Makriyianni, Athens, Greece

The trolleybus has stalled where two familiar streets
agree to meet. Straphanging, I’m jolted to that other
evening in December, rushing to a wedding (mine)
clutching a clichéd red rose, dressed in blue to match
the bruise, empurpled at its epicentre, shadowing my left
eyelid: memento of a dire pre-nuptial falling-out at dead
of night, inflicted accidentally, though nobody will credit that.

It doesn’t augur well, but I shall brush aside all auguries
for just an instant as the trolley lurches to a stop.
Straphanging in time, I pause inside an iridescent orb,
detached from every yesterday, all ominous tomorrows.

Suspended for a moment in a trolley at an intersection
while the driver reconnects the cable to its track,
hopefulness is starry-eyed (despite the violet aureole);
those touched by joy can ill afford to look forward or back.

The mustard-yellow Russian trolley lurches like a drunk,
into the zone of doomed relationships and broken trust.
We lived euphorically, though briefly, in our timeless,
glaucous bubble, untroubled by the facts, until illusion cracked.

Now the winds of fortune have reversed chronology
and borne me back, alone, to ride the trolley with the faulty
track. The streets meet at the same blind corner, concealing
from my gaze the days to come, as on that winter
evening of our wedding pact. Today there is the same delay,
without the music and the feast to follow; no bruised eye-
socket, no bridegroom and no lovers’ spat. This time
there is only me, a returnee – no rose, no frock – revisiting
the streets our feet once made their own; our lost address.

Raised blinds reveal our filmy drapes the new tenants did not
replace; a person on a mobile phone, twin pots of basil on the sill.

Jena Woodhouse

Listen to Jena reading ‘Straphanging’ (2:59)


Jena Woodhouse is the author/ translator/ co-compiler of nine book and chapbook publications in various genres, the most recent being The Book of Lost Addresses: A retrospective (Picaro Poets 2020). Her poems have received three shortlistings in the Montreal International Poetry Prize, the latest in 2020. She spent more than a decade living and working in Greece, a site of continuing revelation and inspiration.

© text and audio 2020