Greek Avant Garde Poetry


Dan Georgakas

Patmos: Isle of Hellas

The Orthodox church dark and chill/  faded frescoes just uncovered by the 
tremoring of the earth/ large-eyed faces peering through gray time as from
behind a scrim/ silver and gold suspended from the chapel ceiling because
desperate men caught in wicked seas had promised/ in this place/ where
Saint John the Divine wrote Revelations. Bill, the Greek American from
contemporary Detroit, moves from the interior of the church to the patio/ scans the mountain for the grotto of the Apocalypse/ his eyes smart under
the brightness of Aegean light/ the cloudless blue extends until shattered
from behind by a sun too powerful to be looked upon directly/ even
through the darkest of glasses. A cluster of houses ascends the slope/ white
washed so thick the walls curve at their base and melt into the street to meet
the drift from the walls across the lane / a corridor of white/ a stairway in
time/ the crisp air crackles with the heat of vision. Basil, the Byzantine
from Rhodes, sits by the shore amid jagged rock beaches and breakwaters so
often quays for mariners/ for Greeks and Venetians/ for Medes and Turks
and Syrians/ for all who ever tested the Bosporus. Temple bells summon
monks for worship/ black robes whisk against white marble/ women in
black dresses scrub the streets a startled gull flings itself from a tower/
soaring sunward into the blue/ wings taut/ a silent gliding grace/ banking
where sky seems to meld with sea/ descending like a leadened dart into a
patch of quay white. Saint John the Divine, the "I, John, saw these things"
artist John/ creating his most imaginative ecstasies here/ in grotto dark/
spewing vengeful monsters/ cloaking spleen in righteous prophecy/
cursing the empire of the seven hills/ perhaps adoring the very whore he
mocks. Basilius, a client of Julius Caesar, finds peace in a cove where
corrupt dreams split like overripe olives/ the old vision of a screaming
challenge to the sun declined/ only in an earthward swoop allows the
gathering of riches/ the return to soil however brown and rocky/
the refreshment of the sea/ the opened door/ the touch of other living
things. A cruel certainty in the rocks futilely assembled into walls to pen
sheep and goats/ a brown pocked with fecund green/ the clear and clean
of darkest blue by brightest white/ white bleaching white into searing
purity. Basildes, father of Herodotus of Athens, sits with a glass of red wine
bemused by those who flay themselves with guilt/ throws away his worry
beads/ utters a final paean to the sun in that instant between the ringing of
bells/ when with a soft sigh a gull drifts aimlessly amid sifting sails and
tritons. For in the beginning/ before "I, John" / before the first William/
before the Word/ was earth and air and fire and water/ in a place called
Patmos / isle of Hellas.

Bingham Canyon Mosaic

(Mosaic: a single image created by small pieces of inlaid materials.)

If the largest building in the world were put in the bottom of the bingham 
pit, its highest tower would still be more than a hundred feet down for this
is the oldest and largest open pit copper mine on earth Roads spiral downward amid the rock which is not nearly so
red as she had hoped or as green he had suspected just a few miles beyond
the salt lake city of the mormons
He has made the pilgrimage because his uncle was among the cretans who
fought here in 1912 with rifle and dynamite she has come to see the place
the travel posters dare to advertise as bingham canyon as if carved by
nature rather than dug by greed They have discovered
that bingham is a sad place an emptiness where once there was a mountain
a place where an affair ends where a dream dies The trains circle the pit like so many playthings chugging clay
ore through paper tunnels to miniature stations served by cardboard cranes,
trucks, derricks, and bulldozers in a fantasy as vivid as a children's
christmas dream The men and women who work
it do not own it Now call themelves the united steelworkers of america before they were
the united mine, mill and smelters union long ago they were the western
federation of miners the boldest joined the industrial workers of the world
they were reds anarcho-syndicalists denounced as i
won't works and i want whiskies They lost to the fistful called kennecott who own
this part of the earth dubbed utah just as they own the colorado montana
chile peru earth where our mother adorns herself in copper Just a few miles beyond the spot where bringham young
came through the mountains to proclaim: this is the place by the strange
crusted lake where a crop would have been taken by locust that first year but
for the hungry gulls that arrived as in a miracle This is the place, he said, and they built a tabernacle and called themselves
the latter day saints descended from the lost semitic tribes relocated to north
america which jesus the christian savior visited during one of his
disappearance from the holy land And they gave up
polygamy to make theirs one of the states united and their gingham ladies
baked a lifetime of cherry pies and their men grayed graciously like actors
rehearsing for the role of bank president For
something had gone wrong No number of tours by the "world famous"
tabernacle choir nor the most inspired chords of the giant salt lake city
organ can mask the sadness this was the place where the poorest indians of
all the americas survived on roots and raided one another in springtime so
poor even their dreams were lacking Up at the mine there are no more indians
not even their ghosts care to haunt one expects but does not hear the cry of
the last timber wolf, the moan of a lost bison A hole where once there were two billion tons of ore that a fistful
might profit the men and women who work it, do not own it the indians
died because they could not accept such things joe hill was executed for
singing against it For the divine angel moroni
withheld his final fearful prophecy from them he did not reveal that a
dream was to end here in this place Whatever vision led them from the woodlands whatever memory sustained
them through gorge and canyon whatever inspiration impelled them west to
attempt anew the zion once claimed now lost in no longer new england Upon the rim of this impossible pit a
sterile vulva where no lover ever comes something noble perished the men
and women who work it do not own it.