Ode to a Familiar City

I believe in beautiful birds which fly out from the most bitter books.

Tassos Leivaditis: ‘Credo’


Observe the noonday thirst of pigeons, sipping water
dripping from a copper pipe to irrigate a desiccated
marble gutter, in this city parched and bleached to nuances
of Attic white, where modern life rubs shoulders with antiquity;
absorb the amethyst of evening that enfolds these hills,
a lullaby before deep violet nocturnes animate their dreams,
and columns of the temple incandesce with waxen light ~

Contemplate the limpid quality of Cretan wine,
this glass at dusk, this solitary chair; the vista
from a balcony projecting into air; awaken to
the throaty call of urban birds at dawn, opening
their larynxes upon the ledge outside your room;
celebrate the pealing bells that echo in your neighbourhood,
ringing in the holy day, banishing night’s visitants;
adore the shady mulberry tree that emanates sweet reveries,
pulsing with cicada threnody in August somnolence ~

My spirit greets the street musicians, lingering into the fall
when seasonal sun-seeking visitors have fled abroad:
the solitary violin, the cymbalon, the haunting songs
on nights of frost and wind without an audience to offer coins:
grant them a warm place to sleep; a winter roof that doesn’t leak;
an overcoat, a scarf, a hat; a glass of wine, enough to eat ~

Jena Woodhouse


Jena Woodhouse is the author/translator/compiler of nine book publications in various genres, the most recent being The Book of Lost Addresses: A retrospective (Picaro Poets series 2020). She lived and worked for ten years in Athens, Greece.

© 2020