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Funny what stays with you, the past that happened and the past that didn’t happen.


The paper handed back, graded.

                                    The bottom half of the cover page ripped off. The years 

of wondering what had been written there, evidently


harsh—the re-decision of that absence. 



The blur of images in a passing window. The transport of modernity.


A rusty mountain range below us.

A twine of thickets skirting the railway tracks. 

A daylight moon in its palest hour

            over the desert with its astonishment of pastels.


In the moving train to Meteora, Greece, the most alien 

            spacescape on Earth, everything in the world 

closest to the windows, speeding by in impressionist colours, 

a man wanted to speak English with me. 

            But I had given all my money, had moved to that country

to speak his language with him. My friend reached her hand to me and said 

I was not being charitable. 

Our time was limited, our world of that place dying by the minute. 

Hungry for my new life, I chose there 

not to be charitable. 



What comes after the postmodern?


I want a line of poetry whose line disappears in time—

            so I may experience the line again, 


the absence I inherit, the absence given to me. 

The art of that. 



Anything that is a fence is artificial.


Especially borders, the imposition of the politic, their separatist function.

How do languages know how to stop at the border?


In America, all we have are accents, the poorer for that. 

It’s much easier to speak English than it is to speak American. 

The mouth muscles don’t tire so easily.


I brought my children to Dachau and the sedate neighbourhood of Dachau

so they could see the remnants of history, so their schoolbooks could breathe.


Relic of history, not to be born again. Not carried over.


In Munich, the old porter rasped to us, “I fought with Rommel in the War.” 

            What could we say to that? 

Language only so far as the door. Like a vampire, waits to be invited in. 



The text in form only lends definition, but doesn’t mandate definition. 

Then, let there be one kiss with absolutely no reading into it, whatsoever. 


Kiss me firmly on the mouth. Kiss me hardy. Breathe your breath into me. 


My first language, poetry. Then, prose—nonfiction, the story of the hard truth, 

narrative of the real. Then, the beautiful lies of fiction. How I slide between 

all my languages. A novelist who writes in verse.



Shard of a mirror. 


At five, I woke screaming—then, saw all the grownups in the room

with shrunken heads—the room cavernous, faraway, everything 

growing small.


Strobe spots of blue and red lights flashing. 


At eight, the black, repetitive dreams

of a stick-figure made of wire, a wire

boulder on his back, crushing him.


The felt terror of seeing him.

The waking—mute—soundless.




For years on, I have been seeing halos around people. Light

surrounding light. Light fading into light, the pale shades of degree. 

Half-afraid to consult an optometrist. What would I be like, if cured?



Shard of a mirror. At seven in Pekin, 


I was a geologist of theft. 


Not knowing better, I took 

glittering stones from our classroom exhibit 

and made them vanish in my hand. 


Quickly found, I was beaten for that 

and disappeared the flint, the mica, the feldspar, 

back to the teacher’s possession.


At eight in Niagara Falls, 

my friend showed me his black-lava rock, hardened 

magma, the amazing formation of its black crystals, 

which vanished when I vanished from his home. 

            Nobody caught me.

That lava rock burned through my secret years of holding. 

Till I’d give anything now to find that forgotten boy, 

beg his forgiveness, and give him back his childhood. 



My first heartfelt love was a girl of cadence and long hair, who lived 

on Magnolia Terrace, blossoms everywhere that summer. 


But the war was still on, and I left the country to protest, left the country 

to make a political statement—registering for the Draft, just to have

something to burn. 


I lasted three weeks without my love and flew back to her, despite induction. 


Everybody knows the story of next. 


My insecure youth caused me to hold her tighter, caused me to lose her 

almost immediately. The young woman who played guitar, the melody I could

never possess and, in maturity, I could never desire to possess.



Antique coat of blue herringbone thread. The intricate weft.

The dashiki of my twenties. The beauty of that imported word. 

The beaded, cambric shirts we found in thrift stores.

The glory of leather sandals. 


When our style was to wear the edges of our jeans frayed and hanging, 

a three-year-old girl offered to me, “My mother can sew those for you.”  


No such thing as appropriation. There is only how we feel, what we

connect with,



I am the tradition of what I feel. I am the country of every clothes I wear. 

I leap over, trespass. I become

identity and culture. My culture, the world. My colour is human being.


Marginalise and stereotype that.

Nicholas Samaras was born and raised in the village of Foxton, eight miles south of Cambridge, England. He’s lived in Greece, England, Wales, Brussels, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Yugoslavia, Jerusalem, thirteen states in America, and he writes from a place of permanent exile. His first book, Hands of the Saddlemaker, won The Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. His current book is American Psalm, World Psalm (Ashland Poetry Press, 2014). He is completing a new manuscript of poetry and a memoir of his childhood years lived underground.

ISSN 2632-4423

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