My father is almost tender as his skin turns the color of browned leaves. Sometimes he catches himself excited to hear from me, though he is someone who has never known how to express feelings, especially happy ones as the last world war in the last century when his skin was young as new leaves, singed what was tender in him. He kept people at a distance after an exploded bomb charred his arms, and they never stopped hurting; anyone could be the enemy, even his wife who wouldn’t leave him though he made a habit of making her feel crushed. But of his flesh as the saying goes, I left; and hardly thought of him though I would notice my skin—the spotted browns of crusting leaves that marked my flesh, like his. I would sometimes call, and talk over the safe distance of the phone line from across the Atlantic, and he would occasionally catch himself off guard and say something more than skin-deep. Strangely, it was skin that brought us to the subject—I was saying I’d burned my palm on the gas stove, watched my flesh blister, and remembered his story of honey, how it saved them in the mountains during war, how it kept them alive, that and garlic and slogs of wine. Remembered when a bullet had lodged in a soldier’s flesh he said they basted the wound in honey and honey-soaked rags. This (he actually laughed) was their medicine! Garlic was also good. One soldier got through an amputation with cloves of it swallowed with wine. They got him drunk, had him biting a bullet when they cut the gangrened leg at the knee. Honey stopped the bleeding. “Honey stopped the blistering” I say over the phone when I let my father know I remembered his story. “I spread the whole jar of it over my hand,” it was almost miraculous, I tell him, the sticky and abundant feeling cutting through pain.
Adrianne Kalfopoulou is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, Wild Greens and Passion Maps. Fig won the 2000 Women's Poetry Chapbook
Contest from the Sarasota Poetry Theater Press. She has also written on
19th- and 20th-century texts for various scholarly journals and published a
volume of criticism, The Untidy House: A Discussion of the Ideology of the
American Dream in the Culture's Female Discourses (Edwin Mellen,
2000). Her recent publications include poems in Atlanta Review, Crab
Orchard Review, Elixir, and Kindred Terraces, an anthology of
American poets in Greece. She has taught creative writing and literature
in Athens for the past nine years.