On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year
by George Kalogeris
It’s Independence Day. Our Greek-school teacher,
Mr. Názariótis (we call him “Mr. Nazi”
Behind his back), points at the faded portrait
Above the map, and then at Missolonghi,
And tells us how O Býronos caught a fever,
And how the doctors had tried to save “The Poet.”
Missolonghi, he says, is like Lynn Marsh,
Except with more mosquitoes. Leeches are worms
To suck the blood from the sick man’s sweating back,
And drain the poison. Then he reads us some poems.
Forty years on, I hear Byron’s ravishing English
Filtered through an accent so thick its nicotine rasp
Still rustles like sallow reeds in a shallow culvert.
Lord Byron’s embroidered vest was ink-blotter velvet.
His tasseled fez was cocked at a jaunty angle.
His porcelain jaw as smooth as a jutting sink.
O warm, familiar blood the shades must drink
To speak in Hades; O immigrant voice that mangled
Magnificent verses, allowing me to hear them
In Greek broken English; O Poetry conjuring Freedom,
And the droning tenses of conjugated verbs;
O fever that feeds on the bold with a vampire’s thirst,
And the jaundiced, unslakeable wit of the satirist;
O little church school between the sea and the suburbs!
Copyright © 2019 by George Kalogeris.