Poem in Pieces, a log

Adrianne Kalfopoulou


On June 26, 2015 Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s prime minister and SYRIZA party leader announced there would be a referendum to decide whether the country should accept the terms of a new EU bailout proposal that called for more austerity. From Monday June 30, capital controls were imposed on Greek banks. People could withdraw up to 60 euros a day.



I was teaching persona poems
on an island where
circumstances bigger
than anything we might do
kept us doing whatever we might do

I was teaching persona poems
and asked how personas help expand
the self, save it
from disintegrating

Gulls glide so effortlessly through horizon, their lack of vertigo in a dive
kept me staring

I taught Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam, “Notice the word clusters” I said, the repetitions, the “khaki-clad bodies” that grow sinister, the word “bayonet” also the color “green”
and the word “jasmine”

Like personas, repetitions help us speak when speaking feels
impossible, in such situations I am also practical

I am speaking now to my lover, trying to

Speak of difficulties

And the voice of a friend warns
… the alternative is there is no food… People can’t take their medicine now... imagine next week…

The Eurozone wants to teach the Greeks a lesson. It’s game over. The markets are all up. The negotiation tactics didn’t work… done… they thought their holding out could affect the markets…

So Europe never wanted to help us
Europe wants Greece to be a lesson

I’m with you. So. Now what? Who is going to finance the country? Who is going to do it if not Europe?

[I am on the island teaching how to build a poem, my lover is with me… he has come from afar and the horizon feels burdened. A difficult vertigo is making it hard to lift the words, so to speak]

It sucks. But who is going to give us money?
When events break us I tell the class, look for the pieces, cluster them, K who is writing a memoir about her mother’s rape and murder, nods

They should have done the referendum a month ago. When they could still pay pensions.
I got my salary, and tell him that it was a money transfer
… Your 3000 in the bank aren’t even there… the banks are using it…
[my daughter is happy transportation is free since the referendum was declared]

The referendum shouldn’t have happened. There’s still a day… maybe they’ll agree to something… all those old women trying to get their 100-euro pensions for the month are the people his socialism was supposed to protect!

… the idiots on TV are talking like it’s some minor inconvenience… the IKA health director says “Don’t be that way.. Things like this happen” the arrogance! …

I’m owed 20,000… and who knows when I’ll get it … and
[my daughter is going to a conference called Democracy Rising, well-known names from Hellenic Studies programs in the States have come to speak. It is summer and some of them are on vacation]

There was no worse timing… after 5 months of talks there isn’t a cent in the banks… We’re going to say NO to the money they’re going to give us? Otherwise what? Otherwise we’ll starve… What the fuck… I’m telling you I was with them… but it didn’t work out…

[they’re going to squash him and us with him…] to sign the deal we need a prime minister. In 2 weeks there will be nothing left in the banks… Nothing in the banks and a toppled prime minister…


On the island I walk to the port town of Gavrio
and buy toilet paper, I heard it was toilet paper that ran out first in Argentina in 2001 someone in Athens says the shelves where the toilet paper is stacked were almost empty but it was cheese and olives, toothpaste and sunblock I came back with

One woman in line at the ATM snapped, “And he wants to be a Europeanist…”


The winds are a blue sea shawl of filled current

Here the horizon is horizon

What bruise of cloud color

K showed me my empty bathing suit had blown to her side of the balcony, she took a picture of its pomegranate skin, and said that’s not the color either, pomegranate, but for want of a better word…

We are at the hands of mistaken men, bodies is another theme K said of her memoir
[the newspapers’ headlines are screaming]

The wind is saying this landscape, this sea, this sky’s Delacroix clouds, are yours



On the lip of what was predicted
shopping daily for fruit and bread, and other things too

the cicadas kept their monotone chant
the sun was there and the sea’s azures

when we let ourselves
read the headlines the azures and cicadas

helped travel us beyond the headlines, this was also true for

K, and the other students

who had brought their work to workshop

“I want to take some of the weight of your ruin with me” K said

& I wanted to say grief is a location, forcing
location: you live in specificities & repetitions
“…red on red on red. Kutta, the man/in khaki says.”


The scent of the woman in line at the ATM is overwhelming
my skin feels peeled
(If I were like you. If you were like me.
Did we not stand
under one trade wind?
We are strangers.)

[notice all the frozen meat in a shopping cart]
K keeps seeing her mother

raped – having left the mall on an errand to exchange
a piece of clothing that didn’t fit
two men abducted her in the parking lot –

Grief will keep you reaching back
for what is not there

“I understand,” I smiled. I understand it is important
to make overtures


Try to be gentle when you feel the least able
[so I did laundry, picked up clothes that were on chairs & the bed & folded them
I was almost tender hanging out his underwear]
Try to be gentle when you feel you have been emptied –
[I filled the refrigerator, bought extra milk]

Grief keeps you open. K keeps imagining
the rape
to save what cannot be saved

I hug and thank her for buying dinner

She takes what she remembers – it’s important
to find the repetitions – “Mother’s feet. Bayonets. Teeth.”

Map a way 

In one of the interviews with a “Birangona” a “war heroine” the name the Bangladeshi state gave to “the two hundred thousand women raped during the War of Independence”
Faizullah writes –
“Was it on a jute mat that
she gave birth to the baby
half-his or his or his? Victim:
a living being sacrificed.”

You gather what’s made you
more than the words you keep

losing –

lizards, sea shawl, impossible

You will be changed anyway –
I was on an island
it felt so much bigger than me
I gathered what we each wrote
very seriously, and found my repetitions –

lover, Europe, grief



Adrianne Kalfopoulou lives and teaches in Athens, Greece, where she directs the Writing Program at Deree College. Her third poetry collection, A History of Too Much, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in 2018.

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