If I could turn the clock back to when you were still yourself
I’d print out every map of Asia Minor
find a magnifying glass, bring you your favourite pen
and not allow ourselves to give up until you zeroed in
on your beloved family farm in Aivali
where you were born in 1896.
Lemon trees and melons, figs, quince, abundant sun —
it’s all you ever talked about. Of course, the olive trees,
treasured, despite how little shade you said they offered.
There were no other trees, beneath their leaves you sang
playing music with your brothers, on instruments
that in this surviving photo look homemade.
The youngest of the four had to stay behind when you
fled for safety together with your older brothers
rowing for your life to Lesbos, the island opposite.
Your parents would meet their death
on a forced march into the interior,
walking until they fell
your youngest brother a witness.
Little wonder you resisted our idea decades later
of visiting your true place of the heart.
Somewhere in that hinterland is more than just your farm.
That vast expanse conceals the bodies of your parents
left to die along with all who stumbled to their death
their bloodlines tracing forward into future generations
extending back, and back – like all these criss-crossing lines
on this wrinkled map.
Alice Kavounas, whose Greek father was born in Ayvali, went to Forest Hills High School, spent summers in Southampton Shores, and read English Lit at Vassar. She lives in Cornwall. Her fourth collection from Shearsman Books will be published in 2023, titled One Step at a Time.