American hard A’s soften to awe’s
as I learn and recite Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon
on an island surrounded by the Aegean. Greek language
entombed under my tongue every morning.
I ask the ancient ones to help me in translation.
At breakfast, I shake the words out.
Kalimera! Hot Tea, Parakalo. Efkaristo!
Our Greek teacher, a Cypriot, over-enunciates
as we parrot our best imitation of her intonation.
Repeat after me: Yah-soo is hello, and Yiamas is cheers.
Dark curls behind her ears sway as she writes
ancient characters alongside phonetics on the small whiteboard.
We know less than a Greek five-year-old
which could be why she shows her dimpled smile.
What’s the word for lesson?
How do you say beautiful?
Lesson is Máthima. MATT- ee- mah.
Beautiful is or-REY-aw, like an Oreo.
With dinner, we drink white wine, loosening
our tongues: Lefko Grasee, Parakalo.
Greek dancing, a grapevine with kicks.
Everyone joins to move like a Chinese dragon
in a parade, weaving through the tables and chairs,
Lady Eleftheriou leads the spinning circles around a pair of olive trees.
This restaurant has no walls or boundaries, no ceiling,
only a trellis of grapevines, hanging, waiting to be plucked.
The bouzouki plays 15-minute songs, speeding up
to triple time to reveal the best dancers.
A man shouts Den peirazei, when a lady at his table spills her glass.
Sweaty, out of breath, and exhausted we depart
one by one. Kalineichte!
What does your last name mean? They said it on the Athens news.
Ah, yes, Eleftheriou Square in Athens is a large gathering area
for protests. Eleftheriou means freedom. El- Eff- ther- REE- oh.