I hold a new white sheet of paper.
As pure and light-filled as the virgin blocks of marble
that became the Parthenon.
My hands, lacking the skill or vision of Iktinos and Kallikrates
yet they seek the same perfect symmetry
I fold it once, carefully creased, like the perfect cuts in stone Socrates must have made.
I have the idea of the perfect shape. How close can I come?
A lovely rectangle.
Is it the right proportion?
The golden ratio?
I call the Greek statistical service.
One point 62 to 1. Is that correct?
Oh! They no longer care about that ratio;
they have other numbers on their mind.
“We gave the Europeans lovely books with beautiful math.
They thanked us for them,” the man across the Atlantic said.
“Now they say they are ugly, that they are lies,”
the man across the Atlantic said.
“Beauty is not truth any more.
We have ripped up those books.”
I understand, I said, offering sympathy.
Good luck with the reforms.
“Stick it with your reforms Amerikanaki!”
[tear folded paper in half]
We are Greeks.
We feel divided.
We have always felt that,
Not Greek enough for the homeland, not really sure of our place in the land of our birth.
We feel torn.
Part Greek, part American.
Torn like this. [tear paper again]
We can choose, however, sometimes,
who and where to be.
When we go to Greece, some of us can be Greek.
My accent is pretty good, and my relatives love me,
but their friends are not too polite.
Even our family’s living rooms we are torn.
“You are a capitalist. You are all evil agents of globalization.”
They are socialists, even the conservative party.
The real ideology of all the Greek parties is “let’s party!”
The real ideal of the Greek Americans is let’s make money.
work work work – not in the arts or philanthropy – give you parents a heart attack will you?
The business of America is business said a failed president
Money money money.
They like that word.
“We are not Germans,” they say.
Neither are we I respond.
We party too, but we work.
Work work work our words reek to the Greeks
I feel another split [tearing paper in half again]
We’re all praying for Greece I say,
hoping to spread some good will.
“Pray?” my uncle said, to whom?” “We don’t pray anymore” said one.
“We pray to Zeus” said a third.
Another blurted “We don’t pray with priests.”
In America, we still go to church.
It may disappoint us but they usually don’t disgust us.
Try to stay away from those monasteries.
Another direction to decide about during my trip to Greece.
Another fork in the road to the true Greece.
The forks tear at us
I go to church anyway.
I have other relatives.
People do still go to church in Greece.
Happy nameday Ilia!
What are you telling me” It’s not my nameday!
That’s in two weeks. Live by the real calendar!
We are the true church.”
Another division. Old calendar, new calendar
My Greece is disappearing.
I’m losing the whole for the parts.
Let me leave my relatives and make some new friends.
Here’s a nice lounge.
I’m Ntinos. What’s your name? Geia sou Mihali!
Oh, sorry. Yes I have an accent. Oh - you think I speak well?
I’m from New York. You love New York? Great!
When you visit call me we’ll get together with my parea.
I’ll introduce you to my sister.
Wonderful! A new friend!
I feel Peace, healing, brotherhood.
Ellada lives after all!
Where is your family from? Nice! I can’t wait to go there.
Mine are from Siphnos.
Very green. Known for its cooking and its pottery.
Um, Yes it’s an island.
What do you mean
we islanders think we are better than mainlanders?
Aren’t we all Greek?
Aren’t we all human beings?
Wait, what soccer team do you like?
[Tear up the rest of the paper into bits and toss them in the air]
Originally Published in The National Herald, January 27, 2011