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Thursday, September 01, 2011

THE GHOSTS OF VIRONOS STREET

This is another poem in my collection "Songs for Erato".  Vironos Street, in Athens Plaka, is named for Lord Byron who used to stay at a small monastary where the Lysikratis monument is at a corner we called "The Dirty Corner" because of the dust from excavations.

#14 Vironos Street, Plaka

THE GHOSTS OF VIRONOS STREET 
 I walk past #14 Vironos,
touch the gate
recall my life there:
Kyria Dina’s scarlet geraniums
The little spitaki in the courtyard
occupied by writers, artists,
Robbie sipping krasi
expounding on his life
as an Argentine exile

Roberto Hallberg (Robbie)

 At the Dirty Corner
( named because of the dust of the excavation)
the tripod monument of Lysikratis,
won by a chorus at the Dionysus Theatre.
This was ancient Athen’s theatre district.
Poets lived here: Byron, Shelly…
(Vironos is Byron’s Street).
Lysikratis Monument, next to the monastary where Bryon used to visit.

Once these tables at the milk shop
were crowded with friends
sharing wine and stories.
We lived the Greek zoe,
bared our passions to the passersby.
Artists, mad poets,
writers, scholars,
expats and locals.
So much flotsam tossed on
Aegean shores.
Tales were told,
Dreams shared.
Dramas enacted on this street stage.
Relationships began and ended here.
Once I threw a wine glass at Mikalis.
Missed.

On winter nights
we sat inside the milk shop
huddled around a heater
sipping Metaxa brandy.
the Katherine Hepburn of the Corner
her maniac Canadian boyfriend,
Mary Rogers, the faded debutante,
with a bottle of vodka in her handbag
an entourage of toy-boys in tow.
my soul-brother, Robbie,
telling stories about
his beloved Buenos Aires.
We shared our lives
on that Corner,
knew each other’s secrets and
sorrows.
Now the milk shop is a ritzy café-bar
the dust of the excavations
swept away
along with the memories
Old friends have disappeared,
Left for other places.
Some taken too soon.
Yet their presence
lingers still.
Do the tourists who sit here
sipping frappe and wine
know the Corner’s history?
Can they feel the presence
of the ghosts ?

Last night as I walked,
out of Vironos Street
across the Areopagitou
I saw him,
walking in his slow amble
toward the Dirty Corner.
I recognized
his slender frame,
long grey pony-tail and beard.
Robbie looked up,
caught my tear-filled eyes.
I heard him say
in his mischievous way,
“Misbehave!”
Then, like a shadow,
he was gone.
 So many memories
on that little corner of Plaka.
Yes, the ghosts are there
I see them,
hear their laughter 
as I pass by.

The "Dirty Corner" (now posh and expensive!)


(note: This summer when I passed by #14 Vironos and stopped to touch the gate and peer inside as I always do, the whole front was covered by an iron sheet with a bolted door, sealing all the ghosts inside!)

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