Craig Czury

Craig Czury

Craig Czury is from the Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania and the author of over 20 books of poetry, including Postcards & Ancient Texts (a 40-year collection of napkin poems), Fifteen Stones (prose poems from Italy, Chile, Lithuania, and the spaces between), and Thumb Notes Almanac: Hitchhiking The Marcellus Shale (docu-poems from his observation and interviews while hitchhiking rural roads in the heart of NE PA.’s “fracking” region). A 2020-22 Fulbright Scholar to Chile, Craig was awarded Laureate of the 2011 Ditët e Naimit International Albanian Poetry Festival, and the following year he received the prestiges F. Lammot Belin Scholarship for Artists. Craig toured the Balkans in 2018, giving poetry readings in Albania, Macedonia, and Kosovo through P.E.N. Albania, of which he was awarded Honorary Membership. In 2019, Craig was honored with the Alexander the Great Gold Medal for Letters & Arts through UNESCO/Piraeus on Salimina Island in Greece; and the Dafne Lifetime Achievement Award in Aulla, Italy. He is currently under lockdown in Scranton.

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One Has Only

to live long enough and opa! anything will happen.
                                                                                                    —Czury lost in Greece.

For example: Lost in Mexico, follow the barking dogs. Lost in Trieste, follow the gulls. In Bucharest, speak Spanish. Lost in Russia, pantomime. Montreal, follow the women.

Here, I am lost in Piraeus following the smell of fish. I’m still hungover, I mean jet-lagged, but my feet are amazing. Ah, my beautiful beleaguered feet two years ago, hobbling around with a stick, I wouldn’t have given a hangnail for. Now, watching where I shouldn’t be going with my infamous primal hunter instinct…

Here’s what I wish for, before the navigational stars take hold and proverbial black hole sucks me in: May I always have the wits to get lost and the skewed wherewithal to never find my way back the same way all the way.

The Balconies

are lined with potted trees and behind them the voices of my neighbors talking. Behind them the quiet smell of cumin and garlic. Evening’s setting in. Earlier, I heard music I thought was a neighbor singing with an instrument I wanted to be Aegean conch…even though I know there’s no longer singing. The voices of my neighbors are recordings. The cat on the balcony is mechanical. The plants are projections. The apartment buildings are the shape of cruise ships. This is a port city, and when arriving by ship, pulling into port, you are pulling into an already docked sun glare.

In The City

it’s good to sit outside and be quiet. And watch who you used to be or will become walk by. Or who you want to be or be with. I like sitting outside with the smokers and drink enough Ούζο to dissolve into the smoke. I’ll come back next life as a black mold spore. So what. In this city, the beggars aren’t enough alone, they bring their kids all ripped up and visual. One guy today on the sidewalk posed with his teen son acting mental. I grew up with this. And it’s all I ask from my poetry students. Mandatory. Don’t come back to class until you’ve improvised the street in costume or no. Go to the bus station desperate with no money. Lifetime community service. Knock on the rear door of restaurants for leftovers. Prostrate yourself on the sidewalk with your eyes rolled back into your head. Sniff out the real and get messy. Lifetime community commitment. Come back to class on Monday like you lived.

They Said Oregano And Mint

and I’m in my speedo at the sea. I like this, the men with their thick white hair and their bellies. Women talk to me. Women offer me food. One time when I was lost, a woman offered me olives. When I was hermetic and symbolic this would have meant something else. What I mean is, I look like everyone’s lost brother, even though I’m an old man. In this tome I’m the grove.

My Left Eye’s No Good

up close, but with my right eye I can see you reading this. I have an acute sense of hearing because of this, relying on what others say about what I should have read or have been reading with both eyes. The words on the page are sliding into and out of each other. But, that’s not my problem. My problem is the sea. The ocean with its waves, and me, my Pisces, naturally drawn into it… when you see pants and shirt on the beach… I don’t need to finish these sentences, you already know me. But, you don’t know me without my glasses when the waves are breaking. With my right eye, they’re breaking way out there and I’m cool with wading out to meet them. But, with my left eye, I immediately duck under or shoulder crash into or get knocked over. There’s no fuckin’ way I’m going to survive this with both eyes open. From either side of this wave, I’m a cyclops.

I’m In A Taxi

with Giannis Ritsos. He’s driving, using Kazantzakis GPS. We’re taking the shortcut. Miles from any pavement, scrubby vine grapes pistachio trees. We left the dirt road back at the goats and now straddling a spatter of sun-bleached stones. When we catch a glimpse of the Aegean he says we’ll cut the pie under the water. I don’t know what that means, but I say ok, as the teeth the statue of Poseidon in the olive grove begin to swivel. He’s going to rig it so I get the coin. Because we’re twins, he’ll get the coin too. In Mexico, it’s a plastic baby Jesus inside the cake. What do I know. This is poetry and I have to rely on ambiguity as good as you, but I know you don’t. I’m trying to get to the airport in Athens and this is the shortcut. I have 3 days before my flight and I’m running late.

These poems have previously been published in Modern Literature and American Writers Review.

Poetry in this post: © Craig Czury
Published with the permission of Craig Czury