Three Poems by Adrianne Kalfopoulou



“Just stay with that trembling, and track that trembling through the body.”
Dr. Pat Ogden on the Sensorimotor Approach to Resolve Trauma

It’s not any other day anymore.
The overweight policemen are eating pizza
in the spray of chamomile flowers.
“Can I ask a question,” I say to one of them,
we both look eager for an answer.

How little time I have with so much of it to choose from.
I can’t read or write, I only want to talk to friends
about birds and how much we miss each other.
I try to remember how I was just a few days ago.

We tell each other our dreams: A creature,
a giraffe-like animal
was inside a fenced yard.
There was someone dead in the garlic patch.
I keep wanting what is not there 

I put gifts out with the garbage,
a ceramic bracelet, a cup for a candle.
I dry my face with the roughest towel
rubbing it against my skin for a long while
my whole face buried in the feel of the fabric.

“What about our health savings?” someone asks
late in life, too late to squander tasks.
There are people waiting for words you don’t have
so you say thank you.

You watch the man who every day
loiters in the middle of the street
where he’s found the greatest patch of sun.

A woman from the opposite balcony
keeps shaking out her sheet.


from A Quarantine Journal

I dream of doing my hair
swallowing warm bourbon
dancing tango,
the sounds of Francisco Canaro
leading me and my cavaliero.
Do you want to die? The Italian mayor is yelling
breaking the reverie
of someone like me,
his arms opened to sky, to say
(I imagine) This. Is. Life.
But he’s supposed to be inside
in Lombardy
the wind batting his hair
and the mayor shaking his head,
Lombardy now the epicenter of the sickness
sweeping Europe.

In another dream Francisco is dancing as water
slowly rises around him,
he keeps posting online lessons
and today’s surprise
is the dama, a hanger he introduces
from his closet, held gingerly at the shoulders.
This way, he says, smiling into
the camera, is how to hold your dama.
Moving with her, he glides
to a milonga playing on a vinyl
a curtain’s filtered light swings across
the walls and floor of a bedroom.

My daughter can’t sleep,
she wants to know if I called out her name
when I am sure I must have been dreaming
the name of a lover.
She can’t sleep
making origami cranes
the birds good luck, she explains
creasing their paper wings
to suggest flight, how like the hands
of the sight-challenged poet
who has lost the world once again, unable
to touch its shapes
instructed like everyone to mind
what settles on the flesh,
she is telling me of how it feels
to find new ways to be,
and so in my dreams I see how hungry
the cats are in the streets,
trade food for wine,
a packet of cigarettes drop from a guardrail
etched on the river’s surface
each scattered cigarette intact,
dolphins everywhere –

It is spring and the Easter trees have dropped their pink
hems of blooms like fallen skirts,
wisteria hangs from balconies.
The hours have changed
the light shyly lengthens,
we too find ourselves timid
in a festival of sage

the air gathers birds.


Lesson from the Mountain

Realize method in the wild
of stone and earth
the serenity alive
to skies, understand the pine
in windstorm, spines unbroken
and bent to weather

Know the delicacy of the bearded iris
in a time of oppression
the quiet language of the sage
its ancient green, the yellow-flowering
heart of the Jerusalem strain

What categories of branch
reach beyond necessity, I mean
what inspires the climb?
The darkness echoes with owls
I am listening to what I remember
from the mountain
the splayed light

how upright the plants looked in applause


About the Author:

Adrianne Kalfopoulou is the author of three poetry collections, most recently A History of Too Much (2018), and the essay collection Ruin, Essays in Exilic Living (2014). Her work has appeared on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Ergon, Greek/American Arts & Letters, and in Hotel Amerika, Superstition Review, Image, and elsewhere. She teaches at the American College of Greece, and serves as a faculty mentor in poetry and nonfiction for the low-residency MFA program at Regis University. She is the 2020-2021 McGee Professor of Creative Writing at Davidson College.