Psyhi mou


“…to feel at home nowhere, but at ease almost everywhere.”
Georges Perec

“You need to be able to receive beauty.”
Katerina Iliopoulou


I am on the island of Patmos for Easter. Though I haven’t come for the holiday specifically. It so happens I’m off from work because it’s Easter, arguably the most important event in the Greek holiday calendar; Christ’s birth the less celebrated event as compared to his death as necessary prelude to resurrection. Patmos, the island where St. John the Divine is said to have had his vision of the apocalypse, generally feels mournful this time of year. Not infrequently it will be a sun-splashed day anywhere else in Greece while here clouds gather in their overcast greys. I am not a believer, though I’m hard put to call myself an atheist. Perhaps agnostic, with its Greek root, is closest to describing my feeling — that is, gnōsis (knowledge), and so agnōsto (unknown) would make me a believer in the unknown.

It is always night when I arrive. The ferries leave Piraeus in the late afternoon or early evening, and make several ports of call before arriving at Patmos. When I get off the boat in the small island harbor, the dark is full of scents and the whitewash glows.



The winter’s cold was still palpable when I entered the house. I visit irregularly because it takes anywhere from eight to ten hours by boat to reach, yet its distance from my life in Athens was one of the reasons why I bought the house. Over a year ago, I had come with my then-relationship and his son. I wondered whether the visit had been part of why he had not ended the relationship earlier. That he wanted his son to have the gift of the island. “Gifts,” my friend A would say months later, “are never innocent.” A was referring to the chocolate bars I had bought for the son after we were no longer involved. I was defensive, then a little angry at A’s comment; I had bought the chocolate for the boy who I knew liked a particular Greek brand, given it in the spirit of a bond I felt still important. After all, I said to A, our lives are too full of ruptures.

That first night, the house held me with its traces of conversation, meals, moments and hours of love. Held I think, rather than housed, as I now take in the damp wood tang, notice rust streaks on the wall in the kitchen bled from one of the latches on the window. There are always repairs that need attending to when I visit: more whitewashing, the cutting back of jasmine and the lemon tree branches, following the tiny dust lines to where termites have burrowed their way into a shutter or wood cupboard. I am indebted to those from the island who have helped me, sometimes very generously, sometimes waiting for months to be paid for work that has helped me hold the house together.

Xristodolos, a man whose earnestness is so out of sync with the times, will offer to fix a shutter, or a lock, saying “let me do it,” as if the possibility of my refusing his offer would cause more damage than leaving the lock unfixed or the shutter unpainted. He once said he didn’t know why he did the unpaid repairs, but that it made him happy. Xristodolos is a carpenter and he paints the wood he turns into doors and shutters and cabinets, but he also took the time to explain to me how to run the toilet’s underground piping so it didn’t obstruct the roots of the lemon trees. He often reminds me of things I’ve since forgotten, such as the time he showed me how someone had laid their brick in a way that would make it less costly for me when I was fixing the house.

Then there’s Maria who I pay to look in on the house when I’m not there, who makes the soft mizithra cheese and has chickens, who always brings a bag of eggs with her when she comes to see me, or comes to be paid. Two summers ago, I was especially low on cash, and apologized for not being able to give her more money. “Psyhi mou” she said, and nodded, though not without disappointment. “Psyhi mou” translates as “my soul.” She was telling me she would not let me go, even if I couldn’t give her the money I owed her, that she would continue to water the potted plants and the two lemon trees, to check on the house after a hard rain or windstorm.

I’d recently come across Genese Grill’s essay “Portals: Cabinets of Curiosity, Reliquaries and Colonialism,” which describes, among other things, her time in the Loire Valley of France, in a house built by her hostess’ grandfather, a carpenter. Grill’s admiration for the uninterrupted continuities of lives tied to place speaks to what I love about Patmos and its village community. Grill writes, “Every material thing here is bound or connected to the past via bloodlines, via deep ruts in the fields, etchings on the surface of earth’s memory that reach deep down under the soil to places we cannot see but surely feel.” She explains how such bonds engender a respect for “the mana of objects,” a phrase she quotes from the French sociologist Marcel Mauss’ 1954 study The Gift, which explores the reasons for and forms of ancient economies of gift-exchange. Grill borrows the term to foreground the layers of history objects can carry. She describes “the sense we have of powers inherent in old things and old places,” how these traces are severed when objects, and people too, are commoditized and turned into “a mere thing.” So when Maria says, “psyhi mou, she reminds me that I am not a mere thing, or a mere wallet.

This house is its own portal into past histories, as is the island. There are the island’s ties to the disappearing art of stone masonry, which lives on in a handful of the men who have passed it on to a handful of sons. There is the cave where St. John had his vision, that literal portal at the bottom of a rock enclave where a hole in the stone is rimmed in silver to show how he grabbed the ledge to raise his aged body and speak his apocalypse to Prokopis, his scribe. The house’s portal is one of connections: to those who have shared it with me, helped make it habitable those first years I owned it, who have stayed here with me, and those who continue to help me care for it. These past histories bring on deep dream states, and the night I arrived in Patmos, I woke frightened. I’d had a nightmare in which a boy was threatened, a hot iron being pressed against his face, and I was cupping handfuls of water over his eyes, splashing them incessantly and asking if he felt pain. The boy shook his head and told me he felt nothing. Gaston Bachelard says that if he were “asked to name the chief benefit of the house” it would be that it “shelters daydreaming” and “protects the dreamer.” In the middle of the night, I got up and walked down the narrow wooden steps to the bathroom, sweat gluing my skin despite the cold, feeling unprotected, if held, in the darkness.


All week, Holy Week for those who believe, people wish each other “Kali Anastasi” (“Good Resurrection”), the wish expressed with the same well-intentioned familiarity as “good morning” or “goodnight.” Despite the fact that I have no Orthodox leanings, I am comforted by the words. They assume a connection of good will I don’t always feel but have come to appreciate. It’s like Maria speaking to me of the house’s cracked shutters and sun-eaten pillows as if they were hers, the way Xristodolos says, “Μη μου στεναχωριεσαι” (transliterated as “Mi mou stenoxoreisai”), when I tell him it might be another year or two before I can do anything to fix the wood shutters and doors. The phrase translates as “Don’t worry yourself for me,” and syntactically suggests that my upset will upset the person speaking to me. It makes my worry etymologically symbiotic — another word whose Greek roots σύν (with) + βίωσις (living) situate my worry in Xristodolos’ and indebt me to him.

Indebtedness is also what Genese Grill discusses when she writes of how our commoditized worlds have given us a “freedom from the group” and its collective ties to ritual and obligation. I think of Maria and Xristodolos, whose help and care for the house is offered in sometimes unpredictable ways. I could have said less conventional, but conventional would suggest more of obligation; their help is so often an offering, more of psyhi or soul than any sense of duty. Xristodolos surprises me with extra shelves in the bathroom, and tells me that he thought they would be useful but does not want money for them. He is teaching me of a debt to the work of rootedness rather than to the roots themselves, of what it means to belong to more than what we might own, helping me to connect to people like him who have helped me care for the house. Maybe this is one of the ways gifts can become an overture of conciliation — not necessarily reconciliation — connecting bodies that might otherwise remain estranged. When Maria says to me over the phone “your pillows are all eaten up by the sun. You have to get new ones.” I surprise myself at the single-mindedness with which I go hunting for pillows to send to her from Athens, feeling as if not doing so would be showing her that I didn’t share her urgency to protect the house from time’s encroachments.

Giannis, a carpenter, is another person who helps me care for the house. He warns me that what I bring into it might be a danger, and he means the warped pieces of driftwood I collect. He says, “You’ll infest your floorboards and the rest of the wood.” I imagine tiny weevils burrowing into solid beams, what was once a ship’s mast that runs across the ceiling of this century-old house. I wonder if my impulse to collect these pieces of nature isn’t reflective of a primitive instinct, a kind of homage to forces with the power to transform and destroy, the way animals will sniff out the bones of dead prey — some reminder of the force, or animal, that reduced a once-living creature to bones.

I have rocks from the island’s various beaches all over the house, on window ledges, my nightstand, in a soap dish, ashtray. Most of them are from Lampi, the beach of beautiful but gradually disappearing gem-colored rocks of browns and greens and purple-reds. People like me have not been able to resist taking a few at a time, though some leave with boxfuls. When I gather these rocks and pieces of driftwood, I think of them as talismanic emblems of the larger natures that made them. I wonder too if that makes me any different from someone like Lord Elgin who cut away at the Parthenon friezes to ship back to England, who could not stop cutting away once he got started.

But I want to say the Lampi rocks feel like skin, that I love their weight in my palms, and the sound of them in the rolling surf, that the water and light perform a magic of their painterly collages. When my lover visited, we picked some rocks from the beach and he carted them back to the U.S., where he put them in a bowl of water in his house so their shine would keep something of that summer and their color. Maybe he too wanted to take something of the island with him. I should have known that the relationship was over when I visited him a year later and the bowl had been emptied.



Markos, a gardener who sells plants on the island, furrows the soil with his rough hands to show me how to plant the basil I’ve bought from him. He cradles the roots gently, shaking them out from their plastic cup as he places the tendrils. He tells me the soil in the pots—this dirt I’d brought with me from Athens because it was cheaper—is too full of what look like tiny Styrofoam pebbles. “Business” he says in English, making the word sound newly bitter. He smirks, tells me I should know better than not to trust him and his dirt. He points to the pine tree from my neighbor’s garden looming over my two lemon trees and tells me it’s foreign. “We had nothing on the island but our trees,” by which he means the lemons, figs, and olives. Not the imported pines, or the palms that brought with them “the worm.” Then he tells me matter-of-factly that he could “get rid of” the tree. I look at him as he offers to kill the looming pine if I’m willing to buy the poison. I laugh despite myself. He nods seriously and assures me he could do it easily. I say we aren’t going to poison anything, and that I’ll ask my neighbor Eleni if she could trim down its rising ferny tip. He shakes his head, and says she’s also foreign, “ξένη” (“xeni”) — that she isn’t from the island and is wealthy. I remind him I’m not from the island either. He shakes his head again and says, “πονάς το νησί” (“you pain for the island”), using this familiar vernacular as opposed to the more grammatical and formal, “πονάτε το νησί” (“you feel the pain of the island”). This would more clearly, and grammatically, separate me from the island, whereas in Markos’ rendering, the island and I have become one and the same, much in the way that Xristodolos tells me that my worry becomes his.



In the port someone calls out “Ach ti myrodithies!” (“What scents!”). This morning before Easter Sunday, the aromas of freshly baked sweet breads and raisin pastries waft through the streets. The children look especially well dressed, girls in colored tights with bows and barrettes in their hair, the boys in starched shirts. The scene makes me think of a Georges Perec passage from “The World”; not interested in “the grandiose” or “the impressive” or “even the foreign,” he wants to experience the “familiar rediscovered.” Is that why Maria looks so defeated when she says she receives, “not even a thank you” for all she does in her family, for the houses she takes care of? She is continually offering, and her world continually takes her offerings for granted, failing to see the worth in her familiar acts. She is unappreciated, she says: the sheets she washes and irons, the eggs and cheese she brings to people, are not received as the gifts they are. When she comes over, we chat and fold sheets together. I never fold sheets in Athens, at least not very carefully, nor do I think of replacing the old apartment door, or repairing the apartment windows that need screens and new handles. But here, in my house on Patmos, Maria insists we fold the sheets after I’ve hung them to dry. And as we fold, I listen to her telling me that her brother hung himself last summer, that her Good Friday was black because she remembers last year — “a whole man gone,” saying, “If he had only talked to me.” Her chest heaves like the sea and we hug, buoyed by some part of each other we are holding onto.



It’s Maria I think of when I see the burst latch on the kitchen door and the hole in a window frame that looks gnawed. I put “putty” on my list of things to get from the store in the village. It’s Maria who understands time will ravage the best of intentions and that that which is within our reach is only so ephemerally.

In the kitchen, where I’m writing, there is a large silkscreen of pastel-colored cherubs on the wall, The Dawn of Love written in an ornate cursive beneath the winged figures. The print, framed in its gold-leafed wood, hung in my great-grandfather’s house in Patras, a port town in the Peloponnese. A Nazi bullet had shot through the bottom part of the frame during the Occupation. As my great aunt tells it, she’d been tending to her bedridden mother when the stray, or perhaps not so stray, bullet came into the living room from the street, and the bottom part of The Dawn of Love “τραυματίστηκε” (“was traumatized”), she liked to say. My great-grandfather took the print and other furniture when the family left the Prince Islands during Atatürk’s purging of the Greeks after the 1922 “Smyrna Catastrophe,” as the Greeks name it. Another portal of history, one that was awkward and burdensome to carry.

Genese Grill says “everything is a bearer of history” and describes the fact that the more objects circulate “the more mana they accumulate,” which means The Dawn of Love has at least a world war’s worth of mana, and trauma too. This print was left hanging in the apartment where my great-grandmother and great aunt had died, in a home whose unpatched ceiling let in the sky. I brought it to this house because the bullet hole reminded me that love’s airy cherubs were not without damage.


Lewis Hyde’s relatively more recent, and much-referenced, study on gift economies, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (1983), makes a key distinction between “worth” and “value” to distinguish a gift from a commodity. To Hyde, worth refers to things we prize but cannot assign a price to. Value, in contrast, is part of a marketable exchange. “A gift has worth.” Once the gift is given an exchange value, it ceases being a gift. For Hyde, gifts have the ability to transform the nature of those involved; he calls this eros-trade. He distinguishes this from logos-trade, which “draws the boundary” and keeps the exchange transactional, as in two people, or two countries, unmoved or untouched, by what passes between them. Eros, Hyde says, “obliterates” boundaries in its overture to the other that also risks rejection. This was probably why A criticized the chocolates I gave to my no-longer lover’s son. I’d wanted to obliterate the boundary that the breakup had created: to let the boy know that the breakup wasn’t the only thing I remembered, to placate something of the violence of the fact of it so that something of that loss might return to me something of myself.



Xristos Anesti!” (“Christ is Resurrected!”) people declare as church bells toll those first minutes of Easter Sunday. Lit tapers bloom in the dark, spreading candlelight; they let us know the mourning is over, that a body’s frailties have given over to its soul, and the darkness was not meant to last. On “New Tuesday” — Νέα Τρίτη (Nea Triti) — icons are unhoused, carried out of churches and monasteries and walked through the island streets. Cafés and shops keep their doors open as they pass. Giannis sees me in the square and says, “It’s been years, where have you been?” even though we had seen each other a summer ago. I say I’ve been here all week and ask about the saints the icons represent. He tells me they’re the martyrs “burned, hung, tortured” for a better good. These saints with their suppliant lives, their private wagers with the godhead, are more real to me than today’s very public assurances of “Xristos Anesti!” Someone passes and says, “Alithos O Kyrios” (“He is truly [risen]”). I mumble “alithos” which translates as “really” as much as “truly,” and do not mention the Lord. And yes, this moment that celebrates what continues in memory and words, is against lithi, meaning “forgetfulness,” which must be, too, where the river Lethe gets her name. One of the five rivers in Hades’ mythic underworld, Lethe flows through the cave of Hypnos (the god of sleep), bordering Elysium, the paradise where only heroes and those related to the gods can enter. Alithia (truth) then is lithi’s antidote. Etymologically too, α-λήθεια, or a-lithia (“against forgetfulness”), is the salvage of light from oblivion’s darkness. So I listen to the sounds that connect me to something of the centuries of ritual, and when another person passes and repeats, “Xristos Anesti!,” I say again, “alithos.



I have returned to Athens where I wake in my apartment remembering the island and am full of melancholy. I call Maria and before she says anything about the house she says, “You forgot the cheese.” She had told me to take it, is hurt to find the mizithra still in the freezer. “Remember me when you eat it,” she’d said, and meant, remember the days on the island — that she was there, is still there, while I am away. Remember we folded sheets and she wept speaking of her brother, that people including his wife and children seem to have forgotten him. More than anything, remember her pain, and that it would be months before we would see each other again. “I like to work in the houses,” Maria had said about the coming summer, sweat shining on her cheeks and forehead. The work helped her forget the winter with its island winds howling through the empty alleyways and the stray cats looking for food.

I had forgotten Maria’s gift and, as we spoke, was mortified that I’d done what her family and others had done in repeatedly taking her for granted. “Gratitude,” Hyde says, “requires an unpaid debt.” Bonds established between the one who offers and the one who receives a gift are severed when it fails to inspire gratitude, or in Hyde’s words, when that “unpaid debt” is not “felt.” I tried to assure Maria I had truly forgotten the cheese in my rush to get myself onto the boat back to Athens, that I was grateful for it but, yes, had not remembered to take it. “Nai, psyhi mou,” (“Yes, psyhi mou”) she said, assuring me again that she was still there.



It’s several months before I’m back on the island. I’m watching the cats in the courtyard, especially the black one I’d called Pirate until I heard the Italians renting the neighbor’s house call her Negrina, and realized he was a she. My own cat is curious. She sidles up when I pet Negrina, hissing as Negrina gets close. Hurricane Harvey has been in Facebook updates all week. Friends and friends of friends are posting love and support. I’d told myself I would stay away from social media while on the island, then feel somehow negligent of the world when I log on in spite of myself and see the news. There are images of floating cars, descriptions of people climbing up flights of stairs as the water level rises inside their homes. Someone has posted a picture of a six-foot swamp rattler in his living room, and an hour later adds a close-up of his finger with two little holes in it. People are being unhoused no matter how hard they try to hold onto their things, and each other. I decide not to look at Facebook for some days. I want to keep from the planet’s troubled corners. I also want to resist wondering if the lover I’d been here with might check to see the photographs I sometimes post; Facebook is its own portal of displaced and virtual encounters.



During the last days of my island stay, I log back on and read that Hurricane Irma is predicted to hit the Florida Keys. It is September 9, and one post, shared from the Olympus Homeowners Insurance FB page, reads:

“The storm is here,” Gov. Rick Scott said Saturday morning, noting that the storm surge could reach 15 feet in some places. “Fifteen feet is devastating and will cover your house,” he said. “Do not think the storm is over when the wind slows down. The storm surge will rush in and it could kill you.”

There were more updates:

Lisa writes

… I am in Miami Shores and the first outer band just came through. Rain and wind hitting hard. The lights flickered but stayed on. How is everybody?


Elizabeth writes

… Good-night, Juchitan, Mexico. Good-night, Barbudo. Good-night, Caibarién, Cuba. Good-night, Columbia River Gorge. Good-night, Bangladesh and Burma. Good-night, Overseas Highway and 7-Mile Bridge. May we wake, soon, and not have forgotten one another.


May we not forget one another, and yet we will forget one another, gradually, maybe necessarily. The August we were on the island my then-lover and I had planted a succulent on his late-mother’s birthday. He had said, with consternation, that he no longer remembered her voice. Now it has flowers. I hear goat bells and the figs hang ripe and too full on their trees, yet I keep looking at the pictures Lisa posts. The sky in Florida is a rolled carpet of indigos, swathes peeled back in lavender and black layers. I leave the computer and watch the cats. An anarchic vine has magically rooted itself in a pot and keeps sprouting tomatoes. When I log back on I read: “In Port Arthur, Harvey Continues Path of Destruction.”

Disasters connect us as much as they leave us vulnerable to ruin. This seems to further emphasize the “strange but true” fact — as described by the Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg regarding another precarious time, in Fascist Italy — that the ability to communicate our despair in these moments keeps us “intimately linked to one another’s destinies.” Is this sense of connection why I keep logging onto FB despite the fact that I am on the island to forget the world, and to reconcile, too, what the house, and the island still hold of happier, less lonely moments? There is a Greek expression, τί μας βρήκε (what found us) that’s used when disasters befall, which, by definition, means they have found us unprepared. I imagine this is part of what Ginzburg means when she describes our destinies as connected by efforts to communicate: that “egotism has never solved despair.” When we fail to find symbiosis — that Greek root again — our living risks becoming in Ginzburg’s words “a mortal illness.”



Negrina is outside the kitchen door. She’s looking at me look at her through the screen, her large, yellow eyes unblinking. My cat seems to notice and positions herself at the door so I open it. Negrina, the more poised, stretches. When my cat lets out a low growl, Negrina walks away to lay herself at the bottom of the bougainvillea where the dirt is cool.

I find this scrap from Adorno’s Minima Moralia in my journal from when I was at the house last Easter. Our readings are their own conversations, or meta-conversations, with the lives we’re living. There’s no larger context for the quote in my notes, so my reason for having written it is now unclear, but it still speaks to me:

Nothing however is perhaps more catastrophic for the future than the fact that soon literally no one will be able to think of this, that every trauma, every unprocessed shock of that which recurs is a torment of coming destruction —


What was “this” — this “every unprocessed shock” and “every trauma”? It’s chilling enough to read, “that soon literally no one will be able to think of this.” Though here, where Maria will come with eggs, and Giannis will explain how to protect the wood, and Xristodolos tells me “not to worry him,” a collective ethos continues. These gestures, an homage to what still lingers in more rooted lives, remind me of how the traumas of loss might be assuaged. Maybe by “every unprocessed shock” Adorno is speaking of the failure of language to capture trauma’s violations and reconnect us. On Patmos, for Maria and Xristodolos, my sheets and house repairs build up to a shared continuum: moments I would have long forgotten without them and learn to understand as a ritual of upkeep meant to house us all.



The night I leave to return to Athens there’s a half moon.

En route home, I read of another hurricane watch. CNN is describing Hurricane Maria as having left “apocalyptic conditions” in Puerto Rico. The report says the island is “Without power and communications… millions of people, including city leaders and first responders, have been cut off from the world since Maria hit Wednesday.”

Puerto Rico—an island paradise turned into an island nightmare—cut off from the world, the reporter says, as an indication of the extent of the nightmare. I’d been reading Judith Ortiz Cofer’s The Cruel Country, in which, on her way to her mother who is dying of cancer, she describes an aerial view of Puerto Rico:

… at such a low altitude… I get to see the Island’s full natural beauty from the vantage point of a seabird… stunning turquoise of the seashore and, ahead, mountains so lush that in spite of the weight of the word cancer growing in my chest cavity, the poisonous taste of it on my tongue, and the bubble of sobs on the verge of choking me, I let out a sigh. A Puerto Rican sigh.


From the plane, Cofer’s vantage is a lesson in perspective. Of her mother’s years in the mainland U.S., Cofer says, “her ability to cope with life in a country she would never accept as her own depended on these periods of diving back into her Island culture…” Are these returns to our geographies of love what keep our losses from undoing us? “Ponas to nisi” – “πονάς το νησί” – (“you pain for the island”), Markos had said as a way of telling me I was part of the island in a way that kept it close to me.

That last evening I had walked the stone pathway where the dropped fruit of the neighbor’s fig tree covered the stones. Bees were everywhere. Negrina stayed perched on a wall, her black fur blending in with the trees. I almost didn’t see her. It was her gem-yellow eyes that gave her away. She had not come to the house; maybe she understood I’d be leaving.




Back in Athens, I have a Lampi stone on my desk, and a white quartz rock from the island of Thasos where there was a fire two years ago. The quartz fits perfectly into my palm, and I have the impression it has grown smoother, more transparent, from my handling of it. I’d also picked up two charred acorns and a piece of burnt pine; I wanted to be reminded of the places where I had found them. Genese Grill says “objects make us dream” and these pieces reassure me, beautiful unto themselves.

I get an email from Frances in Puerto Rico:

I’m fine in Cabo Rojo, the west side of the island. Today with power and internet in my office, but no power or water at home. The UPR Mayaguez Campus plans to restart classes between October 23 and 30… but no fixed date yet! My cel [sic] is 99.9% of the time incommunicado. But we are fine, thank you for your concern and messages… I send you all my love.
Un abrazo fuerte


This makes me cry. None of the media’s commodified spectacle, its “logos trade,” to borrow from Hyde, put me in Puerto Rico the way Frances’ un abrazo fuerte had me with her. She sent un abrazo fuerte despite it all or because of it all. Because of it all some were on rooftops trying to get a signal; some without electricity and running water. Closer still, between the Turkish shore and any number of Greek islands, the refugees on boats in the Aegean are trying to get out of war zones. The proximities of catastrophes become less about geography when we’re relaying them to each other. “Psyhi mou,” Maria had said, telling me of her brother, and I felt the weight in her every word.

Another hurricane, Ophelia, is on its way to the Azores. I pick up my rock quartz, comforted by the weight of it in my palm. Like my Lampi rocks, it’s a reminder. Unhoused, we will look for what we might latch onto. “How’s everybody?” Lisa had asked on Facebook as Hurricane Irma was approaching, her overture a reminder that it is each other we look for in our devastations, if for nothing else than to reassure ourselves of life. In Etel Adnan’s Night, she writes, “A body when dead will never warm ours, and the sea will never cry over it, and time will become its bride.” And so it is in our offerings that we extend something of the soul, or psyhi, and hope that what remains of those gestures might continue to warm us. Until my then-relationship gave me this book of Adnan’s I had never heard of her; it’s still one of my favorite gifts.


Adrianne Kalfopoulou, lives and teaches in Athens, Greece where she heads the English & Modern Languages Deptartment at Deree College. Her latest publication is a poetry collection, A History of Too Much (Red Hen Press 2018).


Print References

Etel Adnan, Night, Nightboat Books, New York 2016

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, The Classic Look At How We Experience Intimate Places, trans. Maria Jolas, Foreword John R. Stilgoe (1994), Beacon Press, Boston 1969

Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, ed., trans. John Sturrock, Penguin Books, London 1997

Genese Grill, “Portals: Cabinets of Curiosity, Reliquaries and Colonialism,” The Missouri Review, Vol. 39. 1. 2016, pp. 38-62

Judith Ortiz Cofer, The Cruel Country, University of Georgia Press, Athens 2016

Lewis Hyde, The Gift, Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Vintage Books, New York 1983.

Marcel Mauss, The Gift, forms and functions of exchange in archaic societies, trans. Ian Cunnison, Cohen & West, London, 1966. (First published 1954).

Natalia Ginzburg, The Little Virtues, trans. Dick Davis, Daunt Books, London, 2018

Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from a Damaged Life, trans. E.F.N. Jephcott, Verso, New York 2006



Psyhi mou

Related Posts

an image of a woman among old artifacts. the woman's back is to the photographer and she is facing the open door


There are no streetlights between the old slaughterhouse and the edge of town. The road that links them feels longer than its few hundred barren meters, proceeding above a rocky slope that ends in channel water—the former landing place of blood and entrails, arriving by chute while dogfish gathered.

television in the dark

In Heat

It’s the last day of school, and I get home with butterflies in my stomach. My mouth already tastes like summer, like heat outside and air conditioning inside, like the darkness of my cave, like cloister and crypt. I turn on the television and change the channel, change the channel, one to the next.

Image of the sun setting over the ocean with umbrellas made of twine, chairs, and people.

Coast of Ilia 

Wave after wave of clustered consonants / and open vowels swell and crest over us— chords of her father’s mother-tongue, and hers. / So many syllables to name this smooth / crescent of coast. So many words for blue.