Poetry: Helen Koukoutsis
At Serres train station
We sit at a lamp-lit tavern
on the edge of Serres –
famous for its soccer team,
Tuesday morning markets,
custard-filled pastries sprinkled
with cinnamon and icing sugar –
made by lemon-breasted women,
in headscarves, who master
the basics of rolling dough at ten.
An empty bottle of Tsiporo
and half-eaten mezzes amplify
my impending departure. An order
of coffee, on its way. In ten days
I'll be back in Sydney –
another parting to write about.
I used to wear your hand-me-downs;
listen to your Led Zeppelin cassettes
like I was learning a foreign language.
Now you're a grandmother –
another experience to dream about.
Even the coffee's kaimaki (froth)
opens into a black hole.
Coffee is meditation here, the soul;
it cannot be drunk in a hurry. So,
we drink, slowly, to health –
mosquitoes feast on our blood.
It's 9:30pm. The last train
whistles into the station
bringing with it travelers.
Paris - 2010
On the river Seine, a calm liquid breeze
takes in the peaks of the old cathedral.
It's the last day of June. Girls,
in three-quarter jeans and singlet tops,
hang out with boys
by the banks of the river.
They wait for the night to begin –
cheer, blow kisses at us as though we're kin.
They do it to please us, 'cause we're tourists
and crave entry into their world.
Amidst the cheers, vive le France!
can be heard: a young boy
or girl, perhaps.
I think of the countless tolls
we paid to get here; the gypsies
we ignored at the base of the Eiffel
with their luring letters from home.
I think of the graffiti we saw
on the walls of unkempt buildings
in the outskirts of Paris: illegible,
except for the occasional fuck. I wonder
how they can climb so high; why they bother.
I remember today's headlines
on some Parisian newspaper:
Sarkozy supports burqa ban.
I snap a long shot of their faces.
He snaps a silhouette
through the reflection
of the cruise boat window:
the rays of the orange sunset
slice through the spires
of the old cathedral. It's a city
of 160 Catholic Churches.
The announcement comes
through the microphone.
he snaps again.
Just married is graffitied on his face,
on every digitised image of my face.