722 Washington Street
Decorah, IA 52101
Home Phone: 563-382-9863; Work Phone: 563-387-1594
We landed in Athens after midnight,
the children with us. If you hadn’t brought us,
we’d never have come. It was Easter.
My father was dead. We were exhausted,
and the cab driver had a mind of his own.
In the morning the Parthenon sang
white above us. Lambs roasted on small spits
in the courtyard. I bought a round loaf
with a crimson egg in the center
for Ellen’s seventh birthday.
She told us she was keeping a journal.
What made it all so holy? Candles
in the plaka, the calls to prayer,
grottoes at the roadside with flowers,
the man who offered us bread.
At Mycenae Ellen struggled to print
“Klytaemnestra” and then gave up,
though she loved the story’s bloody bath.
The girls made sandcakes on the beach.
You peeled ripe oranges
and handed us sections one-by-one.
My father was gone.
You told them Hercules stories
and one night, as you tucked them in,
I heard Ellen’s sleepy voice:
“I can remember ten of the labors,
but I can’t think of the other two.”
Each day falls into the dustbin
of the past. Do we remember, I wonder,
what we are, what we’ve made—
do we remember
the little labors of our life?
--published in Flyway (2007)
Used by permission of the author.