In memory of Andreas Thomas
You sat there
            looking up at me
your soulful dark eyes
             those of
a Bassset Hound
              that never 
wanted to be
               an Alsatian
and your shoulders
               had a stoop
that only one
               who carries
                           the worries
of the world
And you leaned back
in your chair
                my self righteous tirade
much like a bamboo stalk
                 weathers a storm
and then
              you began to speak
as a teacher would talk
                 to an recalcitrant  student
your voice soothing
              calming me down
as you explained to me
              that you 
were only
               the caretaker
and then added:
                         The Government
has no money for books friend…
                                                    It spends it
                                                                     on guns
and as
           for the Ministry they
only send me people 
                                 who are
damaged by the war
                               or by life…
or are waiting 
                      like me
        they are appointed as teacher … 
And that can take ten years…
                                              A farcical
rite of passage
                       the wait… 
       six years
                    in foreign universities
two new languages
                              and getting 
a piece of paper
                          that says Master… yes Master!
Master of what?
Master of futility
                           more like it …
       you said it 
                        as if I was visiting
some provincial Russian town 
                                                and a Chekhov or a Tolstoy
were explaining to me 
                                    the laws of Governance
on the Steppes
                        of Russia …
And taking off 
                       your tinted glasses
you cleaned them
that I was right
                        old books should be respected
they should be cared for
                                      from the vagaries
of light
                   and humidity 
and you got up
                       and moving into the main room
you walked over
                            and slammed the window shut
the window rattling
                                shutting out
that bright siesta light 
the smells of summer …
                                       We are like that garden 
you said
              nodding towards the outside
                                                          We try to survive
in a hostile land …
                                This country sucks every drop
of goodness
                  from us
                              from everything …
                                                             and then 
shrugging your shoulders
                                        you added
                                                         At least in that garden
 grass and roses
                          are treated the same …
And then
               you asked me if I’d like a coffee
and after
               you introduced me to your staff
and then 
              you mused aloud
        a deprecating smile
                                       followed by a deep sigh
We are but
                 beached whales here
waiting to die …
                            And I think it was then
that I said that 
                       that was almost a haiku
      to my surprise 
                              you knew what a haiku was
and a tainka
                    and a roei … 
and then we started
                               talking about haiku
of Bashoh and Seferis
                                   and then
of other poetry
                        that of Cavafy
Ritsos and all the greats …
So was
            our first meeting
at the 
         old Lefkosia Public Library.

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