Greek-American Stories: A Poetic Finish

October 2, 2018
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

An enthusiastic Yiannis sat with his friends at Dixon’s reaching for a sprinkled donut and told them about a contest he’s going to enter. “A magazine is offering $1000 for the best poem,” he explained. “So? You think you can write a poem worth $1000,” George chided.  “Why not? Hey! A thousand dollars isn’t chicken feed, you know?”  Dimos, amused asked, “What’s the deal?”  Calmer, Yiannis said, “Deal is that the poem has to be written and sent in before the printing of the next addition. That’s 30 days. So, we’ve got time.”  “WE?” echoed the others. Shrugging, Yiannis said, “Well, I thought if we got together…” Kipreos said shyly, “I’ve written some poems that I wrote when I broke up with my girlfriend Mary.” Yiannis’ eyes brightened. “Do you still have those poems, Kipreos?” He nodded. “Can I see them?” Again, Kipreos nodded reaching out for the sprinkled donut and finding it gone.

Next Sunday found the group at their table, steaming coffee and donuts and all, as Yiannis began reading the poems Kipreos had brought. Unfolding the two sheets of paper, Dimos broke the silence, asking that he read what Kipreos wrote. Clearing his throat, he began, ”Mary, O Mary, who walks like a fairy, I miss our walks to the dairy.” Yiannis looked up. “Dairy?” Blushing, Kipreos explained, “Well, it was to the ice cream parlor. But, it didn’t rhyme with Mary.”John shook his head, saying, “Never mind that one. Let’s hear the other.” But, a quick read told even the uninitiated Yiannis that the other one was just as bad. Not to hurt Kipreos’ feelings, he said, “No, it’s too personal for the public to hear.I won’t butt into your privacy, Kipreos.” Kipreos appreciated his considerations.

“Looks like you have to put your great talents to work, Yiannis,” George told him with a laugh. “Well, wise guy, Happens I was busy working all week, writing poems.” George grew serious. “You, work? Amazing! You must be exhausted.” Ignoring him, he whipped out a sheet of paper and smoothed the wrinkles. He lifted his head, clearing his throat as if he was about to give a speech to the world council. Again, he cleared his throat. Dimos growing impatient said, “We’re waiting!”“I need momentum!” declared Yiannis. Then, he began, seriously, his voice held a slight tremble. “Oh, why did you leave me forlorn and alone? I sat for hours by the telephone. My heart is so broken; I leave you my tears as love’s token. I’ll be here always…always waiting. But, until then, I think I’ll start dating.”

He looked up to find them trying hard not to laugh. Yiannis looked disappointed. “Trouble with you guys is none of you is romantic.” Dimos agreed, “Yeah, Yiannis, we’re just ol’ fogies. Are you going to send that poem in?” Smugly, Yiannis informed them, “I, already, did!” “Good luck!” they wished him in a chorus.

The following Sunday, an exuberant Yiannis announced that he’d received a response

from the editor, thanking him for his contribution. “Gentlemen, you are looking at a very

distinguish winner of the poetry contest.”Rubbing his hands together he said “$1000

come to papa.” Then, turning towards George, “Hear that, wise guy? Just goes to show

you you’re not so smart.” George drank his coffee, calmly.

Dimos, knowing Yiannis was not fluent in English asked to see the letter.Reading it, carefully, his expression changed from serious to a wide grin. Yiannisasked, “What’s th’ matter? Doesn’t it say they accepted my poem?” Dimos assured, “That’s what is says, alright. But, did you read what they expect from you?” Yiannis looked confused. “Here, let me read it for you. Then, tell me what you’re going to do.” Yiannis sat back, slowly, the $1000 floating in the air as the others listened and waited with bated breath. Dimos read, “Congratulations! The poem that you submitted has been judged by our distinguished judges as one of the best. It will be entered into our coming addition of Best Poems, next month. In order to receive the addition, kindly send us a check for $99 that will take care of printing, copy rights, distribution, mailing and advertising.”

Yiannis blinked, rubbed his chin, then he said, “Got a better poem.” “Let’s hear it.” John said, smiling broadly. He began, “A thousand dollars just went flying. The book they publish I’m not buying. The deal they offer has a stink.  I’m not as dumb as they think.”He got to his feet for another cup of coffee while the others applauded his latest poem.


The Ottoman Government informed Grand Admiral Mehmed Husrev Pasha on March 27, 1826 regarding its refusal of British mediation between the Sublime Porte and the Greek revolutionaries.

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