Joanna Eleftheriou

Joanna Eleftheriou

Joanna Eleftheriou is Assistant Professor of Literature at the University of Houston – Clear Lake, and also teaches at the Writing Workshops in Greece. Her scholarship, essays, fiction, poems, and translations regularly appear in literary journals including The Crab Orchard Review, Arts and Letters, and The Common. She frequently travels to Greece and Cyprus to conduct research for her current book manuscript, This Way Back: Essays from Cyprus.

Unkempt Jasmine

This house we told you not to buy
in the country where we said you would not live,
at least not very long, this underhanded house,
this gift we tried to block, you’ve left it
to us now and we will have to come back
and come back and come back
because you got the house here, and you left
us this garden with its fuchsia bougainvilleas,
self-tending, needing just a little water and
geraniums, not pretty but easy to tend,
some leafy fruitless trees, peach, white, yellow and red
roses, bushy pink rose laurel, sun-faced daisies, fir hedges
and that jasmine, that grand wreath of green
rising on its two-strand twist of vine
out of cracked ancient-style pottery
with white flowers scented like your dreams
of a united Cyprus, of peace
in a family agreed on where to live—
you left the jasmine to your children
and it is sending vines up to the sun.
A naked pergola stands ready but no one’s tied
the vines down so they bob,
manic as our grieving, the jasmine vine a girl
with her hair come undone. She needs the dead stuff
cut away, crunchy dead leaves and swinging excess
strands unbecoming and wanting to be trimmed.
If you came back you wouldn’t let me live
down this insult, this neglect.
Your other children have gone back to their American
lives. I am alone here. I stand on your plastic chair,
the one graying with age, the one
where you sat out your illness
gazing at other people’s fields.
I stand on that chair and raise my shears
up to the jasmine waving its vines—
where do I cut?
Speak louder, dad, tell me
where to cut
where to tie
these wild vines
tell me which is the green to take down

First published in Illuminations

Poetry in this post: © Joanna Eleftheriou
Published with the permission of Joanna Eleftheriou