Alexander visits Corinth

April 30, 2017 § Leave a comment

Ugliness is heartbreaking. To see ugliness and not misjudge yourself for beauty or your taste for exquisite is true seeing. To like, dislike but also understand is a matter of eternity.

Corinth is full of ugly statues. Also the cacophony of the modern architecture. I had to laugh. I had to cry.

Plutarch’s story:

“Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to Alexander with their congratulations, and he expected that Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise. But since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many people coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, “Yes,” said Diogenes, “stand a little out of my sun”. It is said that Alexander was so struck by this, and admired so much the haughtiness and grandeur of the man who had nothing but scorn for him, that he said to his followers, who were laughing and jesting about the philosopher as they went away, “But truly, if I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.””

Lisboa

April 15, 2017 § 2 Comments


In the wee hours of Good Friday I woke up by a dream that involved the streets the procession of the Bier of Christ would take place the same evening. It was 4am and the dream was still so clear that I immediately wrote it down in my online notebook. Then I fell in deep sleep again. I don’t know what went wrong but those notes are gone and now the details of that dream too. 

At first sight the streets I grew up haven’t changed much over the years, but two more close neighbours died this winter and my parents’ generation in our street is in decline. 

My dream was certainly influenced by this notion and the spirit of Good Friday. What I still remember is me walking down the very street in full daylight but completely alone. Against the solitude of the image, in my mind, a sentence echoing: “This street is not empty. This street is not empty.” I was in Berger’s Lisboa.

Later that evening, on my way to the Good Friday procession, I turned to look back and, except for the sunshine, I saw my dream.

My Apollos

April 13, 2017 § Leave a comment

On the plane to Greece I was reading ‘Apollo’, a short story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in which the protagonist visits his elderly parents twice a month to naturally find them every time older and fragiler. In Adichie’s story age has not only altered and softened the parents’ bodies but also, so it seems to their son, their character. He finds his well-educated parents, both former strictly rational academics, now supporting each other’s superstitious stories, watching animal documentaries on TV and overusing Vicks VapoRub! 

My parents are not particularly well-educated and certainly no former academics. They would have probably been prosper former farmers by now, if it wasn’t for the financial crisis that still forces them to cultivate their land as their pensions are too small and selling no option for them either. Not yet. But that said, I recognise some of Adichie’s observations about parents growing old: “It was a kind of innocence, this new childhood of old age”, she writes. Mum and Dad are not as old as the couple in that story, but I notice a certain carelessness and indifference for consequences in their behaviour. I have to repeatedly tell them to watch their language or choice of stories in front of my ten-year-old who now finds Grandma and Grandpa the coolest as they always say the very funny things parents would never say. Very different to Adichie’s elders though, they also seem to have not really accept the limits of their ageing bodies: they’re in their seventies and they keep doing things that are quite worrying: dad regularly riding his tractor full speed or mum doing a four-day trip, twelve-hour each way, by bus!, to Bulgaria in deepest winter, only to come back with almost a pneumonia. 

Well, I think I better buy them a huge box full of Vicks VapoRub for Easter.

Rasputin

April 13, 2017 § Leave a comment


The plane was full with elders travelling to Greece for the orthodox Easter. I had to smile when a Greek priest also came on board. He was a quite tall man in his fifties, dressed in his dark grey travel frock with a very big cross banging on his belly every time he moved to fetch something out of his bags. His beard was also a bit longer and wilder than the priest beards I remembered. The older ladies greeted him with respect and initiated a chat with him whenever possible. All in all I just had to think of Rasputin, though our plane monk didn’t have his crazy eyes, was cleaner and well-behaved. 

A Morning Song From a Dream

April 2, 2017 § Leave a comment

Like a ship that could never sink

off you sailed in full speed

threw all extra love pain overboard

till the last island of the great ocean

the one furnished by sweet dreams

with sandy beaches and palm trees

where only sad songs remind

of the world you left behind.

All Quiet on the First Day of Spring

March 19, 2017 § Leave a comment

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This weekend spring has already taken a break and it’s rainy, windy and cold. But that was all very different a week ago and so, on that Sunday, I took a long evening walk to enjoy the sweet light and the very first bits and buds of the upcoming spring.

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On the other side of this old wall is the river.

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Only meters away from the spot I was taking the photos on that first beautiful spring evening of the year, a corpse was found in the early Monday morning hours. It lied or was washed ashore at one of the river’s banks. A man. No more was to read about him that first day. I couln’t stop thinking of all those people I took photos of, most of them from afar, walking at the bank or sitting on the benches: lovers, mothers with kids, and quite a few loners staring at the sunset, some with a bottle in the hand, others, maybe, with a weight in their heart. How did that poor man die? Was he a ghost in one of my photos?

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I don’t know if the man on the bench in the photo above was the dead man found in the river. All I know is that when I got on that wall and walked by this man, I looked at his plastic bags full of bottles and his bottle full of alcohol, I looked at his muddy shoes and dirty beard and thought of the kind of photos I could but won’t take. Then a few steps beyond the benches for the river walkers, I came across an artwork—just opposite a church—an abstract kind of bench out of a single tree-trunk with the inscription: “wir sitzen wie in unserem Grabe” that could be translated: “we sit as if in our graves” *. In thought I did make the connection between the people I had seen sitting on the benches and the artwork’s inscription. Then I went on and went to the movies.

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When I read about the corpse in the river the next day, my first thought was this man, but there was nothing mentioned in the article about the dead man’s age or causes of his death.  

A day later the result of the autopsy was published in the local newspaper. No movie-like murder, but just a fifty-seven-year old man who fell into the river after a heart attack and being firmly drunk.

It might as well have been my ghost man.

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*   I first posted this story on my Instagram feed and one of the local photographers reminded me that “those wooden blocks are made of trees from the western front. There are also some original bullets inside that once hit the trees. The quotes are from the book “Im Westen nichts neues”.  That’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque, a book based on his World War I experiences. A personal story that connects me to this book was that it was the very first book my grandfather gave me as a present. I was something like only 12  in Greece back then, I’m not sure. He, a veteran of World War II, had always thought that it was the best book that had ever been written about the brutality of the front.

Two Short Storm Poems

February 27, 2017 § Leave a comment

The sky is moving away.

 

Awoken by the dying storm that rocked me into sleep

I hear the sighs of trees now left in peace.

Notes and secrets lie open on our street

The fallen dustbin has lost the game in the tenth round.

Hearts still pump our blood in the storm’s rhythm

One could go out and offer the rain a warm skin to touch.

But of course we stay inside, undercover, under the covers.

And wait. Wait for the storm to die.

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After a storm

 

After a storm, the world like a photograph:

a frozen smile, a hand in the air, not waving anymore.

Goodbyes are movement but the wind is gone.

To walk into the room of no words

to read the walls of the sighs

to eat the glacier’s tongue

just not to sleep

just not to speak.

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