Calchas Reading the Signs


By George Kalogeris

Featured Art by Piet Mondrian

It’s ’68. Whatever he saw, whatever he smelt
In that smoky, dripping handful of purple entrails
Just thawing out from the freezer, the news from Athens

Was ominous, and he wouldn’t haruspicate
On how and when the Colonels might react—
But the gobbets of offal keep piling up in the pail.

It’s not that he fully trusted the lordly voice
Of the BBC, but hearing Vietnam
He drops what he’s doing, and cranking up the volume

On that crackly plastic Panasonic—
That’s when I hear it too: Khe Sanh. It’s what
Comes through the speaker’s throbbing bamboo mesh

As I’m stamping prices on jars of baby food:
A staticky hiss like burning jungle grass . . .
My father wiping his hands on his butcher’s apron,

Oblivious to his customers as he listens
To a transistor radio broadcast the blood
Of a world in shambles. And then he’s back at his block.

Khe Sanh. My older cousins, Kosta and Jimmy,
Are loading up the van they’ll drive around Winthrop,
Delivering groceries and checking out girls.

I’m stamping the little glass jars of applesauce.
Nobody knows whose number will come up.
But our Calchas isn’t taking any chances.

Already he’s built another hecatomb,
And now he’s scrutinizing some gristly turkey
Intestines unfurling for all I know like the coils

Of giant lianas he saw in Guadalcanal
As a young recruit. But through that throbbing bamboo
Mesh I hear the Hydra’s serpentine hiss

He heard as a village boy way up in the Peloponnese.


George Kalogeris is the author of a book of paired poems in translation, Dialogos (Antilever, 2012), and a book of poems based on the notebooks of Albert Camus, Camus: Carnets (Pressed Wafer, 2006). His work was anthologized in Joining Music with Reason, chosen by Christopher Ricks, and his collection, Guide to Greece, is forthcoming from LSU Press (2018). He teaches at Suffolk University.

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