Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2023  Vol. 21  No.3
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Of Beauty and Suffering: Greece, 1969–1970

On weekend trips, the roads to everywhere advertise
the colonels’ spectacle—the lies of renewal,
the concrete roadside berms stenciled
with the silhouette of a soldier’s bayonet rising
with the phoenix from fire.

Beneath scented shadows of eucalyptus and salt cedar,
I’m with my family at a seaside restaurant.
Behind us, terraces ring the hills, built with infinite
stones, each a story carried heavy and rough
to hold back erosion for the millennia—
for soil and water to gift sunlit grapes spilling over.
Goats and sheep graze above beehives built in the walls.
We squeeze lemon on zucchini and amaranth greens,
the juice glassy with salt and olive oil. Our meal’s end reveals
a blue spiral against the evil eye
at the bottom of our bowls—

Days of the junta tinge clear Hellenic sun with gloom that falls
on a horizon inside while outside the Aegean horizon glimmers
with ferries shrinking toward their destinations or growing large
as they sail from the edge of sky
to our port. Somewhere inside
students lie on makeshift gurneys, doctors secretly treating
their feet and genitals bruised and swollen like bad fruit
in open-air markets where farmers throw misshapen
and rotting produce in bins behind their stands,
hidden from view—while the perfection of Greek
figs, lemons, oranges, and peaches are on display
beneath white tents and the spectacle of suffering
is known only in whispers over mezedes and anise cookies.

We linger in our uncomfortable cane chairs and gaze out
at the conundrum of the daily in Greece—
the spectacle of beauty, the spectacle
of the sea, our birthright—voices in the waves,
the lullaby of calm when evening stands still.

The blue hour darkens. My little brothers fall asleep,
a boy in each of my parents’ arms. We walk slowly
between whitewashed walls to our pension rooms.
I lie awake as they snore. The shutters clatter drums,
wind swells a chorus, and somewhere in the village
drunken song wanders the streets, discord and melody
exquisitely laying stone by stone
such ancient and such new weight,
sharp on my collarbone.  

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