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Greek-American Stories: Poetic Genius

When Yiannis sailed into Dixon’s that Sunday his expression was one of great hope and ambition. “Gentlemen,” he announced, coffee in one hand and sprinkled donut in the other. “I entered a ‘love’ poem contest. The winners get $1000. Hear that, guys? One thousand dollaria!”

George chided, “YOU write a ‘love’ poem?” Yiannis pulled a face.” Why not? One thousand dollars can do it. It can turn a plumber into an opera singer!”  Dimos asked, “what’s the deal?” Yiannis explained, “Deal is we’re supposed to send it in before the next printing of the magazine. So, we’ve got a little time.” “WE?” chorused the others. “Well,” explained Yiannis. “I thought we’d all get together and…” Kipreos interrupted. “I wrote a ‘love’ poem, once, when I broke up with my old girlfriend, Mary.”

Yiannis’ eyes lit up. “Do you still have that poem?” Kipreos nodded. “I know it by heart. Wanna hear it?” They all expressed their interest as Kipreos reached out for the sprinkled donut but found it missing, fortifying the hint of pain. He began. “Mary, Oh, Mary, who walked like a fairy, I miss our long walks to the dairy.” John looked up. “Walks to the Dairy?” Blushing, Kipreos explained. “It was the ice cream parlor. But, ‘parlor’ didn’t rhyme with ‘fairy’. Wanna hear the rest of it?” Knowing his sensitivity, John was diplomatic. “Never mind, Kipreos! Too personal!” Nodding, Kipreos appreciated their consideration. “Looks like you’ll have to put your great genius to work, Yiannis,” said George, laughing. “Well, wise guy! It happens I did work – all week! In fact, I’m working on a second one. ” George’s cup dropped, noisily, to the table.” You actually worked – all week? Amazing! You must be exhausted!”

Ignoring him, Yiannis took out a sheet of paper from his pocket. He cleared his throat as if about to give a speech at the World Council. Clearing it a second time, Dimos grew impatient. “We’re waiting!” Yiannis looked up, shrugging. “I need momentum!” Then, he began.

“Oh, why did you leave me, forlorn and alone? I sit with my lunch here by the phone. My heart is so broken; my tears are love’s token. If you don’t call me soon, you can go to the moon.” He looked up and found them all trying hard not to laugh. He scrounged his face. “Trouble with you guys is none of you are romantic.” He refolded the paper. “You’re right, Yiannis!” said Dimos. “What do you expect from some ol’ geriatrics?” George said, “You’re not going to mail that in, are you?” His chin high, Yiannis announced, “I not only sent it in the same day, I got a reply a few days later. Tells you how excited they were when they read my poem.” He had their attention as he unraveled the letter he received.  “Look at this! Says here, ‘Thank you for your poem. We’ve accepted it!’ Gentlemen, you’re looking at a poet. Come to papa, $1000!” He rubbed his hands, eagerly. Curious, Dimos took the letter. “Wait a minute, Yiannis. Says here, ‘Congratulations! We’ve accepted it!’ But, here it says, ‘You will receive the magazine in which it will be featured, $99.00 will take care of editing, printing and distribution. Please remit!’ Handing back the letter, Dimos explained, “Remit means you have to send in that money to receive the magazine.”

Yiannis’ expression fell. He rubbed his chin. “I thought $99.00 is what they took out for editing, printing, and distribution.” Dimos shook his head.  After long pondering, Yiannis said, “oh, yeah? Well, I got a better poem.” John, smiling, said, “Let’s hear it, oh bard!”

After the space of a minute, Yiannis’s face lit up and he began reciting without much humor, “a thousand dollars just went flying. The deal you tried to pull, I ain’t buying. I’m not as dumb as you may think. The deal you offer has a stink. You guys are sure whacky! You’re dealing with someone from Marousanakislaki!”  When he finished, he leaned back and picked up his now cold coffee. Then, his expression changed from dejection to elation when they all applauded and cried out, “Bravo!”

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