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anastasios mihalopoulos / poem

Language Of The Sunken Tree

Too many days spent like this, Bouzouki strumming

in my head, always swimming out to the same place,

that sunken tree, covered in algae, waiting,

learning to translate wind and rain into wave

and stone. It mustn’t be easy, this language

felt rather than spoken. Though I imagine

all language is this way. The repetition, I imagine

understanding, imagine wanting, the strumming

of a new word in my throat. I language

my body this way, swimming out of this place

into myself, into the words and sounds, waves

of music, that poetry seeks to imitate. I am still waiting

for the line that limns off the page, waiting 

for my words to alchemize. It is hard to imagine

speaking in my father’s tongue. Dreams where he waves

to me from the porch in Athens, mouthing a strum

of words, that I can never hear. Instead, he places

an almond in my palm, tells me language

of the tree, γλώσσα του δέντρου, not the language

he spoke, but one we both understood. I keep waiting

for that dream to happen again, keep placing 

myself underwater, spiraling around the trunk. I imagine

it’s an almond tree, that it has to be. I run my hands over the claustrum

of algae, this gossamer thin layer, wonder why it isn’t torn away by waves,

if learning is not unlike this. Slow wave

after slow wave. Damage to the shell, until language

cracks it open. I want, so badly to follow the strum

of the bouzouki-player’s fingers, to know the names, no longer having wait

for the sounds to register. I reimagine 

my life as if I was at home in this place,

but I am not. I cannot place

myself anywhere. In Greece, in this wave,

on this tree. Once a woman I loved asked me to imagine 

a perfect day, asked me what language

I would speak. Where I would be if I no longer had to wait

to feel better, as if this nostrum 

would mend my mind. I couldn’t place a single word, no language for it.

I can only understand the waves and the waiting

Never able to imagine that tree on land, the sound that wind would strum in its leaves.


Anastasios Mihalopoulos is a Greek/Italian-American from Boardman, Ohio. He received his MFA in poetry from the Northeast Ohio MFA program and his B.S. in both chemistry and English from Allegheny College. His work has appeared in Blue Earth Review, West Trade Review, Ergon, The Decadent Review and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of New Brunswick.

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