Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thoughtful Gifts of the Kallikantzaroi

Ho, ho, ho, and a belated 
Merry Christmas to you all! 

In the while where you’ve been fitfully 
Tossing and turning before finally falling 

Asleep like a log, the mischievous dark 
Little men have been hard at work, 

Sawing the great twisted trunk 
Of the world tree and constructing 

Myriad manageable boxes where 
All of us, once we wake, will fit 

Perfectly without losing a second’s sleep. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Almost Curtains: Young Tragedienne Trapped in Well

Hearing the frantic goatherd’s cry and before 
We ran to help him raise her and she gamboled off 
To dry in idyllic sun-drenched meadow, I tell you 
Down there she’d been a drowning panicky 
Blatting bobbing waterlogged pandemonium, 
Dog-paddling round stony ring of death accompanied 
By wide-eyed chorus of cacophonous frogs stoically croaking. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Heavenly Strains of Pizzicati

Sheets of music aside, Maestro, 
I’ve heard this made-up word  

Arcosancta graces no worldly dictionary, 
But this should not keep us from bowing. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Unfrocked in the Basilica

The archpriest has a habit 
He tries to keep 

Under wraps, a habit 
He knows is sin— 

To keep the dark side in, 
Wrong-side-out’s the place 

To begin. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Intermezzo: Two Manges in Jail

Βρε μάγκες δυο στη φυλακή
τα 'βαλαν με tον διαυθυντή,
Τον αέρα να του πάρουν
Κι οτι θέλουν για να κάνουν.

Βάρα, μάγκα, το μπουζούκι
κι ασε το μαστουρουλούκι,
Θέλω η πενιά να κλαίει
και τα ντέρτια μου να λέει.

Κι απ' τα σίδερα σαν βγω,
μάγκα, Θα σου ξηγηθώ
Θε να ψήσω τη μικρούλα
να σ' τα κουβαλάει ούλα.

Θα σου στείλω και μαυρακι
μέσ' απ' το Καραϊσκάκη.
Πρόσεξε μη την τσιμπήσουν
και στη Σήμανση την κλείσουν.

Θα σου στείλω στ' όνομά σου
τέλια για τον μπαγλαμά σου.
Μη μιλάς και κάνε μόκο,
Θα σου ξηγηΘώ μπαγιόκο.

(Vazambams unchained translation)

Two manges in prison
Had a run-in with the warden,
To call his bluff and do
Whatever they wanted to.

Strum the bouzouki, manga,
And lay off getting stoned,
I want the strumming to cry
And tell me of my woes.

And when I’m outta this joint,
Manga, I'll do right by you,
I'll get that little chick
To haul everything to you.

I’ll send you black hash, too
All the way from Kara
Watch out they don't pinch her
And throw her in the slammer.

I'll send you baglama* strings
Special delivery just for you,
Play it cool, mum’s the word,
I'll stuff your craw with moola, too.

[Music and lyrics by Kostas Tzovenos, first recorded in 1934 by Rita Abatzi, video clip recorded in Filia, Messinias, January 2013. Greek-speaking denizens of rembetika will most certainly notice the mangling of stanzas 3, 4 and 5 into one, a truncation brought on by the debilitating effects on the brain of that virulent virus known as Bacchus debauchus.]

NB: “Mangas” is one of those Greek words that defy translation. Gail Holst in her ground-breaking English introduction to rembetika music, Road to Rembetika (Denise Harvey & Company, Limni-Athens, 1975), takes this now somewhat outdated stab as to what it might come close to being in English:

The manges (singular mangas—the pronunciation of the ‘g’ is hard in both plural and singular) were men who formed a sub-culture on the fringe of society. Many of them were actually in the underworld. The nearest equivalents in English are probably ‘spivs’, ‘wide-boys’ or ‘hep-cats’.

Given the present time frame and keeping in mind Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski  (and without Holst’s reference to the underworld), I would most certainly prefer ‘dude’, man.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Snippet of Dialogue from By the Road to the Contagious Hospital


You say no one to drive the car but 
What the hell, Bill, what’s that 
Red white and blue still upright 
Upholstered bucket seat 
On shoulder of congested arterial 
Doing there? 


Sunday, February 17, 2013










Thursday, February 14, 2013

Pathetic Fallacies


So sad and reverent the soft swishing helpless 
Tall grasses, heads bowed before the relentless 
Whims of the almighty indifferent winds— 

You can say that again. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


It would be good to hear 
The news that keeps us 

Enthralled, riveted here— 
It would be good to hear 

The news that friends 
Once old and dear, 

Are waiting for that message 
So they might reappear, 

It would be good to hear 
The nightingale’s approach 

Before we disappear. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Doves on the Wing

Charcoal grey storm clouds gather 
Winged scraps of white paper scatter 

Figures of speech past 
World on verge 

Of being blown away. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Old Jim Crow

Now, what say you and me 
Just talk, boy—you see, 

It ain’t nothin’ but a heavy 
Line of black 

Iron forged into a wedge, 
Fitted with a crow 

Like claw at one end 
That’s proved 

Well worth its mettle, down 
Right useful for prying 

And pulling out nails, too. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Halcyon Days of Yore, 2010 BC*


Hey, Alaric— 

It’s deep winter down here 
In Hellas and we’re in 
A run of magic 
Weather a wee bit of what I wager 
Your frigid, hard up barbarians would love 
To bask in while they rape and plunder. 


Our assets? 

Hear those panpipes? Another of our classic 
Clear spring days, flocks of immaculate sheep 
And she-goats bleating in the meadows 
And behind the susurrating hedges 
A tangible—would you believe it—cornucopia 
Of bestial fornicating fauns! 

*Before the Crisis 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Exile and the Kingdom

In hiding, you think 
The world is no longer with you, 

But here again you are mistaken— 
It’s gone where there is no more I. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Nipped in the Bud

Hang it all, I say— 
One sure-fire way to cure 
That monstrous poetic 

Longing for posterity is to choke 
The issue in its infancy, leaving 
One more stubborn stillborn poet 

Decomposing in the air! 

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