Monday, August 17, 2015

The Weight

Up in the village 
Watching my wife doting 
On her mother sliding quickly 
Downhill into oblivious senility, 
I cannot but recall how 
Many times she’d made 
The long haul from the village 
To that little summer garden 
Two twisting miles straight 
Down to the gorgeous 
Gorge and back, a straw 
Basket in each hand laden 
With freshly-harvested vegetables 
And hauling more often than not, 
The latest of her six 
Children in a sling 
Across her now 
Bent-over back, 
And looking on all 
That had to be 
Done each day as inevitable 
As the sun rising and setting 
And never once asking why 
It had to be that way. 


  1. Oh my, this is lovely, Vassilis. Clear-eyed, reserved, subtle—for some reason brings to mind the best of Reznikoff (maybe just because I've been rereading him). Anyway, so much lived life seen through the slow loss of it all. Beautiful....

  2. I'm glad you like this particular poem, Joseph; I only wish my mother-in-law could share this moment with us but. . . .

  3. Vassilis, terrific, heartbreaking poem, encompassing much truth about the world, and, on a more personal level, making it plain why your return to the homeland was a brave and proper thing, establishing the moral basis that holds up all your work, and making that work stand out so plainly from the useless dribble that now passes for poetry in the loud empty land you escaped just in time.

    Old age is no fun anywhere of course, but there is a dignity in simply hanging on, if you're doing it in the place you know or at least once knew, and where you are known -- and loved -- even if you no longer quite know it.

    I think it's what a wise man once called a "knowable community". Those certainly do not exist here in the land of the busy unliving.

  4. Your comments reflect how closely you are able to look at a poem and unearth from it things that perhaps even the writer was unaware of during its writing—that is indeed a rare talent, my friend and I thank you for it. When I returned to my homeland for good back in the early 70s, I was 28 years old and fresh out of graduate school. Why did I leave the US at an age where most Greeks in Greece—if given the opportunity—would gladly have made the journey westward? I didn’t realize it at the time but I think you come pretty close to the reason why I chose to leave my adopted country at such an early age, i.e. the idea that over here there was and still is what that wise man called a “knowable community”, though I don’t know how long it’s going to last, given the impulse for “Westernization” that has so many Greeks mesmerized into thinking that’s the way to make it in this world. One positive effect of the recent Greek economic crisis is that it has forced a lot of Greeks into re-examining traditional values, solidarity amongst family members and their fellow Greeks being one of the most salient; however, given the lure that this siren from the west has, it's anybody's guess how long this positive effect will last.


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