The poems to come are for you and for me and are not for mostpeople— it’s no use trying to pretend that mostpeople and ourselves are alike. Most people have less in common with ourselves than the squarerootofminusone. You and I are human beings;most people are snobs. Take the matter of being born. What does being born mean to mostpeople? Catastrophe unmitigated. Socialrevolution. The cultured aristocrat yanked out of his hyperexclusively ultravoluptuous superpalazzo,and dumped into an incredibly vulgar detentioncamp swarming with every conceivable species of undesirable organism. Mostpeople fancy a guaranteed birthproof safetysuit of nondestructible selflessness. If mostpeople were to be born twice they’d improbably call it dying—
Or, an open letter to my husband on the eve of our eighth wedding anniversary
Guy Browning, in Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade, tells us that:
celebrations require the four elements of earth, wind, fire and water: the air is in the balloons, the fire is in the candles, the water is in the champagne and the earth is what they cost.
In our eight years of marriage, there have been numerous celebrations (all encompassing affairs complete with balloon bouquets, face-painting, fabulous cheese plates, sexy cocktails, tuxedos, rhinestones, laughter, and animal carcasses roasted over open flames); we’ve also had our fair share of earthly adventures (Greece, Italy, Cook Islands, Hawaii, Arizona, Mexico) and well, everyone that’s been a guest at our home, knows that our danger bar has a well-stocked assortment of spirit water (each with a different cask strength.)
To write that our life together is an adventure, is not only a cliché but an understatement. We are fully in the dance, dancing - living, loving, traveling, learning, debating - fully immersed in what our good friend Zorba calls “the full catastrophe” And he would agree that our biggest accomplishment is becoming parents to our strong-willed and spirited bright star, EM.
In our eight years together, we’ve lived in three homes, sold tea-cups on e-bay, endured the loss of mama to dementia, and our beloved Aunt Barb to cancer. Through it all, we’ve maintained our sanity and kept our sense of humour.
It’s true, that despite our best efforts, our home will remain beautifully chaotic due to our love of books, technology, gadgets, clothes, shoes, movies, art and antiques.
We’ve created a welcoming space for our friends and family and a warm, animated, comfortable and creative space for our little one.
And through all these changes, we’ve managed to hang onto our orange tabby, Alistair.
Yes, it’s our love, our marriage, our partnership that makes this crazy kaleidoscope possible (over 6,000 digital photos)
It’s impossible to imagine life without you, without us, without our chicken, so I won’t.
While I may not always adequately express my gratitude; you are my one true star, my partner in this dance of life, of love.
We are blessed. And so, on the eve of our wedding anniversary, I say thank you.
Efharisto agape mou, XINE
Our chicken is in Junior Kindergarten and brought home her first report card. She didn’t tell us of course, we found it on the floor, just outside the main bathroom. It’s clear EM had other things on her mind.
It’s not so much a report card, as a report folder. Parents are asked to return the signed report cover to school.
The school’s motto is: do your best through truth and courage. And, for a quick moment, our heart’s raced as we opened the front cover. We stared at the report card and read the comments aloud. Dev raced to call his mom. I’m now online.
- We learned that EM enjoys songs, stories and presentations.
- She can accurately describe how her pupil works, can follow directions in French and is a risk-taker in Mandarin (!)
- She is learning to sing in tune and keep a steady beat.
And on one occasion, informed her teacher Miss V: I can balance on one foot, and I am balanced because I eat all my vegetables. I am good at making the number four and want to get better at riding bikes.
Her favourite senses are smell and taste: I liked smelling and tasting because I liked making applesauce and tasting sweet things, but I don’t like tasting walls.
Our home may be filled with crayons, markers and sparkles; she’s attended art classes at the Victoria Art Gallery since she was 18 mos old. And we have had, on more than one occasion, a lengthy discussion about drawing on walls - but in class we learn that she rarely participates in craft sessions, responding with a polite “no thank you.”
The report card gives us a glimpse into our daughter’s world. This green folder, casually strewn on the floor, marks the beginning of her academic struggles and triumphs.
EM is now fast asleep. I am typing in the dark and reveling in the wonder of it all.
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
I admit it. I’m overly-excited about Christmas this year. It’s our first in our new home. We’ve purchased some wreaths, garlands and topiaries from the Bombay Company. And even though it’s not yet December, we’ve already started decorating. Here’s what the “winter song” wreaths look like:
EM will be turning three in a couple of weeks. We’ve been busy this summer with art, music and dance camp. Below are some snapshots of EM getting ready for her first dance class this weekend. She is my butterfly, the eternal song of my heart.
Oh Sacrament of summer days,
Oh Last Communion in the Haze -
Permit a child to join. ~ Emily Dickinson
Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone.
- Octavio Paz
MY BOUNTY is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep. The more I give to thee
The more I have, for both are infinite.
Our one week vacation has come to an end. The chicken family will be flying home tomorrow evening. We spent our last full day at the beach playing in the water and absorbing as much local colour as possible. Below are some of our favourite moments from the past few days …
Getting ready for my birthday dinner at Dondero’s
A birthday wish.
Sharing mommy’s birthday cake.
Hurry up mommy.
So much to see and do.
Last day at the beach.
Daddy crocodile playing with EM.
Quiet time with EM and Xine.
There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.
EM’s vocabulary and understanding of the world around her is growing by leaps and bounds. My resolve and desire to integrate Greek culture, customs and language into our lives also grows stronger with each passing day. My most recent aquisition to assist me with these loftly goals - flashcards from Greekbaby.com
We’re sleep training EM. At 25 months old, it’s time.
Tired of the protracted routine that is considered normal for bedtime, our household has decided that EM must learn to put herself to sleep. After 10 days of tears and cries for “help”, EM is settling in nicely to her 4-step routine:
1. brush teeth
2. pick out 2 to 3 books to read
3. kiss mommy & daddy good-night and,
4. say good-night & sweet dreams to the (real) fish
Yes, we’ve bribed our 25-month old with an aquarium. Not just any aquarium, but a leopard painted pink and gold one that’s similar to the one pictured below (minus the goofy antennas):
While EM is dreaming of electric fish, we’re all catching up on our own much needed zzzz’s.
EM an I spent this morning at Beacon Hill park. After walking around the petting zoo and observing the tiny pot-bellied pigs, we made our way to the children’s playground. Below are my favourite photos of our adventure. The verdict: day four of my scheduled break was a resounding success!
Went for a two-hour walk with our chicken this afternoon. A very slow, silly, and animated, meandering walk. We were explorers in our own neighbourhood. We saw the ducks at the nearby park; discovered an army of ants marching single-file down the side-walk; dandelions, chestnuts, acorns and a bright red maple leaf (a sure harbinger of fall). By far, our favourite discovery was a ladybug, resting on a twig.
And how do I feel? Playful, fortunate, energized, liberated, blessed and truly thankful.
For today’s entry, I bring you more of Magda’s story from my work in progress. Go here to read part one. Climb aboard Rhian’s Poetry Train.
At home, I told myself that I was not lonely, though surely the oldest living virgin in Western Canada. But now, dancing with Georgios, dancing in front of these men, their admiration obvious, I could see myself more clearly than before. Running my fingers through my shoulder length black hair, I pretended I was Melina Mercouri arching my back, pushing my breasts forward, my full hips effortlessly following the syncopated drumming. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a size six.
A strange sort of ecstasy began to mount in me, something I had never felt before. Excitement at first, it became a wild exuberance. I looked up and saw that the men were transfixed a silence settling upon them. I no longer felt like I would never marry, that a virginal future moved toward me, immovable.
Give me a cigarette.
Give me fire.
Let me feast on your caresses.
For as daybreak approaches
My companions were getting drunk. They were pushing each other out of the way to sit next to me. Georgios was quieter than the others looking at me with a shy expression. He offered me his hand. I accepted his unspoken invitation leaving the bacchanal behind.
In silence walked up to the small peak of this rocky town. There were large olive trees there, with branches that came down almost to the ground. We passed a few other couples embracing, hidden under the trees. We walked further, an eagerness between us.
I should not be here.
I wanted to be here.
I was here.
Finally, there was a place for us, under the watchful eyes of Saints. He sat down; a stones throw away from a long abandoned chapel, its doors firmly clamped by a rusted padlock. He gestured for me to join him. He lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. I found the courage to ask him something.
Georgios, do you like living here?
Yes, In Greece.
He looked over at me and raised his shoulders, a non-shrug. Then looked above me. His gaze settled on the Chapel. In his broken English he told me this small church was dedicated to the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It was centuries old. The icons had been removed in order to protect them from the invading infidels across the water. Some enterprising islanders decided that selling them to private art collectors on the black market was better than leaving them to be destroyed. His great grandfather managed to salvage a few and now they are family heirlooms.
You like icons?
Yes, I grew up with them.
What you paint?
I send you one.
Somehow, because he had to struggle so hard with his words, I trusted him. No talk anymore, he whispered, taking my hand and putting his finger to my lips.
I felt anxious to be doing this so close to the house of God. I was looking over his head into the trees and he was unbuttoning my blouse. He stood up, pulled me against him and unfastened my bra. He took my hand and pressed it against him.
My pink whispering
is a smear -
a delicate underwater symphony
black and white
smooth as honey.
True beauty is sad,
red still -
You always eat
a thousand essential
screams a day.
Often, poems lie.
We learn the names of things
through our hands
and even the dead
learn to speak.
Often, truths dangle.
on a clothesline,
water for a sparrow’s thirst.
For today’s entry I bring you a piece written last April in preparation for our trip to Greece. Climb aboard Rhian’s Poetry Train.
Dreaming of Ellas
Dev came home with our new suitcase this afternoon. It is a colour eponymous with Greece: a vibrant, electric blue.
It is the expanse of sea and sky.
It is the painted wooden door of a white-washed home.
It is the hull of a well-weathered fisherman’s boat.
It is the dome of a small secluded chapel.
It is a bead worn close to body to ward off the evil eye.
This blue suitcase is our talisman, a keeper of family secrets and dreams.
Lesson One – Epistles to Friends and Relatives
When my father first arrives in Montreal from Athens at the age of twenty-six, he is immediately sent by the Department of Immigration to learn English in the evenings in the basement of a small community church that also served as a Bingo Hall. Under harsh florescent lights and seated on chairs that while impressive to look at are uncomfortable to sit in, he is one of many immigrants struggling to learn the rules of this strange tongue. Though the air smelled of stale tobacco, poutine and perfume, he is still able to reference his familiar world.
During his twelve-hour workday, my father washes dishes and scrubs toilets at a local diner near Montreal’s General Hospital. On Thursday evenings with Kyrios Smith in the church basement on Chemin McDougal, he learns that in order to succeed in Canadian Society “Men must respect their place in the community in which they live by promptly and effectively replying to social and business correspondence.”
While the instructor, Kyrios Smith, thin-lipped and flat-footed, makes his pronouncements on the differences between spoken and written English my father stares at the black and white portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and dreams of unwashed fishermen with their khaki pants rolled up to their knees, pulling in their nets; fish leaping out, red-yellow A’s, silver-blue D’s and orange-green G’s.
Tsiph, tsiph, tsiph – the drops of rain gradually grow louder, calling my father back to the task at hand, learning how to compose an engaging and proper epistle to friends or relatives. Though it is published in New York, his teal blue textbook, Ellino-Angliki Epistolographia, has a British Flag glued on the cover.
The introductory paragraph to the lesson produces the following warning: “Should you neglect your social correspondence, you will soon find yourself alone, without support, without love and without friends.”
“Remember to include interesting tidbits of information in your letters to your loved ones. Share your life with them. Ask them about theirs. There is no room for indifference.”
My father wants to write about his last night in Athens, his evening out at the bouzoukia with his friends, the chestnut-hued stunning girl, sitting cross-legged with shapely legs, her alluring appearance of innocence, the quivering of his stomach, matching the shaking of something else between his legs, the broken plates and trampled flowers, the anticipation of his journey to this new land, the bruising loneliness of Montreal Streets, the love he feels for the sick and the dead, the horrid case of diarrhea he was forced to clean up one afternoon, the insatiable hunger for his mother’s meatballs and fried potatoes, the perfect stillness of a dimly-lit church — beeswax and incense mingled with lemon-blossoms in the spring, and the undeniable truth his hands smelled of cauliflower and bleach.
Continue reading "Introducing Magda's Father . . ." »
My manuscript is 5 years old.
I have been living with the story and its characters for a long time.
Magda, the wayward artist turned iconographer, came to me in a dream, in the fall of 2001. “Find my voice,” she whispered. “Share my journey,” she pleaded.
The first incarnation/iteration, the “Language of Dreams”, tumbled onto paper over a 72 hour period. Fifty-five pages of what, I realize now, was an extended outline. It took an entire year for the chapters to start taking shape. In that one year, while attending the Writer’s Studio, I played with form and structure. Chapters became extended poems and poems became journal entries.
While Magda learned how to paint icons, I delved into the lives of early Christian saints:
There was Mary of Egypt, the redeemed harlot, who spent her life as a hermit in the desert, wearing only a camel-hair tunic and subsisting on what she could find in the wilderness.
There was Barbara, the martyr for Christ, whose father in a fit of anger, in a final act of degradation and violence, beheaded her.
There was the young beauty Catherine of Alexandria who stood up to a Roman Emperor, converted his wife to Christianity and died being tortured on a spiked wheel.
While Magda recovered from her lover (Stephen’s) betrayal, I travelled to Greece with my mother and began dismantling my parents’ dreams.
My father’s death, from cancer, forever altered our trajectory.
Saints, I learned, can smoke cigarettes on their road to redemption. And the first full draft of my novel took shape.
“Saints and Cigarettes” remained hidden, forgotten in a drawer, until my mother’s death from Alzheimer’s last November.
Yes, my manuscript is 5 (almost 6) years old.
How do I revise, edit and move the story toward its completion?
• By being a ruthless editor and removing any unnecessary words.
• By rediscovering the main cast of characters and not taking them (or myself) too seriously.
• By letting go of control.
• By trusting the process.
• By committing to the novel.
• By finding a home for my (other) writing through chicken-scratch.
* A response for Thomma-Lyn.
I spend this first evening in Greece
by my Father’s sea.
I watch stars scratch
at the darkness.
I pick up a small glass stone,
and gaze at the onioned moon.
Entangled with words,
and recollections - I learn,
On this night,
to not be greedy -
To leave some
Written: August 2001.
Hop on board Rhian’s Poetry Train Monday.
When I was a little girl my father took on the task of improving my Greek. It didn’t matter that my mother had enrolled me in Greek school making sure I attended these evening classes religiously. “Christina” he would tell me, “it’s all well and good to learn about the past but what good will it do you if your hand-writing is sloppy. No one pays attention to what a chicken scratches. You want to make a difference in this world, learn to write beautifully.”
This is my first entry for Rhian’s Poetry Monday.
“I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me — the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe is the reason for every work of art.”
Anais Nin, THE MYSTIC OF SEX, Capra Press, 1995
Discovered two quotes that brought into focus, what I have been struggling with since Mama’s passing last November. How is it that now that Mama is gone that I feel disconnected from being Greek? My DNA remains the same but the intangible connection to my extended family - especially family that lives overseas or across Canada - has weakened. With Mama gone, the phone has stopped ringing and the only Greek I hear is at Church on Sunday or on the CD’s we brought home with us from our trip last May.
Something to think about as I revise the chapters that deal with Magda’s physical journey to Greece.
I was family. But I was more than that. I was family from across the ocean. I was stranger family. I was unGreek family. In me, to them, lay mysteries covered over by my silence. I was as mysterious as an idiot or as a child before he can speak.
- Daphne Atlas, Greece by Prejudice
The only Greece I could believe in was the Greece I knew. Greece was downstairs in our house in Rye, as I sat by the banister on the second floor, watching the people in our living room, listening to their babel of words and laughter. Greece was downstairs on a Sunday night, while upstairs in America, I answered questions in my workbook before going to bed.
- Elias Kulukundis, The Feasts of Memory: A Journey to a Greek Island
As with many writers of the diaspora, my understanding of Greece comes from excavating and recreating my family’s past.
At 21, I travelled alone through Greece and Turkey. Paying the student rate of 5,000 drachmas for a 24-hour bus ride north through Greece to Turkey, I spent one week in Istanbul taking in everything from the spice market to hagia Sofia.
For a city that gave birth the soulful Rebetika songs I’d grown up with, I wanted to hear the angular rhythms and melodies of the bahglama and clarinet in coffeehouses. I discovered a sprawling industrial city, veiled in a gray fog, where everyone drank chai the color of rabbit’s blood. At every street corner,
merchants offered to sell me carpets, leather jackets, gold and souvenirs made in China.
After one week I wanted something more familiar, a place uninterrupted by Muezzin’s prayers: a welcoming beach, a Greek salad and fresh horiatiko bread. I took another bus from Istanbul south to Izmir, down to the harbor at Bodrum and boarded the first ferry to Kos.
At the port, I was engulfed by a sea of short, round, middle-aged women dressed in black who wanted me to room with them. After negotiating a reasonable rate with Kyra Maria, I followed her through narrow streets to a white washed home. My room had little adornment and housed a simple cot, a wicker chair, and a small table. The room’s only light source: a large window.
At eye-level, this window looked into her courtyard paved with cobblestones, their borders outlined with white paint. Immense clay pots housed immaculately shaped basil and pepper plants. The scent of Kyra Maria’s night-flowering jasmine found its way into my room each night like incense wafting from a priest’s censor.
I quickly developed a routine, following a rhythm as cyclical as the tide. The island’s ubiquitous roosters would wake me at dawn. I’d go for a swim before the regular tourists with all their trappings and gadgets arrived. On my walk back from the beach, I’d sit and chat with the smiling young waiter, Georgios, at the nearby taverna. My breakfast was always the same, a big bowl of yogurt with honey and walnuts followed by watermelon and Greek coffee. Afterwards, I’d drag my chair to the edge of the restaurant to sketch the beach activity for hours on end.
Georgios was handsome in the way many Greek men are handsome. His brown eyes were filled with an incredible sadness and his slightly stooped shoulders made him look like he carried the weight of centuries on his back. Like every Greek man I’ve met, with the exception of my father and grandfather, Georgios smoked.
Every once in a while, I’d rip a couple of pages out of my sketchbook, stuff them in an envelope and mail these letters of love home to my worried parents.
In the stillness before nightfall, fly-blacked priests with long beards and longer robes would follow the labyrinthine alleys through olive groves to homes of Saints. In the distance, donkeys brayed agitated by the wistful church bells calling, calling the women in black for evening vespers.
On one such evening after the sun had set I found myself at Georgios’ taverna — a welcome guest at an impromptu gathering. There were lights strung up in the trees, the smell of lamb piercing the warm night air and the unmistakable clinking of glasses. I was drawn to the laughter, the familiar sounds. Finally, Greek music. The same music my parents played throughout my childhood on scratched and worn out vinyl 45’s. I was trying to pour down a glass of coke with brandy. Georgios with his tousled hair, cigarette dangling from his lips was smiling at me.
Amerikanaki no drink good.
He shrugged, picked up my glass, made a blurred toast to me and finished my drink. Then in a scene directly out of Zorba the Greek he turned to me and said: Do you dance?
I found myself barefoot up on a table, Georgios by my side, dancing. Tsiftendeli. I looked out into the admiring sea of men. A sharp fleeting moment of fear. I was the only female. The women were all at church. Praying. Only me, the Amerikanaki, Magda. Belly Dancing. The men in the crowd were encouraging me and we were all singing:
Anapse to Tsigaro
Thos mou fotia
Exo megalo kefi mes ti kardia.
He pulled me against him. I felt capable of anything. I wanted to take off my clothes and chase him through the crowds up to the small peak of this rocky town.
This meme has been making the rounds on several of the websites I visited, so I decided to play along. We’ve all used Google to see what our alter egos are up too.
For this version, you plug in your name in the search bar along with “needs” and then post your results.
Below are some of my favourites:
• Christine needs to stop looking at clothes.
• Christine needs a personal assistant.
• Christine needs to go back and read some of her earlier books, and remember what made them great.
• Christine needs a couple of quiet days just resting.
• Surrounded by men, Christine needs some sort of female support system.
• Christine needs her own reality show.
Moved by the obituary listed in today’s National Post, I decided to post their love story here. Having witnessed the mental decline of my beloved Mama during these last few years, this obituary brought up so many unresolved emotions.
May the memories of Bert, Marg and Mama be eternal.
BERTRAM GEORGE DAY 1918 - 2007
After the death of his beloved wife of 66 years, Marguerite, from pneumonia on February 18, 2007, Bert lost his own life 2 weeks later on March 3, 2007 in a catastrophic electrical fire which destroyed their home. Because of his short term memory loss, Bert could not remember that his beloved Marg had died only days before, and he was therefore constantly asking after her, only to be told repeatedly - and each time as if for the first time - that she had just died.
At 88, Bert was still very security minded, making sure the doors were locked, the lights off, the alarms on, and since he was on the ground floor and had built the house with several means of emergency egress, he could easily have escaped the fire. But, when the alarms went off, he woke to find that Marg was not in bed with him and, of course, he would not leave the house without her. Consequently he lost his own life in a family tragedy of Shakespearean proportions while looking to rescue her.
His wonderful Tibetan caregiver, Sonam Tso, risked her own life trying to save him but was beaten back by heat, smoke and flames. She then ran down the laneway to the neighbours in her pyjamas, cutting her bare feet on the ice, to make the 911 call at approximately 4:15 a.m. The Milton Fire Department were actually in action at the fire only 7 minutes later. The first firefighters on the scene found the house engulfed, but also risked their lives and breached protocol by fog-streaming their way into Bert’s bedroom - but he had gone looking for his Marg and was not there.
You can read the obituary in its entirety here.
The National Post’s columnist, Anne Marie Owens also wrote a story about Bert and Marg’s life:
Widower dies in fire searching for lost wife
Alzheimer’s disease; Husband installed safety devices to protect her
MILTON, Ont. - When his wife of more than six decades began showing the signs of memory loss and forgetfulness that would eventually become Alzheimer’s disease, Bert Day outfitted their home with all the safety measures required to help save her from herself.
He installed 16 smoke detectors, an intercom system and multiple fire extinguishers; he removed the matches, oil lamps and space heaters from the sprawling, one-of-a-kind home the pair had built on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment and lived in for 40 years.
But none of that helped Mr. Day when the house caught fire last month.
Even though his wife, Marguerite, had died from pneumonia two weeks earlier, Mr. Day, unable to take it in, kept forgetting that she was gone.
He kept asking after her, in the habit of a lifetime together, forever saying, “Where’s Marguerite?” and had to be told again and again — reacting each time as profoundly as the first time — that his much-loved wife was gone.
And so when a fire began in the middle of the night, and the alarms went off, he began wandering the hallways, likely searching for Marguerite, instead of making his escape from any of the doors located nearby.
Bert Day, 88, died in the electrical fire that destroyed his house in Milton, Ont., in what his son Rick Day describes as “a romantic tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.”
That such a final act of romance should be underpinned by Alzheimer’s and dementia has some resonance.
Go here for the complete details.
To find out more about Alzheimer’s Disease.
have no voice.
They are unclaimed packages.
we do not want
I am wearing a very short and very frothy bubble-gum pink dress with matching panties. I am watching my reflection on our old black and white television set as I twirl, twirl, twirl.
My mother has been cooking all day. Something important is going on as I am not allowed to run around outside. I am not to touch all the pretty things on our dining room table.
I am bored. Tired. Cranky.
My father comes to the rescue. He brings out a shiny new red car. Scared, I cling to my father’s legs and cry. I want to play horsey. My father places me in the pedal car. I can pedal, fast. All over the place.
When my grandfather finally arrives and we are introduced, he kisses me on the forehead.
Then I am up, up, up in the air as his lifts me way above his head. We are laughing. I feel so happy, so light; I can almost touch the ceiling.
Papou died when I turned three, soon after our first meeting.
My father has been gone for almost six and a half years. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. One of the things I frequently think about are his hands.
How big they were compared to mine.
How rough they were compared to mine.
How strong they were compared to mine.
My father could do anything with his hands: build a boat, plant a garden, tile a floor, dig a ditch, paint a house and even knead bread. As a young child, I remember wanting to hold my father’s hand all the time.
And now, I watch our little chicken reach for my husband’s hand. “Let’s go,” she says pulling at his fingers. “One, twooo, one, twooo,” she says counting each of his fingers on his left hand.
And, I smile.
I dream silent songs
and weep lost years
for seas that did not bloom
O child of mine
soundless you still sleep
liquid, in my heart
the day of your passing
O child of mine
for artificial fire
Continue reading "3 Poems" »
I have inherited the mixed media collage I created for my parents some 12 years ago.
It is titled “The Spirit of God.” It is not an icon in the traditional sense, although, in the top right hand corner of the collage, I have painted a stylized sun, and in its center placed an icon of Christ.View image It is the first image one sees upon entering a Greek Church. “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” (John 1:5)
It is this image and these words, which are deeply embedded on the Greek psyche. I created it in homage to my parent’s bond, their strong Christian beliefs and their effortless ability to blend both their Greek and Canadian identities.
The entire icon is framed in deep forest green to offset the delicately painted purple maple leaves that dominate the left-hand corner of the painting. In the foreground, I have reproduced images of the two of them, taken in the late 1950’s, when they first came to Vancouver from Montreal. They are both younger than I am now.
My father is handsome, proud, in the way many Greek men are handsome. He is wearing a cream wool blazer, an off-white dress shirt and a narrow brown tie. His gold tie clip has a small maple leaf imprinted on it. My mother is wearing a Jackie O. type dress - white satin with great peonies and poppies scattered throughout. The single strand of pearls around her neck gives her an aristocratic look. Her lustrous black hair, high cheekbones and almond-shaped brown eyes create an exotic look. It is easy to see why my father’s family thought she was not fully Greek.
Behind them I have arranged passages from an old religious text called “Marriage and the Christian Home.” It is a book my parents purchased for me when I first began dating. The beauty a husband should seek in his wife is beauty of soul the book intones.
• Born February 10, 1925 - Eva would have turned 82.
• Born February 11, 1929 - Nick would have turned 78.
My mother’s voice
is a scissor
in my eye.
Words spill out of her mouth
We have only each other, now
have different names.
I wrote this poem in August 2001 upon arriving at my father’s house in Athens. Our first two weeks were spent cleaning, reordering and giving away most of the things he had accumulated over the years. It was then that I realized that with my father’s death, many of my mother’s dreams died as well. It was during those intense six weeks in Greece, that my mother and I began to heal and develop a common language.
“Because for writers, the act of writing is an end in itself. Writers must write continually to write well.”
Today marks the birthday of one of my most admired American poets, Gertrude Stein (1874 -1946). I discovered Stein in my second year of university. I loved her writing, use of language and sense of humour. Tender Buttons (1914) remains one of my favourite books of prose:
Dining is west.
It is a winning cake.
I dream of Angels.
They arrive stark-naked; their wings folded up against their ribs and they walk like birds standing up, but with great ease, as if they’re equally familiar with walking and flying; they don’t seem at all disconcerted – they watch out not to step in muddy places; they window-shop outside trendy boutiques and consider buying blue jeans; they peer in dimly lit kafenia, savour the aroma of fresh-ground coffee. They don’t stay long. The “krak, krak, krak” of the tavli boards, the non-stop chatter and the persistent cloud of cigarette smoke grates on them.
It seems my Angels are visible only to some people. Children call out in joyful enchantment: Two Angels, Two Angels. Young couples zipping by on motorcycles can see them perfectly. In my father’s neighbourhood, the grocer, the baker, the butcher, the woman, Angeliki, who wanders the streets selling lottery tickets and lives in upstairs apartment, can’t see them.
Continue reading "August 2001 - Athens" »