Parts 1 and 4 of Kleftiko


I saw the best generations of my mind
destroyed by frivolous logic
hysterical, naked, and in debt,
left to crawl the Balkan streets at dawn, searching
for ways to pay a necessary fix,

rebetes-angels who threw their backs out delivering pizzas,
fillets of grouper quenched in Samoan wine, “DIY” furniture and bits of plumbing
who, though poor, stood smoking in front of supernatural screens
paralyzed with fear for their CVs
who found the countess Seroxat crawling at the crack of dawn on Epirus Street
in the company of baron Tavor and his distant cousin—
the anemic mistress of private typos — Xanax,

who carved with an out-of-tune tzouras
Hizak, Ousak, Sabah, and the roads of Piraeus
afternoons grooved with heat
in blind two-bedroom apartments with blinds closed,
who parked their Cherokee on the pavements of Psiri
and lost their scalp for a natural blonde — who wasn’t a natural blonde —

who staggered and stumbled on a duplicitous friend
returning with false friendship to the Unavoidable
who listened to Socrates scream Ta Pagia with broken vocal cords
from Sykia, Chalkidiki to Stuttgart,
who gave PhD dissertations
on “Existentialism after Sartre and the Problem of Disability
in Southwestern Ghana” and then returned to Athens
to contemplate in the unemployment lines of the OAED, the longest
sleeve of postmodernism,

who searched among the 7,284 Pharoah’s wounds
for their own,
who threw themselves at Zen and grafted Stalin
with Pilates studios and yoga-plastic surgeries
who greeted with manners fitting middle-class kids
the empty jacket hanging from the CEO’s chair,

who put their neuroses on autopilot without going insane
and ingested the Method and the Structure
publishing at their own expense, with no ink on their hands,
to be considered among the water lilies of narcissus,

who sought love in the rippling flags of Kronstadt,
doubled over from solitude in naked rooms, burning
their diplomas in the recycling bin and listening through the wall
to the nightclub next door
who drank bleach and turpentine, and ate olive pits on their day of transfer
to the 724th Engineer Corps, the 482nd Communications Corps, the K.E.Y.P., the W.H.Y.,
who polished the belts, belts, belts and rims of decommissioned Leopard tanks,
canisters and night goggles,
and caught fire from the cigarette of some cock-snot Drill Sergeant
and lost their face > where is your skin Panagopoulos?
*****************> I don’t know sir General sir, am I being redundant?
***********************forgive me…
who fed the monster that was feeding them dining with an out-of-shape god
who carved on their arm with a rusty exacto the first caress
of love in all of the two-hour art deco brothels,

who sank in the zenlike light of Exarchia, in Agioi Anargyroi and Kypseli
“Dressed Formally,” on “The way to the Kiosk”, with “Mr. Crack”
“Delta,” “Retaliations,” “Electrography,” Three-pointer and Sports Echo
who with a Match burned some Heroes Square or another,


who spent their blue on Fevgada, on a touristic-Vermietung-Zimmer-

who heard on the radio that the Report that was decided for the Report
to decide on the Report came to no conclusion on the Report that decided it’s safe
to conclude that a Report must be decided on
who lingered ecstatic, jobless and gagged in faded whorehouses
writing hymns dedicated to the eyes of Anna Pavlova
asking “If-Anyone-Was-Ever-Loved-Here?”
who worked for a stint at collection agencies
for overdue debts, and had for “good morning” a “go fuck yourself,”
who counted the pages on inscrutable Family Planning calendars
playing with their office keys, always in the wrong neighborhood and always the wrong time,
who chanted slogans against corporations until even that became sold out
in an ad for condoms,
who abandoned reading,****************************right about now,

who boiled in a doped-up all-nighter
the anatomy skeleton and drank its juice,
who bayonetted Boredom and got surrounded on mountains of scrap
and the unappeased greeneries of Saxony,
souvenirs, the silver wings of litany
cow-tipping on magic mushrooms — spurted entrails,
long bleached and warmed by uselessness,

who dreamed of wandering and isolation, meditation and study
and were left with dreams of wandering and isolation, meditation and study

who got stuck on section 117, specifically paragraph 3
slash 66 subsection 34 and ignored the semi-colon in the final article
of Presidential Decree 238 — were briefly comforted by their interpretation
of Ordinance 466 — numbed and repulsed by bureaucratic am-
biguity, thinking: “goddamn the world isn’t simple in the slightest”
who contracted frostbite-gangrene-amputations preaching ethics beneath the wide-open window of
*******the law
who hunted fascists that hunted immigrants that hunted angels
that hunted wanderers, that were all hunted by trafficker’s math,
who ate orange peels to meet her — and met her —
underneath the sponsor’s flag, on 1,200 MHz, on 18.000 BTU,
at Kyklotro prep school,
******————— her fall from the seventh floor —————–
*******************and the      a m b u l a n c e s,
who studied Leontaris, Plotinus, Byron, Adorno, and Cortázar,
because they felt the dialectic stacked intuitively
beneath their feet in Nea Krini,
who found the father’s children’s lectern buried in the rubble of De La Sal,
who plucked the sanatorium’s cyclamens next to open windows
and the domes of Tsimiski St., and wondered if the bookies were playing
their own annihilation,
who in their writing defanged Parmenides
cultivating a sudden intolerance for broad beans,
who locked down an entire Middle Ages of fixed-term futures
and were since reassured on four-point-five percent interest,
who staked their hopes on the Other Greece — the “good one” — and here
you may laugh, reader —
who wrote history while sighing in Legend, in Berlin, in Mojo, and Astoria,
shrugging weary shoulders in the popular chant:
“but they’re waging a war on us—they’ve defeated us—can’t you see?—can’t you see?—we’re
so small—a tiny islet of resistance—a little dot on the map—a silent
minority—safe—in the Order that defined it—for its alibi—harmless—sensitive
and educated—and above all defeated—we’re swatting flies in
the imaginary—rooms to let—of our radicalness—don’t you see?—don’t you
see?—don’t look… huzza!”

who, from the second floor, dreamed
of a sunny loft on the third—and from there
of a sunny loft on the fifth—and from there
of a sunny, quaint, lofty penthouse—and from there
the entire house—the whole neighborhood—
the entire country—if possible—along with the inhabitants,
who built with their Holy Sword
aquariums with goldfish, piranhas, and LED lighting,
who mortgaged their mind to the Bank of Deposits and Loans
and had it taken by the Bank of Deposits and Loans
and now           they                 don’t                know               what
**************to                     do                    with                 it,

who crossed the country from point to point to see you who had
no vision, or me who had no vision, or him who had no vision,
because they wanted to measure exactly
what and if ever there was a Difference between us,
who burnt out like censored frames in underground projection rooms, changed
opinions and sides on the hour the Cosmos stretched,
woke up unexpectedly in Ampelokipoi,
crawled out of movie theatres exhausted by empty rhetoric
and were lost and limping, eternally, in yellow streets,

who ate the stew of normality
or fished normalité from the bottom of Evros,
who overturned the waste bins of Athens searching for the wide-angle
lens of dream, or the notebook with the angelic notes of a debauched
who synched counterclockwise poems with a Rolex-Oyster Perpetual-Cosmograph
and gave a reading for their 15th collection—made an impression—
**********************it was good,
who went to Lamia, who went mad in Lamia, and escaped for a while
but returned to Lamia and waited there, for something inexpressible, in vain,
who paused for a moment to stare at Lamia and think—as much as one’s allowed
to think in Lamia—and sought to become monks, but finally broke down and partied
with four peroxide nightingales in Laos Square and in Eleftheria Square,
and left to investigate advertised visions of a minor Apocalypse
and now Lamia, with its barbeques and strip clubs,
recounts its heroes while grilling,

who snorted delusion when they realized-that-they-were-born-to-sell-
phones-touchscreens-insanity-25-gauge syringes and defective parts-phone plans
hairdresser’s accessories-chain links-ashtrays-lanterns-kimonos from Kilkis-
who were caught red-handed with a joint
and two-and-a-half years later were released from Skylark (not Shelley’s)
straightened-out, reformed junkies, who jumped
into open freight cars and played Prefa with dispatch cards,
who forgot themselves for months and years underneath the heating pads, sipping
gossip, stirring Aretso’s sardines with Propontida’s fishing lines,
occasionally shouting: Aaaaaaaaaaa….! tell me—tell me—go on—tell me—go
on—tell me—do we have melancholy? or at least cigarette papers?—tell me—tell me—go on—

who were betrayed by folk skirts, verse-makers of the working class, the naked
waists that offer spoon sweets with the tray, middlemen, censors, gaudy
and cheap folk clothes, households, vacation homes, thieves, guilts, upper-crust
vests, Prevezas, debt installment plans, lamias, iconostasis, cheap Johnny Red from Kallithea
for self-blinding, free press, New Year’s parties on gothic bridges, tongue-
lashed from the touch—and imprisoned in the embraces—without arms

who wore chintzy ties in their own Amorgian summers
and were hanged from them and no one cared,

who fought the percentage beast,
the beast of undeclared oppressions
the beast of trampled whispers
and were left mad on the street corner
mouthing a ludicrous, imprisoning prayer
with the absolute heart of the poem of Life
expelled from their bodies,

enough food
for ten million pawns.


willkommen zu Allophone Banking

if you would like to know who you are, press 1
if you would like to know where you are going, press 3

the conversation has been recorded before it has occurred

the event has already occurred
before it occurs

anonymous souls convening
beneath the earth

hell is being forwarded



Divine Grace –—I’m having trouble picturing you–—
*******in your long dress and your pancreatitis
**************and a low-brimmed straw hat
panting on the steep roads of Piraiki
*******next to the Old Torture Center
*********************on the  u n e n d i n g  road
**************in the lobby
where the desperate convene to program
*******the next compromise

–—the chestnut, your sad face
**the tears of marital oppression
**(the inconsolable arrangements, drowned sobs,
securities and morning chores–—caught up in the neighborhood’s underwear–—
endless resignation–—subjugation–—capitulation–—
*******at the feet of some prophet Elias)
back when I was standing in the bathroom naked
and you were putting makeup on the bruises on my knees—
I wonder what you were thinking then—secretly—seeing how I was becoming a man, little-
by-little—and myself a mongrel of domestic silences, on the crumbling pedestal
of your invisible wings in the atrium—Museum of Kastelas—
*********************Divine Grace
Pattakos still lives—Pattakos gets up at a quarter to five each morning
—for swimming and stretching—tonight he speaks at the Hotel Kalypso—in Ana-
vyssos—the veteran’s club has made preparations—already they’re polishing the horns
of the taxidermied reindeer—illuminating the ballroom for wedding ceremonies
and bringing down the old china from the attic—with the two-headed apple tree
on the coat of arms—and the imminently promising goat—at night
the stadium-phalluses will meet—the locals, last year’s high school half-backs—
a shill for the fur shop “All in”—
they’ll raise the nation’s flag-blue aspirations proudly—mumbling
“Three Blind Mice,” “London Bridge,” or some other kids’ ditty
of post-civil war relief—

*******only that you will never live to be an old woman
**************nor will you see this city stagger
weary and hunched over—inside its own oxidized mythology—
*******a wannabe Jerusalem acting like she’s somebody
**************to the phthisics and the maimed
*******handing out expired cod liver oil in Sunday School
**************the crust of stale communion bread
*********************with merciful rations of the state
*******a dish of lentils—a fucking dish of lentils—
**************for some beauty—unlucky—and from our own century—
****************************w e  s a i d
I’m having trouble picturing you—someone left a phone on
in my brain—at night it rings on vibrate and never lets me sleep—

But still I see you standing there—a ghost of Ermoupoli—
*******at the gatepost with the parting’s honeysuckle
wearing your undeliverable love on your flesh
and something which, some other time, might have been a silk dress—
walking underneath an ashen sky
and learning by heart the goodbye:
*******the goodbye—labyrinth with the thread crowded in knots
*******the goodbye—minotaur in ambivalence
*******and the only use of touch: to polish
*********************all day, on a basin                     from before the war,
***********************************the universe
**************Divine Grace

what kind of bones do they wear in the dark?
*******how is it there?                                          ******is there rustling?
*********************here—just as you left it—
everyone’s in bulletproof vests—and even better—
*******but life marks us on the skull
**************behind the numbers
in our homemade cigarettes—our drinks downed
in our tiny extravagances, and the oxygen of ancestral pensions
in our nightly tussles with a white flag while throwing in the towel
*******to this every fairy tale’s conclusion:
no one was redeemed from the linearity of love
no one was redeemed from the circularity of silence
defenseless—those who are about to live, and the dead—
defenseless—from the antipathy of the “average citizen”—
everywhere and always unprepared for the drought to come
*******in this starting point of the new fairy tale:
no asylum for their lost slogan
no ————————————————– Polytechnic

Pattakos lives and Despiniadis will print Kleftiko in 500 copies
*******—you’re holding the most wounded one—
George and Eleni walk the line, unpaid, in Upper Ilisia,
*******Grandma stoically observes our debaucheries,
she no longer arranges her dead,

the last time I met you was in the private clinic
in the conceit of the visitors
in the vulgarity of sponsor’s brochures
pale girl—unconscious—in the oxygen room,
pigeons cooing—unbearable minutiae—on the skylight
and on your ashen skull the veins of the beaten shined,

it’s been a long time, but the war among humans doesn’t stop
*********************Divine Grace


On the night of the apocalypse
the world will desperately seek
an embrace,

just like tonight.


George Prevedourakis

George Prevedourakis (b. 1977) was born and lives in Athens. He is the author of four collections of poetry, including Κλέφτικο (Kleftiko, 2013) and, most recently, Οδός Ρόδων (Rodon Street, 2018). He is the Modern Greek translator of the German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger.

Brian Sneeden

Brian Sneeden is the author of Last City (Carnegie Mellon). A 2018 PEN/Heim recipient, his translation of Phoebe Giannisi’s Homerica (World Poetry Books) was selected by Anne Carson as a favorite book of 2017.

Copyright (c) George Prevedourakis and Panoptikon Editions, 2013. English translation copyright (c) Brian Sneeden, 2018.