The Occupation

Issue TwelveIssue Twelve PoetryPoetry

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by Mary Chydiriotis


(Lesvos, Greece, 1942)

Artemis is small and nimble

apron loaded with courgettes

pockets crammed with parsley and dill

she takes the back alleyways


stops at the beachfront

a calm blue palette, a rock ledge

as she watches German soldiers dive

Ooh la la

yellow heads bob in the glistering water


Baba’s fishing boat nearby, idle for years

a memory of tasting sardines

Germans choose who will fish here now

feed the Wehrmacht


she hears footsteps, her heart races

Mama’s voice echoes:

don’t draw attention to yourself

move unnoticed child and hurry home


holding her laden apron tight

she nods as she passes Uncle Theodoros

barters figs and firewood at Aunt Rinoulas

picks up chickpeas

(they grind well with coffee beans)

thyme for mama’s cough


the clack tap of boots

she turns left to avoid the square

men gather at the mayor’s office

Manolis stands gesturing to Pavlos


she crosses abandoned fields

heads west of the village

few fishing families remain

Baba is waiting outside

mending nets, he sighs


at night the kerosene lamp flickers

Baba whispers don’t trust anyone paidi mou

Manolis could be a collaborator

Artemis shakes her head; a prodotis?


the splat of a motor vehicle

on bedding knitted together

with fishing net

light out

the three of them wait