Failing Sight

by Angela Costi


Inside the smallest of huts, perched on the side of a hill, on an island cast out to sea, she sits with her friend, the cushion. Embroidery tumbles over the cushion like a wayward child. Unlike her intricately needled tablecloths, pillowcases and bedspreads, this one fails to grow. The stitches are patchy in parts. She needs to go over them. Tighten them. The design is not disciplined. She blames the light. Too shy to come bursting through clouds. Sending shadows to play tricks. Forcing her eyes too wide as she sucks and sucks her lazy thread. Her forehead furrows deep. Her head a twanging laouto. In two days, the traveling merchant will come knocking to offer a fair price. The needle offers its sliver of window. She stabs the thread through memory. Again and again and again. What was as easy as breathing is now a dry cough. There is no jug by her side with a slice of lemon and sprig of mint. No plate of dried figs. Engulfed by water she cannot drink. Her head is a throbbing

Window dressed by sea –

seething weave of serpent hiss,

daring fishing boats


She took to wandering the streets of Lalor looking for her lost goat, another ghost of Cyprus, haunting her. There were babies too, lots of them to look for. They could run as soon as they slipped from her womb to waiting hands. Not only did her five babies speed towards the mountains, those of her sisters and cousins were out there, needing her voice to carry them home. Arriving before the two-story brown brick, she falls to her knees before the Monastery of Timios Prodromos. Haloed in a forest of pine, she sings with a six-year-old voice – last night it was snowing, Loulla moo, Maroulla moo, and the birds froze, Tria La La, Tria La La, Tria La La … She shivers, the snow trembling her skin. Her skipping heart feels the yearning for secret love. Her voice takes her to nineteen, looking at man on horse slowing the gallop to gaze into her unblinking eyes. There is the teacher, followed by students, pouring out of the two-story, their worry staining the humid air, surrounding the old woman with the child’s voice, who is staring up at something bigger than their fifty-year-old building

Black shawl warms the bones

searching for unforgetting –

magpie warbles on


Swoop from a cloud mirrored as if it’s a white sail on a sky-bound sea. So many horizons of reaching up, then plummeting down. Inside this shaft of replica air, a woman carries fifty years of her own life, seventy years of her mama’s life, ninety years of her yiayia’s life, but is disabled by their ancestral tongue. She uses keyboard language adopted from an ability to mimic and echo. She is policy making a pattern of mile stones, out puts, and dead lines. She is project churning dos and don’ts. She thinks about traveling to Cyprus as she views it through a screen. There is a bicycle ride she pretends to pedal. The first route finds her cycling through thread-lined streets of small cottages, through uphill paths, finishing at the threshold of a mountain. As she climbs, she hears song unearthed from her ribs. The lyrics of a language she loses each day of being lifted and lowered in glass

Glare of sinking sun

stops view of tired traffic

— a siren is stressed

March 30, 2024

Angela Costi is the author of five poetry collections, nine produced plays / performance text and community textbook, Relocated. Her most recent, An Embroidery of Old Maps and New (Spinifex Press, 2021) was awarded The Book Prize for Poetry in English 2022 by the Greek Australian Cultural League. She received the High Commendation for Contribution to Arts and Culture, Merri-bek Award 2021. She lives in Naarm / Melbourne and is known as Αγγελικη Κωστη among the Cypriot-Greek diaspora, her heritage.