Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Greek Easter": A Poem from Blue Earth

Source: Selah: Thoughts on the Psalms and their Use
 by Christians through the Ages

Greek Easter

All the Greeks in Bloomington come here,
to Peter Costas's for Easter.  Whole garbage cans
of roasted lamb
beside long tables of food, and ingredients—feta, filo,
olives—ordered from faraway Chicago.

We say, "Kalo Pascha."

Vassili pinches both my cheeks and says, "Koritsáki mou."
We click our eggs together
and the holder of the unbroken egg gets luck.
I ask my mother, "Why are all the eggs for Greek Easter red?"
"The red is the red of Christ's blood
and of the lamb's blood." "That's sad."
"Yes," she answers "but the eggs are for new life."

She doesn't say Christ died for our sins, she never will,
though the neighborhood kids say my whole family
will go to hell for not going to church on Sundays.

To me, equal to Christ's story is the story of "that Helen,"
who was beautiful
and ran away to Troy in spite of marriage and kin.
The sorrows, the strategies, the triumphs of the gods—
each is a red egg
piled high in a bowl.

I walk under the grape arbor, which is still in winter.
At dusk dancing begins.
My father leaps and turns in the air, arms spread
like island windmill sails. Then he holds the handkerchief
for my mother to lead, quick-footed and laughing.

My parents are beautiful. I wonder if they love each other,
though I'm sure they do, I'm not sure I believe what I see—

I go inside and sit with Doctor Frank.
His voice is calming, deep and slow.
Then I go outside and see
smoke and a small fire backlighting the corner of the yard
where my brothers and some other boys
compete to pee the highest, broadest arc.

I look at my white shoes. I can smell the delicious lamb.

~Aliki Barnstone, from Blue Earth (Iris Press, 2004) and Dear God: Dear Dr. Heartbreak: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 2009)