Where Words Go

 by Becky Dennison Sakellariou

Becky SakellariouATHENS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—2/13/12This poem was first published in the Atlanta Review in 2004. I wrote it when I first started living in Euboia, when I first discovered the earth and all the magical things one can do in it and with it. I had lots of help and advice, as you will read. I still marvel at compost heaps (also wonderful metaphors), bats, geckos, olives, bonfires, sunsets and any human being who comes to visit me.

Starlings in flight. (Photo: Dave Lumb)

Starlings in flight. (Photo: Dave Lumb)



The starlings are back, swooping through

my bedroom window, chee cheeing high


and fast across the ceiling. They wheel twice, then soar

out into the bright morning.  Hugh says


this means rats will not get into my compost heap,

although potatoes will still grow curly leaves


and the dog will nose out week-old egg shells.

Jennifer writes that the piles of wood ash


left from the bonfires burned in January, heavy

gray branches cracked from the great


snowfall, can be put to good use, too. Be sure

to layer, first the ash, then some kitchen


scraps, and finally, cover with any garden waste,

neatly, not all in a heap. I may add


a shovel or two of the black goat shit I carried back

from the village. Be careful, it’s strong


and harsh, so fork it in with straw. Jennie also says not to

cut down the lemon trees that got so battered


by the cold, they may recover by themselves

as long as strong winds don’t hit them. So far,


they are doing well. Ben has written, tells me that back

in 1964 when he caught sight of me on the street,


he said, I’ll take the room. Today he doesn’t remember the bad parts,

just me blowing on his cold hands in the train


from Milan and what he calls my easy grace. Sally says

she has no confidence, yet she kneels in her white


dress on the rough grass, greeting the morning, a young

mulberry tree, far blue mountains. Across the ocean,


Hannah plants oak trees in Vermont and will not

answer her phone. I am afraid my father will die


and we will not be able to reach her.


Photo: davelumb

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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One Response to Compost

  1. eboleman-herring says:

    Beautiful, Becky. Beautiful and true. I read this and remember my years-ago garden on Mykonos. I would always return from long walks with two full bags of goat droppings: “Be careful; it’s strong” stuff, indeed. THE perfect nutrient for my tomato patch back in the 70s. Ahhhh, getting one’s hands in soil and s&^t: therapy of a most transcendent sort. Keep writing. AND composting. In both your worlds. Love, Elizabeth