On The Plane (2)

August 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

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If it seems that most travelogues on this blog are about places in Greece or Germany, it’s because they *are*. The reasons: work, kid, money; sometimes in that order, sometimes in another. And as some of you know, the fact that I was born in Greece and my parents are still there while I’ve been living in Germany for almost twenty-three years makes both countries in some ways home — which raises the issue of whether I’m allowed to fool you by calling these posts travelogues at all. Surely one expects more exotic variety under such labels.

Although both places are home for me, they are, nevertheless and simultaneously, also foreign and unknown because I travel to and fro between these ports while being the transporting boat myself. So my travelogues are probably more about this aging, changing boat…but I guess you knew that.

On the plane to Athens last Saturday, this boat met its younger self in the body of Hanif Kureishi’s doppelgänger. Too complicated? Not at all — these things can happen on the road. The man who took the aisle seat in my row (next to me and my excited, always bubbling son) looked like the Hanif Kureishi I knew from ’80s press photos: Well-built but shorter than I, with shoulder-length brown hair, those intense brown eyes, thick eyebrows meeting above, a thin faint smile, and showing no teeth or visible neck (sorry, Hanif).

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I couldn’t stop staring at him, and after he took notice, he stared back, although we didn’t exchange a single word during the entire three-hour flight. I think he was Greek but I can’t be sure because I couldn’t clearly hear which language he spoke to the flight attendants. The photo I’m displaying here doesn’t of course show his resemblance to Kureishi; I took a better one but that would infringe on the man’s privacy, and it’s not important anyway which picture takes us somewhere. It’s the somewhere it takes us that one has to think about.

The sight of the younger Kureishi transported me back to the mid-eighties when I watched “My Beautiful Laundrette”; took me back to my younger soul breaking out from its little village, first mentally and then literally, into the wide world. The room to which this forty-something woman returns to spend part of her holidays is the same room in which that teenager spent summer nights imagining the world. When I am here, we’re both here. I tell her the stories from my trips, and I hope she finds some soothing words for the wounds I bring back here with me.

Kureishi left the plane wordless but with a wide smile on his face. I followed him.

Night Trains

August 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Night trains. Like blood in night’s veins.
 
They take my sleep away in their luggages.
My memories, their passengers.
 
Night trains in the distance.
Night trains in the distance.
Night trains, night trains,
night, night, night trains…
 
Trains passing over the iron bridge;
pillars crunch with their teeth at night 
moved by invisible weights
and the sound of their shadows.
 
Far away a faint whistle now,
maybe night’s last breath.

The Bridge

July 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

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 There’s a train bridge around the corner; night trains and the tired travellers carried over the bridge, the sound of their speedy dreams.

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I often take photos of this bridge. It’s an old iron one. It’s become something like a chapel, at the halfway mark of a long pilgrimage.

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In the photos the street underneath seems not a busy one, but it is. My game is waiting for the quiet moment.
 
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The world outside, sometimes opaque…
 
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 … sometimes clear.
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The Dance Group

May 8, 2014 § 2 Comments

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She joined a dance group.

Fridays are now for dancing

women, hand in hand.

 

Sometimes she must stop

to catch her breath; her chest fills

with music, and light.

 

When she was younger

dancing was a mating game;

they moved each other.

 

Now the dance belongs

to her alone; she places

her palm on the breast.

Troy

March 12, 2014 § 2 Comments

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She waited on that bench. There are places that come back to you. She just had to wait.

How often must one tell a story to believe it? How often must one listen to it to forget?

There were names written on that bench.

For whom had these people carved their names? Who was their reader?

Maybe she could choose one of these names. Stand up and walk away named like that. A name has always a story. The story would be hers then.

A man stopped right in front of her and looked at her. She held her breath. Was he her reader?

Some places come back to you. You just have to wait. Your name can bring them back. A stranger can bring back your name.

Come on, darling. Come on, Helen, let’s go home.

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My dear, on that bench

I’ve forgotten all the poems

I’ve written and read.

Letter to a Young Lady

March 7, 2014 § 2 Comments

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8th March marks the International Women’s Day as the Google doodle will keep reminding us for a day or so. Should we celebrate our femininity and feel good and proud of it for a day, but then go back to being the children of the lesser god we’ve been since thousands of years?

I won’t bother answering this question, sisters.

And yet, this doodle did make me wish to join the community of my sex for a while, share experiences and exchange knowledge and strengthen each other for… life.

So here is my poor advice, alas, just five pieces of it. You see, I’ve only come till my forties so far and sequel advice is uncertain, but if circumstances allow it, I’ll keep you posted.

1) Read lots of books and poetry while you’re a teenager. As years go by you will gradually develop quality criteria, so don’t worry and don’t be too ashamed for ‘bad’ choices of your youth. You’ll never be that emotionally open and thirsty for knowledge and experience in your whole life again – well, you will, but your soul will never again be so fertile for those literary seeds. Although I’ve forgotten now more than I wish to admit, these readings have formed me and are the ground I now plant my thoughts and verses.

2) Go out, travel, and have lots of fun and sex as soon as you’re old enough to hopefully know how to protect yourselves, dear sisters, and trust nobody to be better qualified or more willing to protect you. If you’re living under religious, political, or other restrictive conditions, then do not miss those sensualities either. Use your fantasy! We humans are gifted with an incredible mental power, our imagination. Travel and sexual experiences by the book? No problem at all!

3) But fight for your rights too! Use your voice or pen, your name or a pseudonym, the street or the internet, use what you can to make circumstances better for you and others in your society, because no freedom that you wish to have is illegal, or immoral, or an illusion as long as it doesn’t restrict the freedom of others. Period.

4) Don’t dismiss, or accept, the idea of motherhood too soon. I won’t lie to you: it’s not easy to be a mother. You do give up precious personal freedoms, sleep and solitude, and against what you were told we are certainly not well equipped for this job just by being a woman. But there is wisdom about our own humanity that derives from parenthood. And there is love. Both are to find in other places in life too, but I thought I should mention.

5) And. Age. With love. But. Be loved. Too.

What? This all is not advice solely for women?

Oh, sorry. My mistake.

Migration at Night

February 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Moutafis-Lesvos

The time was the night.

A migrant’s fingerprint is a map of movement.

Where words would only make sense if in verse.

Canyons of love to fall into.

The promised land without you.

But all in sight. All palpable. All falling like rain.

You took the boat and went under.

The sea at night is just the night itself.

Your body now, a waning moon.

A sigh on the other side.

Gone.

***

Photo by Giorgos Moutafis who has dedicated the last years to a long-term project on immigration, focused on the European paths – gates of immigration.

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