The Poutanaki

At this time I rarely drank with Agis,
as he was irritable, snapping at me
and the other guys.

One night in late summer we sat in
the square long past midnight
drinking wine, talking about women,
the olives shrinking on the olive trees
because of lack of rain, where the
world was going.

We are going to hell. Immigrants, the
pestilence of this place. They pick
Greek names, Thanasis, Pavlos,
Nikos, hell they are communists, they
have no names, no papers, no God.
We Greek are a dying race. There is
a solution, what the Italians do.

What do the Italians do?
I interrupted.

He jumped up in the zeibekiko
stance, arms stretched out. He
danced around me, over me, like a
bird that is about to attack, yelling

Where the hell do you come from
professor, you don't know what the
Italians do! They fucking drown them
out in the ocean. You don't know,
professor? and you say you are my
friend! You say you love
me! Bullshit! They drown the
bastards. They drown them! They
have no caffeneio in their country, no
tavernas, they have no bread, they
come here and boss us around!

We are sheep, the lamb of God, he

They drown the bastards! he yelled
at the top of his voice, a manly voice,
the helpless whimper of a child that
is punished.

He stuck his nose on my face. Now
he was calm, his voice course,
trembling. His large black eyes wet,

You do not know, palikari. You say
you love me, ha. Your a liar, you
know nothing.

Exhausted. he kept dancing and
chanting, staggering in the empty
square until he drifted out of sight in
the narrow dark streets of the village.

I sat in the square for a long time.
Witness to a crucifixion. I went back
home shattered, whispering

I know Cuckoo my good friend, I
know, I know.

A few weeks later, the old guys
stood up as I entered the caffeneio.
Mackie was whistling ominously in
the back. His mother, tears in her
eyes, walked toward me but stopped
four yards away.

Cuckoo, she said.

I wiped my tears and walked out for
hours in circles through the fields my
head empty. Centuries old gnarled
olive tree trunks, twisted branches,
fleshy fig trees, shameless

“I had my fill. Tasted all things. All

Near sunset I walked my friend to his
last home. Mackie nowhere. De
Chirico, a presence that flooded all
space, ominous, Parkinson face. The
ancients created Medusa, the Sphinx
and other monsters, all female, so
that they would not think of the most
horrifying sight, a woman’s frozen
face standing motionless, square in
front of man.

In my pocket I carried the final gifts
for my beloved friend. Outside the
cemetery I had walked to the side, a
fistful of earth under a wild fig tree.

Before the wooden lid hid the face
that I loved so much, I reached in my
pocket, a cuckoo cap, in it a pack of
cigarettes, two rubber bands one
broken, a fistful of earth that he
plowed valiantly, my tears. I
opened my fist, kept it open for a
long time to honor my friend, I
hurled my gift on his wide chest.

Long trip Poutanaki,
full of tavernas and hanoumakia,
all holes!

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