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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Oriental Odyssey: From Athens to the Orient


hours past the dawn
the train subsides
through its Athenian doorway,
and as I step out of my box
to mark her skirts,

the bustle of the city
smokes serendipitiously
like a smaller twin sister
to Turkish Constantinople,

and I wonder how its aging
arms will hold me or
whether it shines like
Istanbul in the evening.


I dreamt of
Socrates not Pashas
at my odyssey's end;

even though you've tried
to scrub clean
your Ottoman heritage,

little by little,
like a coy lover
when you revealed
yourself to me,

I understood with
great surprise;
you are no European city;

I lifted your dress
and underneath
was no western lady,

but an oriental jewel in the
belly of a civilisation
it gave birth to;

shaking her hips
in a secret rondo,
to an oriental partner
she has turned her back on,

how like human love you are,
trying to rub past loves
out of existence,
how natural you are
in this fragile fuility.


I tussle with
thin, narrow mud paths
imitating streets that
border paper-white houses
crunched up and thrown
willy-nilly atop hills,

the wind rustles through as
I hide in the shade of
large drowzing Byzantine
buildings, looking for directions
to the birthplace of goddesses,

but they show me
temples for tourists instead,
the modern gods
that decorate Syntagma square,
everything in neglect
except neglectful arrogance.


like the temples of Apollo,
you cleansed your
landscape of Ottoman minarets,
demolished all different
calls to prayer:

yet your modernity
has hidden your monks
in your highest mountains;

with your Byzantine
design uneasily resting
on curvy hips
that undulate the

of the exotic for

why have you buried
your goddesses,
and executed
the statues of your gods?

Did sails really set
for Helen from here?
Is that why the seed
of hatred for the other
was buried here,
to flourish to
the ends of the world?


I finally reach the Acropolis,
in all its dirty
breathtaking brilliance,
like love visualised,
a welcoming haven;

so beautiful from
a safe distance,
yet even more beautiful
from a closer stance
for all its cracks and grime,

whether a waking dream
or a reflection of sunlight,
mesmerised I watch
ghosts of goddesses wink
through sunbeams that jewel
ancient necks of pillars,
welcoming me home.


a son of the Empire
that saved this temple from
destruction by orthodoxy,
but used it to house
the Ottoman's artillery,

a temple of desolate beauty,
symbolising its survival
of double blasphemy,

a place of wisdom
still standing
to show me that
goddesses do exist;

how you greet me
like the bright sunrise
over Igoumenitsa's
snoring harbour:

how ironic that in
this religiously aesthetic map
which has re-drawn Athens,

I've come to understand
that like life itself,
its most majestic
is built by
but more knowing hands,

not in defiance
of the other's belief,
but in the name
of love alone.

Main Index | Part 2: "An Oriental Odyssey" - page one | two | three

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