Blog Roll Voices: May – June 2012


Shipwreck Centennial Farce

Although it was a bitterly cold night, Angela, clasping the front of her fur coat, began to feel better. The waters were almost still and the surface seemed aglow, reflecting the lights and a few pieces of floating ice. Glancing around, she realized that the lifeboat was not as small as she had initially thought when she climbed onto it. Maybe it seemed bigger now because it was only half full; like her, all of her fellow first-class passengers had screamed at the top of their lungs that they be lowered onto the water as soon as possible. Now, at a distance from the slowly tilting vessel, in the safety of the lifeboat and feeling the warmth of her fur coat enveloping her, she exhaled and allowed herself to enjoy the music and the lights. Despite the distant screams of the remaining passengers, and the splashes of bodies falling into the water far away, the orchestra was playing cheerful tunes suitable for after-dinner entertainment and she felt content: full stomach, warm coat, safe boat, rescue on the way no doubt. She was carrying a large handbag with all her valuables; she would not miss the clothes she had to leave behind in her cabin. She would miss her maid more—but maybe Maria would manage to get on another lifeboat eventually. And if not…oh well!

A distant movement in the water caught her eye suddenly; then she heard a splash. Was it another passenger in the water? Why did it sound so close? She peered into the darkness but the water seemed still again. A few minutes later, the same momentary but undeniable splashing forced her to emit an involuntary gasp — this one was closer to the lifeboat. Next to her, Christine followed her gaze and saw the movement too, alerting the rest of the ladies and gentlemen on board. Was it an awkwardly swimming human form or a sea creature that was ominously approaching them? Had they just escaped a major disaster to perish in the jaws of a monster? In the panic which ensued someone pulled out a flashlight and shone it onto the approaching form. Stupefied into disbelief at the sight, Angela heard, before passing out while still tightly holding onto her handbag, the creature stammer her name: “…Ma..dame…Merkel.”

The rest of that encounter is well-known; Christine reported it on her CNN show and she had an exclusive interview with the creature trying to climb onto the lifeboat. But that is only a fragment of the ongoing story: the night is still dark, and the huge vessel, the Europanic, is still sinking. No use trying to remind anyone — the dignified pseudo-survivors on the boat or the barely articulate barbarian in the water — that Marx was the one who said that history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce. Fallen communists, emerging plutocrats, and Balkan socialites are known for their appetites not their knowledge or sense of humor. To be continued. . . .


Ελένη Σταμοπούλου:

Σημ. Ευχαριστώ την Χ.Κ για τον τίτλο

Περί  Παν-Κάλλους ο Πολιτικός Λόγος

Η Ελληνική γλώσσα είναι πλούσια σε ομόηχα ουσιαστικά που όμως διαφέρουν στην ορθογραφία, στο γένος και φυσικά στη σημασία. Αυτές οι διαφορές δεν είναι τυχαίες και υπάρχουν για να μην δημιουργούνται συγχύσεις.

Δύο απ’αυτές τις λέξεις είναι το κάλλος και ο κάλος.

Η πρώτη, το κάλλος σημαίνει ομορφιά και οι αρχαίοι πρόγονοι μας τη λάτρεψαν, την τίμησαν και της αφιέρωσαν έναν ολόκληρο πολιτισμό.

Η δεύτερη, ο κάλος, είναι ο επίπονος εκείνος ρόζος που βγαίνει στα πόδια, από τα ακατάλληλα παπούτσια, στα χέρια, από τη σκληρή εργασία, και στον εγκέφαλο από την πολλή…σκέψη.

Επειδή ο κάλος μπορεί να βγει παντού ονομάζεται και παν-κάλος και επειδή όπως είναι γνωστό το ν πριν το κ γίνεται πάντα γ, η λέξη αλλάζει από παν-κάλος σε παγ-κάλος και προάγεται σε βουλευτή του ΠΑΣΟΚ.

Απάνθισμα αυτής της βαθιάς και ώριμης σκέψης (που οδήγησε και στη δημιουργία του παραπάνω αναφερθέντος ρόζου) είναι και η εμφάνιση ενός νέου πολιτικού σχηματισμού που θα έρθει, ευελπιστούμε σύντομα, και θα εγκατασταθεί στα έδρανα της βουλής.

Το Κώμα της Γραβάτας, φίλοι και φίλες μου, που θα αποτελέσει σημείο αναφοράς για κάθε νέο φέρελπι βουλευτή που σέβεται τον εαυτό του.

Απαραίτητη και μοναδική προϋπόθεση για να ενταχθεί κάποιος σε αυτό το νέο και δημιουργικό σχήμα είναι να διαθέτει γραβάτες, πολλές γραβάτες. Με γ(ρ)αμμάς ή και χωρίς, με πουά ή άνευ, η γραβάτα θα φορεθεί απ’όλους και απ’όλες και θα αποτελέσει το νέο image ενός πολιτικού με ήθος, ύφος και prestige.

Γιατί, σας ρωτώ,φίλοι και φίλες μου, τι είναι ο πολιτικός χωρίς γραβάτα; Κουλούρι χωρίς σουσάμι, τοστ χωρίς τυρί, βοσκός χωρίς καπότα.

Γι’αυτό κάθε πολιτικός με το π κεφαλαίο,από τώρα και στο εξής,θα ξεχωρίζει για δύο πράγματα:το ένα θα είναι η γραβάτα του, το άλλο θα είναι πάντα υπό διερεύνηση.

Τέλος πια τα άθλια πουκαμισάκια, τα πονηρά ανοιχτά στο στήθος.

Έλεος πια, βρε Αλέξη μου! Βάλε και συ μια γραβατούλα πάνω σου. Δεν είναι δυνατόν να ψαρεύεις ψήφους δείχνοντας μπούστο. Κι άλλοι έχουν, και μάλιστα μπόλικο! Δεν το βγάζουν όμως και σε κοινή θέα. Δεν μπορείς πια με την εμφάνιση σου να σπέρνεις τη διχόνοια στο γυναικείο πληθυσμό της βουλής. Τις προάλλες πιάστηκαν καούκα με καούκα η Βασούλα και η Αννούλα κι αν δεν τις χώριζαν θα έφευγαν καραφλές.

Έλεος πια!Στο τέλος θ’αρχίσετε να έρχεστε με άρβυλα και με αμπέχονα, και εδώ είναι η Βουλή των Ελλήνων, το λίκνο της δημοκρατίας!Δεν μπορεί να μπαίνει ο κάθε τυχάρπαστος τενεκές ντυμένος σα λέτσος.

Γι αυτό τέλος πια οι ατασθαλίες στο ντύσιμο. Η μόδα προστάζει γραβάτα.

Διότι δεν είναι δυνατόν ο πολιτικός να εμφανίζεται στην τηλεόραση για να μιλήσει χωρίς γραβάτα και να θέλει και να τον πάρουν και στα σοβαρά.

Γιατί σημασία δεν έχει τι λες, αλλά τι φοράς για να το πεις!

Η γραβάτα προσφέρει αξιοπιστία και κύρος, κυρίως όταν στολίζεις τους ψηφοφόρους σου σε άπταιστα γαλλικά και κάνει το περιεχόμενο του λόγου να είναι πιο “politicallycorrect” γιατί, όλα κι όλα, για ένα “correctness” ζούμε.


May 25th 2012, eleven a.m.-one thirty p.m.

 Since you told me I have to stop watching the news, listening to the radio and stop reading the countless articles analyzing the state ofGreecebecause it is making me sink, I thought I would follow your advice today.

 I decided to go down the center ofAthenswith Despina to go support Maria, a jewelry designer and a new friend of mine. She recently sent out an email letting all of us know that she was shutting down her studio too. Her jewelry shop closed down a while ago because business was slow.

 We took the metro to Omonia and were walking onStournara Street(a major street in Exarhia) when we saw a dark skinned man running away from us.  He had the kind of pace one has after stealing a wallet or a bag. We kept walking and stopped to see why a crowd was gathering up ahead.

 What I saw was shocking: A Bangladeshi (or Pakistani) young man, writhing in pain, on the ground with bleeding wounds and a pharmacist running from across the street with alcohol and cotton in her hands to try and help him.  The pharmacist turned to us to say “I call the police all the time but they don’t come, this happens all the time! They set up shop on the street selling illegally and those of us who have shops have to deal with this every day. Who protects the storekeeper?! They fight each other all the time.” 

 Two policemen showed up, a man who has lived in Exarhia for 25 years stood nearby saying: “The cops asked me as they walked by him to see what the fuss was about; they asked ‘Are they just fighting?’ They don’t get involved in these fights between the Bangladeshi and Pakistani groups of illegal street sellers unless it turns ugly.”

 This one turned ugly, the young man on the ground tried lifting his head when I saw thick blood spilling onto the street. I almost passed out. I walked away and saw a thick wooden rod with nails on it thrown to the ground and the Exarhia resident told me this is what they hit him with. They fight all the time amongst themselves to secure the best spot to sell drugs.

 I was trembling and walked away into the backed-up traffic on that street. I saw an ambulance arrive. I don’t know if that young man is still alive. We walked to Maria’s studio and spent time talking politics instead of shopping for jewelry.  Despina and I, still stunned, walked back to the metro later. I picked up my daughter Anna from school unable to explain what I did with my day. Instead I said:  “It was just a day inAthens.”

 More news:  a musician in his 50s and his mother in her 90s jumped off their balcony inAthensand committed suicide yesterday.


“Let them take my house, my business – what else? My body? We don’t take it with us anyway. They can’t touch what’s inside of me though. That’s what matters, that’s all that’s ours in the end. You can’t have a resurrection without a crucifixion. We’re living the crucifixion … it will free us, those of us with souls. These are blessed times. ”


“Gravediggers and psychiatrists are the only ones making money these days. But even dying is expensive. You need 5000 Euros for a burial. We were at my father’s memorial service and they were saying they can’t keep up with the work.”


 “Bitterness as a source of inspiration can lead to some masterpieces of irony. However, on the verge of the unbearable!”

I know that the most difficult thing is going to be finding a way to tell it, and I’m not afraid of repeating myself. It’s going to be difficult because nobody really knows who it is telling it, if I am I or what actually occurred or what I’m seeing (clouds, and once in a while a pigeon) or if, simply, I’m telling a truth which is only my truth, and then is the truth only of my stomach, for this impulse to go running out and to finish up in some manner with, this, whatever it is.

Julio Cortazar, Blow-up

 KC & NA:

 “Who’s sexier Angela or Aleka?”

“Η Αλέκα μου, definitely sexier.”

“I like Angela’s buxom style.”

“Η Αλέκα μου says the ones on top never care. There’s no mystery to Angela.”

“No, she likes to be clear and dominant. (Laughs) a little bit of a dominatrix … it’s okay sometimes.”

“A little? I think the lovers are all dead in this case.”

“No blond Weissbeer charm in that.”

“Don’t you like Αλέκα μου’s bangs, the way they fall into her eyes?”

“You mean her purple hair?”

“I know you’re attracted to Angela .. it’s all about her powerful Europe?”

“I love her full cleavage… her skin.”

“Η Αλέκα μου is a natural. She doesn’t cause problems. The answer will always be given by the people. Vote for a stronger KKE, that’s all Αλέκα wants.”

“From her comrades in the streets,  the people who rejected Angela?”

“What did Angela expect with all that soulless dominatrix… η Αλέκα μου is always hot, hot as Raki!”

“The drink of the comrades…”

“Yes but your Angela has no clue what kind of heat that becomes!”

“I understand, I understand … I’m drawn to my opposite.”

“It’s a matter of taste… η Αλέκα μου though, we love her, we love her fuchsia, we love her honesty, she doesn’t lie, she says the people will always decide — she’s our true original!


It is late, watching fakeli on Skai…

Greecein the 1940s had a crisis of identity and survival; people were dying of hunger in the streets, most people were fed at soup kitchens. 1950s emigration, black and white images of people hugging, departing, crying, old faces in pain, young people making their way with small suitcases stacked up, leading toward the boats, steamers to take over one million people away from Greece, some forever

1952: Papagou wins elections. He wiped out all the political cronies of his party. 1953 Papagos downgrades the drachma, 30 drachmas to 1 American dollar, until 1973 it held steady.  Sailors and immigrants send their money back to Greeceand into banks. Through the 1950s and 1960s people don’t see the change, the insecurity of civil war remains. Karamanlis comes into power in 1955 when Papagos dies. Exodus from the crisis (sound familiar? Oh god, we are headed right there again aren’t we?).  The key were the investments from 1950s-1970s. just writing what I hear from fakeli the Skai TV program. I feel very sick, very sick, knowing the writing is on the wall and that no matter what party we choose to vote for the results will be either paralyzing strikes (if Syriza) loses or (if Syriza) wins nationalization of all organizations, and government stealing of our bank accounts, of whatever assets we have — And out of the euro we go – welcome drachma – or toilet paper – depends on how you look at it. If you could see the black and white film I am watching now you would faint. Farmers, poor, poor farmers working the fields, that is what Greece was, Argyri remembers going with horse and cart to pick peaches with his uncle to sell, that is what they did in the 1960s and now we import our peaches. Now what are we?

Postscript: Keep very focused on the colorful threads. I weave them madly on the rusty metal I have shaped with my hands. The sculpture “Madness in Athens Before the June 2012 Elections ” is getting bigger and bigger as I add more metal and wire to it each day.  I work on it from morning to night to keep from falling apart. I listen to the radio with its analysis of the political scene, political leaders pontificating what they will do when they win. I need a life jacket so I weave, I mold metal, I imagine shape, flow and space and after three days the sculpture is ready… my way of telling Greece and the world I am still here, breathing, worried, scared, hopeful. ALIVE. 

“Madness in Athens…” by Amalia Melis

About akalfopoulou

Author of three poetry collections, a book of essays, Ruin, Essays in Exilic Living, and most recently, A History of Too Much (Red Hen Press 2018).
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s