• Vassilis Nitsiakos



He’s alone but still strong. Like that wild pear tree in Ano Voio, in the middle of the great hill now sown with crops. A wind-beaten seed, a grain brought from an unknown land. There he stands, a fixture in the landscape, useful and beautiful at once. He’s alone but still strong. On a dappled horse. Dappled by time. Time which beats in its age-old stride and in the rider’s song. The song lasts as long as the journey: from a moment to a century. And the moment and the century are here now, in a stride. He’s alone but still strong. All subjects have become one. An unspoken, feathered song: Sultana Pliatsika, engaged to the Cretan with a tie and a hat; Pantos Babanis who destroyed Kotsia’s sheepfold; the couplets about the wine and raki from Grevena; the debts to the grocers; and at the end, the philosophical conclusions about life and old age. “When we were young we sang all that, now we’re old and we’ve lost everything.” He’s alone but still strong. Along with time, the place is bound in a stride. Front and back. Here all is one. One point, free of the compulsions of the horizon. With an overbearing scorn for its line. Before taking to the wing. He’s alone but still strong. With the famous pride. He inherited that along with his body. Pride now hangs in the air, like an unwelcome gift. It’s full of loneliness. The pride in the stride of the horse. The stride is not finished, because it yearns to become flight. He’s alone but still strong. Then pride turns to scorn. Defence. Those on the receiving end were reduced to nothing. Or transformed. In any case, they don’t exist. Scorn floods him. And relieves him. How strange it is. It’s not a simple emotion. It’s something more. It wards off evil: it annihilates or just devalues something of importance. This strange scorn of the most valuable things. It’s their distinctive feature. A magical defence against the evil eye. He’s alone but still strong, with these strange charms – invisible on the outside, but working miracles within. With lougouria – disregard – that marks everything they must scorn so they don’t lose it. Their property. Their animals. They call it ‘nothing’. It must be ‘nothing’ so it’s not in danger. These are magical things, known only to them. And that is their power. Their secret codes. They buttress them against those who threaten them. He’s alone but still strong, with an ethereal armour. With the wings of seven generations of ancestors’ dreams, ready to open. With a gaze freed from the need to look. So it disappears. It disappears with all of those images which assault memory when it recalls them. Contradictory images. Images which tell of decline – but also of life itself and its greatness. Yes, its greatness must be reduced to nothing. It must not exist. It must be scorned. Everything his eyes have seen become reasons to fly. Present leads only to past. He’s alone but still strong. His name will be lost. It won’t mean anything now. And the name is the soul. If it’s lost, no dictionary will help to get it back… oblivion is oblivion. Knowledge is not memory. The dictionary marks its loss. Loss. That’s what he’s looking for, testing his wings like old ants. Not his own loss. The loss of losses – those which made him look like that wild pear tree in Ano Voio. He’s old but still strong. As becomes a kyratzis of this race. But, tell me, what does kyratzis

[1] Old word for ‘caravan driver’.


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