The Morning Before He Died

Where Words Go

by Becky Dennison Sakellariou

Becky SakellariouPETERBOROUGH New Hampshire—(Weekly Hubris)—1/9/12—Michael Fakinos was a dear friend, colleague, therapist . . . and a wonderful, warm-hearted, intelligent man. He died, out of the blue, the summer of 2010, and I still miss him. One of those damned losses that is so hard to take in. I wrote this poem to help myself imagine him at peace.



“The Morning Before He Died” 

He opens the refrigerator door, stands there, barefoot, reflecting

on mustard jars, cheeses wrapped in waxed grocery-store paper,

the lemonade, a row of pale yellow peaches, yesterday’s left-over pasta.


He briefly forgets what he is looking for.

The cool air lifts his skin and he silently wishes he could climb

into the middle shelf, lie there and wait until the midday heat lowers itself,

until the cicadas shut up and the tiny night owls began their whooping.


He grins at the idea, takes the lemonade pitcher, closes the door,

pours a glass, and then remembers – he had been looking

for the pickled capers his aunt had brought over on Monday

– she knows he loves them tart and prickly –

so he could add them to the sliced tomatoes, tiny rolls of anchovies,

soft white mizithra cheese and chopped purple onions

he thought he would put together for supper.


Jill was coming over, Dimitri would join them later.

It was too hot to eat anything else, this would be fine with lots of olive oil,

barley rusks to soak up the mixed juices, a glass of chilled Moskofilero

and good talk between three old friends sitting out on the terrace

under the grape arbor now hanging heavy with fat sweet pink fruit.


He loves his little place, his great-grandmother’s old bakery

he’s been renovating on Naxos for the past three years.

He likes the way he has kept the rooms spare and simple,

uneven stone floors, white walls, bits of blue and green colors around,

his low bed with its cool cotton sheets set right under the window

that looks down the steep valley toward the changing sea, the olive trees

that lean into the wind like the old men in the coffee house, bent, gray, steady.

He has always secretly thought that if he had his way,

this would be a good bed to die in.


The simplicity of Cycladic barley rusks, et cetera . . .

The simplicity of Cycladic barley rusks, et cetera . . . (Photo by: Elizabeth Boleman-Herring)

About Becky Sakellariou

Becky Dennison Sakellariou was born and reared in New England, but has lived all of her adult life in Greece. Of late, she has been “making her way home” to New Hampshire, where she now spends half of every year. Writing since she was seven, Sakellariou has published poetry in a wide variety of journals. Sakellariou has written and published poetry for many years; her chapbook, The Importance of Bone, won first prize in the Blue Light Press (San Francisco) competition of 2005 and her full-length book, Earth Listening, was published in 2010 by Hobblebush Books of Brookline, NH. In 2013, Finishing Line Press (Tennessee) brought out her chapbook, What Shall I Cry?, which was followed by a two-year long collaboration with Greek poet, Maria Laina, for The Possibility of Red/Η Πιθανοτιτα του Κοκκινου, a bilingual edition of eleven of her poems, also published by Hobblebush Books. In 2015, Passager Books (Baltimore) brought out her art/poetry book, Gathering the Soft, a meditation on cancer illustrated by Tandy Zorba. Sakellariou’s latest book, No Foothold in this Geography, is a collection of the last five years of her work. Sakellariou has won a number of prizes from individual journals and has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Anthology. “At present,” she says, “I am madly in love with my three grandchildren; you can find me either in Peterborough, New Hampshire, where I am endlessly amazed by the clouds, the snow, the trees, and the power of memory; or in Euboia, Greece, where I putter around my one acre amongst the olive, fig, almond, pomegranate, lemon, apricot, and eucalyptus trees, drawn by the senses and the mystery of place.”For a compelling introduction to Sakellariou's work, read her blog entry at "Off the Margins."
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4 Responses to The Morning Before He Died

  1. diana says:

    So moving, so visual. A lovely way of dealing with grief.

  2. Ann Wynne says:

    Dear Becky: I enjoyed your moving tribute to your old friend Michael Fakinos. I was searching on Google for my friend Michael that I worked with at a college in Long Beach, California. Michael was finishing his M.A. in psychology at Long Beach State University. He then went on to finish his doctorate at Ball State before returning home to Greece. Do you know if this could be the same person we may have known in common? I teach college history in southern California and have thought of Michael often with great affection. He was an exceptional human being. Either way, thanks for the poem. Ann Wynne

  3. Dear Ann Wynne,
    Sorry i am so late in responding to your good comment. I couldn’t figure out how to do it without it going public. But this is what Elizabeth told me to do… hope you get it. To answer your question, yes, that is for sure the same Michael who trained, taught and lived in California for 14 years before coming back. We miss him. His death was sudden and very very sad. A lovely lovely man, rare and special. Thanks for writing.

  4. Jill Yakas says:

    I only just came across this poem Becky, having followed a thread from your beautiful Almond Tree poem. The Morning After He Died is a great tribute to Michael and triggered fond memories of him, particularly his grin, from my time spent in therapy with him. I feel fortunate to have known him and your moving tribute is more than worthy of him. Thank you for writing this poem Becky. I don’t know much about the writing of poetry, but I can recognise a good “artist” – in this context you – when I see one. Keep on writing… Jill