Kalliopy Paleos is a teacher of French with deep roots in Greece, France, and the US. Her poems and micros have recently been seen in the Tupelo Press 30/30 challenge. Interests include 18th century history, world scriptures and staring at trees while thinking.
Tomorrow the olive trees
will be afire
just as they are now.
They will awaken
with the dry juices
of their leaves
drenched in heat
soaking in light
Their breath ascending prisms.
Tomorrow and again
and then another day,
and then more.
I will not see them as they are.
They shall be dim and blurred as in the wind.
I shall have forgotten them, lying still
in my rowboat on the calm waters.
But they know me, cannot forget me.
Tomorrow the light will saturate my eye
wet me through with the intention of the Lord
but I will not see.
The leaves will continue
each and every leaf
its own life
its own name
each fishlike slip blessed
with face and hand.
Their days shall be plentiful
pulsating, speaking: life . . . life . . . life . . . life,
and yet each time an utterly different word
as one moment rolls into the next moment
and onward to tomorrow, and yet again.
The leaves will have watched the sun
and seen the hooves plucking along.
They will have tracked the birds
kept careful records of each fallen pine needle.
Tomorrow the leaves will have greeted one another
and heard each other’s flickerings.
They will have known the moon and felt its departure.
Tomorrow the trees will froth and flounce,
crisp shadows striking the ground in pools of light
each ray a dart alighting on its axis.
Even now evening comes
swallowing us up in its warm blue arms.
Tomorrow, I say, the chirping and chirruping and zinging
will chime through the trees, answered so courteously
by the leaves and the very flakes of space between them.
Their bark will have withstood the bleating
and the lowing of a man in agony.
But I will not have seen.
I will have forgotten.
I will have grown black, charred as the soot
found in some urn deep under the earth.
Down into me the friendly,
curious faces will peer.
They will wonder
whom I may have been.
I step carefully next to daddy down the mountainside. Lanterns in the glinting pink sunset. Broken-down houses smaller than the chapels. When it’s dark I am scared, but I creep out, go peepee under the stars like any happy dog, the ocean rolling around me. The wind and the breath in my head whirl together, whispering. Just a drop rolls onto my ankle. I’m a little dirty. They forget me.
Women in the morning sun, heads wrapped because they are wives, squatting in a doorway. Enter! they nod. But the hallway walls unfurl like entrails with a message: Your lanterns will be stolen, the house given to someone else, your hand the only key you will receive. Turn it in the lock to fall through the years from corridor to chasm. The wind now crackles in your fragile knees. But you are never late, dear daughter. This island is the patient bridegroom smiling forever, and the radiant hills are merely a flashing wavelet. Attar will be poured into the walls. You are the bride. This perfumed house will stand, here on the flesh of the ground. And the old mountains are winking, for the bride caresses them and her face spills a skullful of tears. The stones rejoice because this touch is the membrane where universes preen themselves like petulant little birds, spinning feathers for our fleeting garments.
We know you are far away, dear daughter. Come when you can.
Halandri Is All Apartment Buildings Now
It used to be open fields. Papou made them take him back to the whitewashed house he’d built stone by stone. Each green leaf in the garden twittering, casting its own rustle, cooling the burning sun. Yiayia, muttering gently over the low marble sink outside, scrubs old sheets. Where is she again? he calls. Tell her to come in. In the small bed he turns his hollow face to the wall. I can’t go if my youngest is here. Don’t you see all the angels? Take her away.
Remember the snails small as olives he cooked over the gas flames? Or us fighting over that one swing? Him, approaching with some rope and an ax. We held our breath, pigtails still bobbing. Not one word, but the wood chopped in two and the rope thrown over and us so scared we didn’t dare touch the two swings all summer long.
Or that last time were all there together. Of all the summer cousins, only me awake. Desperate to pee. But the tiny plastic toilet is past the hall, beyond the doorway of that bed where my mother, his youngest, sighs in her sleep. Everything is silver except the sky which is black, every leaf in the garden a hollow lens. Right through my forehead a message comes, mind-to-mind: My little heart, I’m right here, in the kitchen. Please let me see you. I waver in the threshold. Slate floors still warm. Three wooden divans, around the big table and chairs. On a leather Bible big as a pirate’s chest, the black telephone waits. Next to the icon of John the Baptist and a worn Greek copy of Gone with the Wind, the oil lamp glimmers. Papou, Papou, I can’t . . .
Poetry in this post: © Kalliopy Paleos
Published with the permission of Kalliopy Paleos