maria michou

wombland horizon lining

Nothing

carries me or makes me carry an idea: not longing

and not promise. What will I do? What

will I do without exile, and a long night

that stares at the water?1

Zeus! Lord and guard of suppliant hands

Look down benign on us who crave

Thine aid-whom winds and waters drave

From where, through drifting shifting sands,

Pours Nilus to the wave.

From where the green land, god-possest,

Closes and fronts the Syrian waste,

We flee as exiles, yet unbanned

By murder’s sentence from our land;

But-since Aegyptus had decreed

His sons should wed his brother’s seed,—

Ourselves we tore from bonds abhorred,

From wedlock not of heart but hand,

Nor brooked to call a kinsman lord!’ 2

‘Grant that henceforth unstained as heretofore

I may escape the forced embrace

Of those proud children of the race

That sacred Io bore.’ 3

Silence.

Come to bed with me, the big double bed, and

We’ll wait..

Nothing.

Silence.

I am frozen by madness.

Y.A.: Do you want to add something?

M.D.: I don’t know how to add. All I know how to do

Is create. Only that.4

This is where I’ll write for you how my beloved mama made the clothes we wore. […] Our clothes were woven in the loom and to make them we had to spin the thread. So, then, the thread was made as follows: We sowed the cotton, the cotton seed, we dug its soil and watered it and when it was time, the pods opened, “karikia” is what we called them. Every pod that matured, the white cotton came out of the shell and we would pick it and lay it out in the sun and thoroughly dry it.’ 5

And now have I roamed back

Unto the ancient track

Where Io roamed and pastured among flowers,

Watched o’er by Argus’ eyes,

Through the lush grasses and the meadow bowers.

Thence, by the gadfly maddened, forth she flies

Unto far lands and alien peoples driven

And, following fate, through paths of foam and surge,

Sees, as she goes, the cleaving strait divide

Greece, from the Eastland riven.’ 6

Over there, most of us were poor. Out of all the houses, 15% or less had beds, the rest of us slept on the floor, we had no comforts to speak of. We were poor but kept our homes orderly. Most of the houses were one storey high with large courtyards so that a loaded donkey could walk in. There were lots of flowers in the yards, in pots and flowerbeds… Every house had a storeroom for keeping the raisin. We were an agricultural people.’ 7

They were good, the companions, they didn’t complain

about the work or the thirst or the frost,

they had the bearing of trees and waves

that accept the wind and the rain

accept the night and the sun

without changing in the midst of change.

They were fine, whole days

they sweated at the oars with lowered eyes

breathing in rhythm

and their blood reddened a submissive skin.

Sometimes they sang, with lowered eyes

as we were passing the deserted island with the Barbary figs

to the west, beyond the cape of the dogs

that bark.

If it is to know itself, they said

it must look into its own soul, they said

and the oar’s struck the sea’s gold

in the sunset.

We went past many capes many islands the sea

leading to another sea, gulls and seals.

Sometimes disconsolate women wept

lamenting their lost children

and others frantic sought Alexander the Great

and glories buried in the depths of Asia.8

They were surviving within heavy mourning, amongst people deranged with unhappiness. The hope of seeing their children and their siblings was their only support. With all their might, the three women were trying to start again a normal life, to send the children to school, to find a job, to set up a home.’ 9

The proud mother, the indomitable, heroic Greek mother is brought to life here. Her heart is full of love for the Homeland, more so perhaps than for her own child. She does not cry nor sigh for its demise. She does not complain and does not let bitter words escape. She only sheds a brief tear but she quickly recovers.’ 10

What is our homeland? Perchance the plains?

Perchance the mountains high and far?

Perchance the glimmer of its golden sun?

Perchance the bright twinkle of its stars?

Perchance every shoreline

and every village on the land?

And every island that faintly juts

out of the sea and takes a stand?’ 11

Orientation means knowing at every moment and wherever we find ourselves where the four points of the horizon are located, that is to say, North, South, East and West. For this, you only need to find the North and turn your face in its direction and then, you will have the South at your back, the East to your right and the West to your left […] Another way to find the North is the sanctum of our churches which is always placed to the East.’ 12

In the suburb of Chaidari in Athens, where the Anakiotes have bought land to build their new church of Agia Marina, there are now four rooms in the building.’ 13

After Chaidari, the Hiera Odos (Sacred Route) passed by the spot where Moni Dafniou is found today. There was a temple there, with enclosed courtyard, dedicated to god Apollo in whose main hall there were statues of Apollo and Athena. Past Moni Dafniou, on the way to Skaramanga, there was in the hills to the north a temple of the goddess Aphrodite.’14 During the excavations out of the dirt sprang small statues of Aphrodite and other deities, possibly in the style of Pheidias, and groupings of her with Peitho and Eros and doves some with inscriptions and others not, and birth symbols and pomegranates for fertility and bases with inscriptions and the bases of stelae and a woman leading a youth who is making a votive offering, and another youth, headless, who is coming along on his own, with an incense holder in hand.’ 15

A quarter of an hour out of Peristeri is the cemetery where father Isaak is, employed by the Municipality. Father Isaak hails from Ceasaria.’ 16

Along the shore line, we come across the soap-manufacturing Eleusina, res. 2,700. In Eleusina are found well known factories of soap and cement, as well as a small museum near the ruins of Demeter’s temple.’17 ‘There are approximately 360 handmade refugee homes, out of plinths, with street planning but roads in disuse. The little houses are orderly. […] Further up, near the settlement’s edge is the school, a long and narrow, ground-level building, with two male teachers and two female; one of the women teachers is from Smyrna, the others are locals.’ 18

As “a household” are considered:

a) Two or more persons (whether related or not) who live together and

as a rule, eat together (private cohabitation)

b) Every person living alone (even if in a rented room, as long as one looks after one’s own meals, i.e. either cooks or eats out at a restaurant).’ 19

Well, the Cabbalists used to say that even for God it wasn’t a good idea to stay alone, so from the start he had taken as his companion Sekina, i.e., his own presence in creation. So Sekina became God’s spouse and later, the mother of all peoples. When the Romans destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem and we were scattered and became slaves, Sekina grew angry, she disengaged from God and came along with us in exile.’ 20

Her husband Apostolis, is a greengrocer doing the rounds of the streets with a donkey. He lives behind the cemetery on the road to the sea. He owns a large dog.’21In Drapetsona lives Myron Myrides from Livera of Matsouka. He is eighty years old and he used to be a muleteer where he came from. He left his homeland in 1924. Everyone calls him Homer.’22Here in the Pontian district, there is a woman from Kerasounda. Her name is Ierozili Sidiropoulos. She owns a greengrocery at the end of the Pontian district. And her sister-in-law Sophia Fotiadou is also from Kerasounda. She lives in Callithea and right now she is on holiday in Boyati.’ 23

I was having a nice time at the Forgetarium.

Peace like a dessert sea

and self-incarceration

a small backward sailing oar boat

let the motion keep paddling and there will

appear the memory of some shoreline.’ 24

While all of the villages of Pontus and Asia Minor came and settled somewhere in Greece concentrated in one or two villages, maybe more, Zyganita alone was an exception. First in 1918, the whole village, all of its fifty houses, scattered throughout Russia. After that, a mere 10-15 families came to Greece, if that. The rest were lost in Russia. No one knows where they live. But even the ones who came to Greece were dispersed. I heard that a few are in Pireas.’ 25

Palia Kokkinia is separated from Nea Kokkinia by a stream.’ 26

Ilossou st. in Nea Kokkinia was named by Yannis Avramides, municipal counselor of Nikea Municipality, in order to give the name of his homeland to the street where his father lives, the priest Leondios Avramides.’ 27When we came to stay in Kokkinia as refugees, we gave to the church of St. Nikolas the heirlooms we brought from home… In return … they named a street here in Kokkinia, near the high school, next to Ossia Xeni, “Nea Delmissos st.”, so that the name of our village remains.’ 28

Except that the story of Eve has been written down and everyone knows it. Whereas the story of Lilyth is only ever narrated and so there is only a small number of people who know the story, or rather, the stories, because there are so many of them.’ 29

Picking up a pen and wanting to write about Makronisos is a bit difficult, especially when you have reached seventy eight years of age. […] And the reason for that is that Makronisos has left us with other memories. It has left us with experiences which we can’t get off our skin and every reference to which still scours the wound.’ 30Morossov turned his parents in for having sown some wheat during the time of the great hunger, in 1931, to preserve their family. The next day the unfortunate parents of the young collaborator were executed but Pavlik, too, was found dead.31I couldn’t withstand them because I became afraid of them. That’s what it was and I know it well. Now I remember how you used to say the fear of pain is greater than the pain’s reality. And I found nothing reasonable about them that I might conceive of and explain with my head. I saw how they wanted to tear me in pieces and they looked like cannibals. I saw them relish watching me writhe in pain.’32A recent proof of that interest in favor of the youth is the unprecedented gesture of the free provision of scientific essays to absolutely every student of the University Schools. […] for the rebirth of our nation and thrilled the youthful souls about the uphill road of recreation of our beloved homeland.’ 33

Alack, O father! from the shrine

Not aid but agony is mine.

As a spider he creeps and he clutches his prey,

And he hales me away.

A spectre of darkness, of darkness. Alas and alas! well a day!

O Earth, O my mother! O Zeus, thou king of the earth, and her child!

Turn back, we pray thee, from us his clamour and threatenings wild!’34

And yet, I only feel at home because I am a guest. Others have roots, deeper roots, and they are hosting me. I am grateful to my parents for not leaving me any land, because this way I enjoy another that was not mine to start with, not mine at all, even if I am its legal owner.’ 35

I lie on dry grass on the hill of Ayios Panteleimon; below me extends the city […] I turn my gaze towards the plain, the villages and the mountains on the edge of the horizon; […]

I get up;

next to me is a stone chapel and the gigantic concrete cross – a relic from the era of [archbishop] Kantiotis; on its base the word “Hellas” is written in blue spray paint, and a bit further down in red paint the phrase “Neither God nor Master”;

I walk down towards the river […]’ 36

westward constantly emerging

1. Darwish, Mahmoud (2008) ‘Who Am I, Without Exile?’ από το The Butterfly’s Burden. Translated by Fady Joudah. Copper Canyon Press. Retrieved from http://thepoetryfoundation.org, last visited 23.02.2016.

2. Aeschylus (1883) The Suppliant Maidens. Translated by E. D. A. Morshead. London: K. Paul Trench and Co, p. 1. Book contributor: University of California Libraries. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/suppliantmaidens00aescrich, last visited 4.3.2016.

3. Op. cit., p. 7.

4. Duras, Marguerite (1998). No More.Translated by Richard Howard. London: Seven Stories Press, 66-67.

5. Zervou, Katina (2006). Ta Vrikolounia. Athens: To Rodakio, 90.

6. Aeschylus (1883) The Suppliant Maidens, p. 29.

7. Lianos Spyros. 30.9.63, to I. Loukopoulou. File “Ionia” No. 69 of the Oral Traditions Archive of the Centre for Asia Minor Studies (CAMS) District of Smyrna, Settlement of Vourla.

8. Seferis, George (1995) “Mythistorema” from Collected Poems (George Seferis). Translated, edited, and introduced by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Retrieved from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/181958, last visited 4.3.2016.

9. Jachili, Iris (2012) Baidiri 1922. A story of loss. Volos: Kondyli editions, 165.

10. Monastirioti, D. (without a publication date) “Day of Celebration” in Children make theater. Theatrical skits for school celebrations. Athens: N. Alikioti Publishing, 13. Archive of Milio Psarrou-Marangoudaki.

11. Polemis, Ioanis (1935) “What is our homeland?”. Webpage of National Kapodistrean University of Athens. Retrieved from http://users.uoa.gr, last visited 23.05.2015.

12. (1945). Boyscout Primer-Third Grade. Greek Boyscouts, pp. 58, 60.

13. Orphanidou, Victoria. 20.6.1962, to Th. Kostakis. FileContemporary Settlement, Athens and Environs”, No. 34 of the Oral Tradition Archive of CAMS, Settlement of Chaidari.

14. History of Iera Odos. Retrieved https://ieraodos.wordpress.com, last visited 24.02.2016.

15. Minutes of Archaeological Society 1936 in “Sanctum of Aphrodite in Skaramanga, Historical Retrospection, Municipality of Chaidari.” Retrieved from http://www.haidari.gr, last visited 24.2.2016

16. Paximadas, Gr. 1968, to D. Loukopoulos. File “Contemporary Settlement, Athens and Environs” No. 34 of the Oral Traditions Archive of CAMS. Settlement of Peristeri.

17. Publication of political geography, more than likely pre-war. Part of the publication survives with no additional information. Page 17. Archive of Milio Psarrou-Marangoudaki.

18. Th. Kostakis. In collaboration with CAMS File “Contemporary Settlement, Athens and Environs” No 34 of the Oral Traditions Archive of CAMS. Settlement of Eleusina.

19. Population and Residential Census of March 19, 1961. Household Inventory Form. Archive of Milio Psarrou-Marangoudaki.

20. Levi, Primo (1992), “Lilith” in Lilith. Trans. Sarah Benveniste. Athens: Rodamos, 31.

21. Mistilopoulou, Despina to S. Dondolidou. File “Contemporary Settlement, Athens and Environs”, No. 34 of the Oral Traditions Archive of CAMS. Settlement of N. Eugenia, Pireas.

22. Dondolidou, Sophia. 19.6.1958. In collaboration with CAMS. File “Contemporary Settlement, Athens and Environs” No 34 of the Oral Traditions Archive of CAMS. Settlement of Drapetsona.

23. Amanatidou, Simela 17.7.1962 to S. Dondolidou. File “Contemporary Settlement, Athens and Environs” No 34 of the Oral Traditions Archive of CAMS. Settlement of Nikea.

24. Dimoula, Kiki (2005) “And the other whence” in Poems. Athens: Icarus. 6th edition, 363.

25. Nikolaidou, Anastasia.16.12.1959, to Al. Ioakimides. File “Contemporary Settlement, Athens and Environs” No 34 of the Oral Traditions Archive of CAMS. Settlement of Pireas.

26. Dondolidou, Sophia. 22.11.1957. In collaboration with CAMS. File Contemporary Settlement, Athens and Environs” No. 34 of the Oral Tradition Archive of CAMS. Settlement of Nikea.

27. Op. cit.

28. Okeanides, Joakim to B. Nikiforides. File Contemporary Settlement, Athens and Environs” No. 34 of the Oral Tradition Archive of CAMS. Settlement of Nikea.

29. Levi (1992) 33.

30. Gavrielides, Nitsa (2004) Makronisos – They are hitting the women tonight. Athens, 15-16.

31. Speech at a primary school, “Youth and communism” during the junta. Archive of Milio Psarrou-Marangoudaki.

32. Arseni, Kitty, (1975) 18 Bouboulinas st., Athens: Themelio, 71-72.

33. Primary school speech, op. cit.

34. Aeschylus (1883) The Suppliant Maidens, p. 43.

35. Cassen, Barbara (2015). Nostalgia. So, then, when is one at one’s place? Translation: Cecile Inglesi Margellos. Athens: Melani, 27.

36. Kostaris, Ioannis (2013) Short homeland talesPlaces, people and rather insignificant events creating a map without seeking any motherland. Athens: Fos biblia. 11 Florina – Hill