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Linda Graham

On Papadiamantis Street

Every few seconds a moped melts the air like butter
and we sit on the old man's doorstep only
we don't know it belongs to an old man yet
but we will, soon, when he opens his front door
and yells at us in Greek to move our butts,

anyway I sit on the step and my knees
hold up my chin and I watch three dark haired
dark shirted young men in the crepery
across the way and I begin to imagine
all the things I might like to do with such
beautiful men, given time and opportunity,
but then one belches, and one laughs,
and the third smiles and belches at the
same time, so I

look away down the street, compare
people's knees as they walk along the pavement,
watch the progression of a red plastic bag,
an old lady wears a black dress and apron,
one wrinkled hand clutches the knot at her back
in case it falls open or perhaps her hand
would drop to the floor, and a breeze

pushes red-skinned tourists in silly hats
down towards waiting boats and you say
"hey, remember that cracked open melon
we saw floating yesterday, it reminded me of a girl
on Aruba I read about, she's missing, maybe dead,"
and I say "yeah, I remember. I wonder what her name is,"

and I slide my fingers in my pocket, pull out a leaflet
a boy pressed in my hand, it's printed The Drifters here
on 7th July, only I thought the original Drifters were dead,
but he pointed, said "no, that one's not dead yet,"
and every few seconds a moped melts the air like butter.

Sour Cherry Cocktails in Bourtzi Café

Another boat comes home
with its cargo of lobster and tourist,
old engine rattling like gunfire
from ghost armies of Persians or Turks.
It is naked skin and dislocation
in one wave-splitting journey
past a carpet of green fins
and rocky crops that punctuate the shoreline
in commas and full stops,

where trees stretch to impale themselves
on a sun, so round and hot here
it's in danger of melting; drops of itself
already ink the water,
cure the turtleback of the town,

where a shirtless boy climbs, shimmies
along branches, skims over rocks
like a carefully flung stone,
dips his head and tastes
what it is to be an ocean
with its row of small boats like baby teeth,
waves pulling at his feet against
the undercurrent yearn
of the taverna,

where a small girl in a lemon dress
trips and cries and her father says
"get up, stop crying" and Eumorphia
strolls over, takes an order, Coca-cola bottles
standing to attention at her back
while people relax on benches,

where names have been scratched into wood,
yellowed initials branding backs,
stinging hot thighs, as though lives
have been miniaturised, boiled down
to an 'A' or a 'P' that will leave
their backwards print in tourist skin for days
as they take in the view of an island
secluded out there,

where no-one waves from its rocks,
sunbathes on its bed of grass;
no-one builds a bonfire, eats, sleeps,
or makes love to a lover. That island is,
exquisitely, alone, but here, people talk and walk,
drink cocktails, smoke Camel cigarettes,
think about their lives, in this time
on this island; or watch a crying girl
in a lemon dress.


View Linda's Photos From Skiathos.






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