by Anastasios Mihalopoulos
Through a maze of half-dead
laurel trees, flashlights dotting
their way to shore, we watched
the moon’s slow march from the sea.
Light meandered along the edges,
reflecting off our skin as we waded in—
water so black it looked like a stone
crystallizing around my chest.
By the fire, I tried to read
the Rorschach of our wet
palm prints on the beach-stone.
I did not have the language for it.
She passed it to me, the glass bottle,
then a briny hand. We sat still.
I watched sea breeze sift through her hair
rearranging the strands like pebbles.
She said, Tell me a story.
I didn’t have one or maybe had
too many. So many times I went
looking for home in mountainside
rubble, in the belly of a caldera, the barrel
of an unending wave, and found nothing.
None worth telling. None with meaning.
I tell her, the only good ones I know
are in a language I cannot speak.
We dab the flesh with paper, ask it
to give up what little water it has left
before we rub in the salt. It takes time,
my grandfather tells me. To find out
if we failed. I think of the letters
he wrote to my grandmother. How he waited
for months to find out if she’d marry
him, only to wait a month more
for the boat to arrive in Calabria.
He tells me he cured prosciutto
while he waited, tailored suits,
and prayed in the church
his father built. In the mountain village,
the air is better. Meat cures faster. Something
about the humidity, about water
and the dinge of mineral-sweetened flesh.
It overtakes and its scent melds
with its maker. For now, we place
it in the fridge, wait six weeks
before hanging it. And when it appears
ready, my grandfather warned,
learn to wait six more months after that.
Eonia i Mnimi
- For my papou
Memory eternal, he says to the space
where his father’s body should be.
His beard is unkempt, hiding ears
that are still waiting for the miroloi,
the dirge of the Mani that never comes—
a sound that failed to cross the sea.
Instead, my father rests his hand on me:
a namesake, for the sake of a name.
I am a half-mined marble quarry
that the Romans abandoned,
a land cursed with so much history
that it fissures into something else.
I wish someone would carve into me,
cut out my tongue and replace it with his,
unearth the root system of a language
long understood by an almond tree.
Then there might be more space for memory.
Memory as a kind of bridge between lands.
In Greece, they do not embalm.
They tie the jaw so it does not go slack,
place a coin in the mouth for Charon,
hang an herb on the door. But we are so far
across the sea he cannot hear us
grieve in the forgotten tongue.
Anastasios Mihalopoulos is a Greek/Italian-American from Boardman, Ohio. He received his MFA in poetry from the Northeast Ohio MFA program and his B.S. in both chemistry and English from Allegheny College. His work has appeared in Foothill Poetry Journal, West Trade Review, The Decadent Review and elsewhere.