Image from a postcard sketched between city and dragon

by Liz Bourke

Athens, April 2012

A thinking woman sleeps with monsters. — Adrienne Rich
I see you in snapshots
a shadow against the bright Mediterranean sun
like a broken wing

like a mirage
heat-stained in my eye.


Tomorrow the breeze will stir the thistledown
through dusty streets, over the awnings
of kafenia and kiosks selling cola,
crisps, postcards, dreams

St. George on a magnet
dragon dead at his feet.


The dragon always dies
and lives again to die
until the world's end, until
Jormungandir lets go his tail

until Typhon bursts his bonds
and casts Olympus down)


There are bones in your hands
fragile as eggshells
fragile as suicide flowers
where Dimitris Christoulas died.
You put them together
although they crumble
although dust drains like mercury
from your palms.


The bog swallows them down
like a dragon's gullet
in the wet silence compressed
to coal and slow-burning fire
and hollowed-out reminders.

What you find beneath
burns your fingers.

Today, outside the museum,
riot police slouch in shadow,
drinking cafe frappe
from clear plastic cups,
discussing Olympiakos.

Yesterday, I saw you
grinning at a gas-mask
slung over a teenager's shoulder
in Exarcheia square
like a phantom boulder
too heavy to shift
your breath like a graveyard
carrion between your teeth
furnace-bellows heaving
beneath your gleaming hide —


The bones you hold
are dust and quicksilver
memories of cities
moments of change

when the mirage moves
and the city shifts
before your eye

and you see us all
before you rise.

Liz Bourke is reading for a postgraduate degree in Classics at Trinity College, Dublin. In her copious spare time, she has opinions about things on the internet.

When asked what mask would choose her, she replied as follows: "A mask choose me? Now I have an image in my head of a Greek theatre mask — a satyr one, all gnarled lines and beard and kakon ton prosopon — pursuing me around, trying to attach itself to my face. I hope that if a mask did choose me, it would be something a little more noble of aspect... maybe a wolf's-head, or perhaps a discreet Columbina in pale leather — but only if I get to wear it with a dashing and old-fashioned hat"

Previous | Back to Table of Contents | Next