavraki pushes his cart through streets that sigh

with too much history, an old man

trying to forget a memory packed with salt.

                                         

II.

Mavraki passes churches, crossing himself (in case)

while shopkeepers stand like question marks in doorways,

as he traces the snail’s path through sidewalks

that speak of old Athens through forty-year cracks,

of a younger, lighter man.

In Papandreou’s tavern, he swallows the last strings of tripe,

a glass of wine, smokes cigarettes and waits.

Everyone waits,

as mosquitoes die on light strips

and the accordion shudders, gasping.

Where do we go from here?

Mavro means black, Aki, from Crete;

he wears his island like a cross.

III.

                                               

His gas lamp hisses, filament trembles—

the sound of night escaping.

Salmon-tired tourists move up Hadrianou,

they have made the ocean crossing to come to this:

a street of jewelry shops and plaster,

authentic Greeks in authentic shops.

This city is like a shirt worn inside out.

He waits on the unclaimed corner,

every bag of salted nuts sold is a step

toward home.  Nuts, cigarettes, empty canisters of gas—

dark green drip-marks in the paint of his cart.

Green paint, gas lamps, fingerprints of Athens

before the war, before aluminum window frames,

mirrored glass and plastic roll-up shades.

Before orange awnings.  Before

the gods became a circus out of work.

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Standing in a Truck from Soufrière

Standing in a truck from Soufrière to Castries,

Black Jesus pumping brakes, and Danny the Rat

smiling yellow smile from one yellow eye

to the other.  Bananas, bush, sea shacks—

the great unfinished churches of  St.Lucia

telling us, this is as far as Europe got.

The halfway mark.  Church half painted, heart half-full

of England, the Lord’s prayer, E.C. and U.S.

Danny the Rat asks me if I like his island.

‘Mwe fet ici,’ I say, and the wind

pulls back our lips laughing, Danny the Rat

bent over, clutching rail, this white man’s so funny,

and Black Jesus at the wheel

driving faster than accidents over half-hearted roads,

coconuts bleeding in the ditch.

                                                                        


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