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Vicky Tsaconas

1 the songs my mother sang me

are the songs I heard at birth:
my mother’s lament for her still-born child –
the one before me

are the songs I heard in my sleep at ten:
her grief for her mother
___left behind never seen again

are the songs I heard at thirty:
her pain for her husband
unwanted at first loved later

2 song is my memory

my father walked ‘round our home singing:
να’σαν τα vιατα δυο φορες
whistling memories of life before me

chanted hymns in the church choir
Sundays and feast days in his seaside village

serenaded dark-haired women
beneath balconies

3 song history

in Αγια Σοφια – saints smothered by tiles –
and I, a tourist taking photographs
hear a massacre;
the call to prayer beckons

my aunt’s folk song celebrates her daughter’s wedding
we dance to clarinet in olive grove
and feast on rosy wine and meat with thyme

father shows me where refugees (exchanged in treaty)
sang in shanties
played βουζουκι in dark basements

after curfew in my mother’s village
men and women sang cryptic messages
hooded men pointed

cousins play me tapes –
tanks crush carnations
students sing

4. song of migration

το ψωμι της ξενιτειας ειναι πικρο *

father,
on your first and only journey back
your twin sisters greet us in black
the same lament
as the day you left thirty years before

5

μετα πνευματων δικαιων τετελειωμενων,
την ψυχην του δουλου σου, Σωτερ αναπαυσον,
φυλαττων αυτην εις την μακαριαν ζωην,
την παρα σοι φιλανθρωπε **

I know this by heart, father –
it marks
your absence
_______nine days
_________forty days
__________three months
___________nine months
____________twelve months
_____________two years
______________three years
_______________five years
________________ten years

replaces your melody

6

I thank a later-day ρεμπετη
with an ουζο
as he strums the sea
on my journey −

___________songline
__________horizon
________that threads
___________me
__________________to you

* Vasilopoulos, Atraides & Petrides
** troparion chanted as part of the Troparion for the dead

published in unusual work No. 1

Vicky Tsaconas

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