Fani Papageorgiou’s poems have appeared in magazines and literary journals in the US (The New Republic, The South Carolina Review, Conjunctions et al) where she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, in the UK (Poetry Review, Magma et al) where she was a finalist for the 2009 MsLexia Women’s Poetry Competition and in Australia.
Her first collection of poems When You Said No, Did You Mean Never? will be published by Shearsman in England at the end of 2012.
Your face, a Rubik’s cube of permutations
Hit on the mouth and eyes.
The island’s high precipitous coast
Laced up with dynamite.
Strong and dangerous
The red vein of iron.
Heat is baking out of the pavement
The trunks of the almond trees.
How to begin.
Perched on the rock
Clinging to it like a mad spider
Flowers, motorbikes and asphalt
Making the most of every edge.
Thoughts are chromium express trains.
You can’t find peace in velocity
Because there isn’t any.
How can I get the words out quickly enough.
The sun is hot
Its mass three hundred and thirty thousand times that of the Earth.
Everything reels in white
As if I’ve looked too hard at a bright light.
I climb the 777 Phoenician steps from the Marina to Anacapri.
Boats throb towards the port of Sorrento
The nursery blue of the sea
The blueprint of what I always thought I would be.
Passing through limestone tunnels, misty cliffs and vineyards where
Grapes begin to fill out.
Rocks, steps and cobbled slopes
Covered with thick wet moss.
Outside the villa of Tiberius
On the easternmost crag of the island
Honeysuckle, cacti and lemon trees.
How much pain can you take between breakfast and dinner-time.
Over the bay of Naples
Watching physical things gleam
Tracing them impatiently
With the mark of a giant pencil.
I am telling the story to you
As if to a tree or a flower
They are so reticent, plants
So much easier talking to silent creatures.
In the beach restaurants, I glare at the raw seafood
Giant prawns, clams and octopuses stare back at me.
Couples passing by
People in denim trying to look relaxed.
Life is indeed a long time.
Men wearing soft leather loafers
Fine cotton sweaters draped over their shoulders
Like hospital bed corners.
Suspended on the rock, the church of St. Andrea
Blinded by granular sunlight
Gasoline-engine mopeds, chives and mimosas
Salmon coloured houses, cream entrances and olive green shutters.
It’s getting dark and still the story is far.
I want to hammer a billion rivets on the sun
West of the sky
Glazed aluminium flakes
Steeped in heat and light.
In total cave darkness
You go blind and crazy in two weeks.
Run to the Blue Grotto, first thing in the morning
Remember to wake at the first poisonous, milky light.
If you pee in the sea
You will, one day, find it in the salt.
My mind twisted, the fractured openings of an ancient aqueduct.
If only we could swim in a lake
Like a romp of otters
Without ever worrying about our style.
On the boat from Ischia returning to Capri
The sheer cliffs of Sorrento begin to show
Standing in the middle of the blueness
Diaphanous hands holding them against the rim of the water
Delaying their inevitable fall.
I say I never want to leave this island.
Come and get me, I will scream
I will drink wine aged in oak
I will pick fresh dill and coriander from the cornfields every day.
I will visit the priest in Anacapri every week
Will light two candles in the chapel.
I will go to Marina Grande and play canasta with the coral fishers
Ask about the ship-worms boring into the wood of their dinghies.
You may listen to the baker or the chemist
But it is what the fisherman tells you that you remember.
I will trim the stems of chrysanthemums
But I will not remove their petals.
I will escape like Harry Houdini
From chains, handcuffs and padlocked containers.
My skin will erupt in blotches and pimples
My eyes will smart
But I will not leave this island.
They can set booby traps in the lemon balms
But they will not find me.
They can love me and sing Te Deum for me in church
But they will not save me.
If you look from the bay over the rocks
Pink, egg-yellow, olive green and terracotta
Houses on the edge of the slope, blended into the dusk.
It’s like having water on the knee—
The best things found in the wrong places.
For other contributions by Fani Papageorgiou, please follow the links below:
Poetry in this post: © Fani Papageorgiou
Published with the permission of Fani Papageorgiou