We say Greek. We say church. We say Greek Church. We say Greek School. We say
Sunday School. We say the Father Son and Holy Spirit. We say Byzantine cross,
18 K. We say Baltimore Street. We say Haverhill, Massachusetts. We say Yiayίa
and Pappoύs. We say Greek village. Amygdaliés. Trapezίtsa. We say immigrant.
We say Hellenic. We say Thalassémia. We say Greek dance in Boston. We say
Greek Community Center. Ahépa. We say Greek boys. We say our grandmothers
say, Marry a Greek boy. We say féta, psomί, katsiróla, fenékia, dolmάthes, stóma,
théa, théo. We say our grandmothers say, What, not marrying a Greek boy?
We say probably not. We say ouch. Our faces. We say crocheted potholders.
We say knitted slippers. We say embroidered tablecloths. We say kouzίni, foύrnos,
and mousakάs. We say Greek dogmas. Do not cross your legs in church. We say
matriarchal. Spanikópeta. We say shrill and fast language. We say broken Greek.
I speak broken Greek. We say fluent Greek. We say Greek gypsy, Greek Turk,
Communist Greek, Island Greek, Greek mother, city Greek, village Greek. We
say Greek Easter. We say grapevine. We say sacrifice. We say lamb. We say
roasted lamb head on our best china. We say Greek friendship. We say when
we go to Greece together. We say our grandmothers say, He’d better be a
doctor then. We say prάsa. We say chórta. The young ones because they are tender.
We say mothers who dance on tables. They say teach your daughters right.
We know. They say water the tulips blooming at our graves in the spring in
the Greek section. We sigh, in Greek. Sigh. We say sister 60 years have passed.
Am I not so deserving of this charm. This champagne and the mare
having once thrown me. As if in that throw to the ground, dirt stoned deliberate my
preparation for life, my linguistic power, my full-bodied meals, and always
with measured bird song outside my afternoon window
at the breaking point. My lips red and fleshy.
Winter, Our Greek Way
My mother 89 small
hand clutching mine o –
soft tissue of peaked beauty.
Frankincense, too, calmed me,
her middle finger with church oil
forming the sign of the cross
on our smooth foreheads
one walnut becoming the village tree
The black scarf
you’ve worn since his death
unravels against your forehead
this season tobacco leaves crumble
the small stream dry
an unexpected rise in the throat−
all the vitality of Trapezίtsa
at once fills the plaka
your blue-ringed eyes that’s how
you finally recognize mine.
Catherine Strisik, poet, teacher, editor is Taos, New Mexico’s Poet Laureate 2020-2021; recipient of 2020 Taoseña Award as Woman of Impact based on literary contribution; is author of Insectum Gravitis (Main Street Rag 2019; finalist New Mexico/AZ Book Award in Poetry 2020); The Mistress (3: A Taos Press 2016; awarded New Mexico/AZ Book Award for Poetry 2017); Thousand-Cricket Song (Plain View Press 2010, second printing 2016) and recently completed manuscript And They Saw Me Turn To Hear Them (semi-finalist, Philip Levine Prize in Poetry, 2021). Her poetry is translated into Greek, Persian, and Bulgarian. Strisik is co-founding editor of Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art.
"My desk, most loyal friend thank you. You've been with me on every road I've taken. My scar and my protection." - Marina Tsvetaeva