Kissing the Ikons
Kiss-kiss. Did you crawl under them
on your knees?
wipe your hands on the aunties’ aprons?
see them flap, flap in the wind, those aprons
while the aunties danced out on the pier where the red sun and clouds
dervish themselves into the sea?
Did you play the slots at the train station?
Cross yourself in front of those noisy altars?
Did they tell you His Holiness is coming; the Cardinal no less–
did they mention how he used to
kiss the dice before he got religion?
were his hems still wet from the Aegean,
his dress more purple than Bouboulina’s as if HE had defeated the Turks?
She, darling, she!
Defeated them! Didn’t they tell you?
Her statue is there on the island, looking out at the horizon.
And did you notice how the uncles’ hairlines recede like the water table?
those uncles, yes!  all day in the black muck
of the quarries, the graves
did you see their shovels fly?  I mean the dirt off them?,
joking about the old country, so good it was, eh?
did they wipe their eyes for you?
swear the carp jumped into the boats of their own volition,
the corpses into the graves?
the net of time
will catch you, too
drop you into its hold. Ok, they scared me with that one!
They scared me with the cave in the middle of the plaza, too
the one made of books the elders forgot to burn
old yes men in brittle jackets, spines broken,
whose letters slither from margin to margin.
And did the Pashto kiss you on both cheeks?
Swill the tea in their mouths before spitting it back into the pot?
Did they sniff the scarves of the girls before or after they stoned them?
Look at me! Tell us the truth now—all of it!
Show me those little bugs in the amber of your eyes!
-From Outsider Writers
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