by Nicholas Samaras Issue: Spring/Summer 2019

Twenty people and three hundred cats

live in this Greek village—


kittens and moggies squeeze between

rocks and rubbled spaces, unbothered, safe.


But hunger makes anything bold.

When my American children call to coax them out,

the cats run to be pet and cuddled.


I’ve never seen such affectionate cats before,

mewling for food and what my daughter

deliberately drops from the outdoor restaurant table.


But diseases. Half the cats blind in one eye.

Half tattered and suspicious.


After the war, generations of Greek people

never had pets, let alone enough food for themselves.

Thus, their rough mentality toward animals—

        the boot or the broom.


Rare for any Greek family to own an actual pet,

which only the wealthy could afford.


In this village, no person feeds them

and still they survive.


Like good tourists, my children spend their summer light

learning patience, kindness to all poor creatures,


the purring and the scattering, the ignoring and the caring,

the begging to bring them home.

Nicholas Samaras

Nicholas Samaras is from Patmos, Greece (the “Island of the Apocalypse”) and, at the time of the Greek Junta (“Coup of the Generals”) was brought in exile to be raised further in America. He has lived in Greece, England, Wales, Brussels, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Yugoslavia, Jerusalem, thirteen states in America, and he writes from a place of permanent exile. His first book, Hands of the Saddlemaker, won The Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. His current book is American Psalm, World Psalm (Ashland Poetry Press, 2014). He is completing a new manuscript of poetry and a memoir of his childhood years lived underground.