James Zaferopolos is a retired professor of History and administrator at a small college in Cleveland, OH. His family is of Anatolian origin and he was born in northern Greece, in 1946. His father died when he was one year old, and he and his mother came to America in 1955. James Zaferopolos has been writing poetry since he was a boy, but have, to date, made no effort to publish. Now, a man of 72, who has undergone a stem cell transplant, a kidney transplant, and, recently, a stroke feel that now is the time to share his poetry with us.
The ruffled seabirds play at “catch me”
In the aftermath of an enormous storm,
As little afterwinds, down at the sea’s edge, swirl,
Chasing the surf that scrubs the wet white sand,
Each time the surf advances hugely, and retreats,
Leaving, behind, the stranded body of some barely-living
Octopus, struggling with all its tentacles, to find its way
Back to our universal mother, sea, who seems to have rejected him.
Those nervous, spindly birds circle and dart in, with their beaks like speers,
As if they mean to snag and jab the as though to finish it;
They stretch their necks, as if to peck at it, but, thinking better of the thing,
Hysterically retreat, turning to run away, in sudden panic; yet, they come–
Repeatedly–back to that struggling creature on the sand, playing their
Endless game of “O, my God; What can that be?” and
“Catch me, catch me if you can.”
Persistently, the foaming surf runs after them,
And they, in their enormous panic, flee, running on spindly legs,
Back to the dry white sand that waits, up, farther,
On the stretched out, empty beach, if only to recoup–only
To gird their skinny loins; to pluck their courage up; compose themselves–
And gather up the wherewithal to make another sally at the desperate, dying
Octopus, stretching its tentacles in what will have to pass
For grace and dignity while dying thus upon the beach.
Could this be god, Poseidon, in a worldly form, thus,
Hopelessly marooned, feeling his epoch pass? Did he not try to do
The right thing by his own, his son, as all good fathers must, and do?
Did he not suffer rage and pity when his son was blinded,
And his torturer, the clever one, whose plan had devastated Troy,
Escaped. Justly, the sea god grieved and raged.
He threw a boulder after deceiver’s retreating ship, yet that unscrupled man escaped;
For ten long years, the god threw all that he could muster after him, of malice, to avenge
His son, and visit tragedy upon that crafty man for insolence, for disrespect,
To humble him; and yet, Ulysses, though alone, managed, by wit and grit,
To find his way back home; in consequence of which,
The very seas which were for centuries Poseidon’s realm,
Tossed him, with little thought, like rotting sea waste, on this shore, to die,
As die, he might.
It would be centuries before a new and universal God named Jesus Christ
Would be conveyed onto Hellenic shores, by a fanatic by the name of Saul,
Vanquishing paganism as he strode across the Roman lands in Europe with what
He proclaimed to be a universal plan hope in everlasting life, for
All good men of faith.
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All poems on this post: © James Zaferopolos
Published with the permission of James Zaferopolos