By Konstantinos Bouras
Deeply touching are the details that one detects when looking into the fate and creativity of the Greeks living abroad, be it of the second or third generation. At the suggestion of the distinguished poet, publisher and friend, DinosSiotis, I made a brief Internet search for an important personality in the American political scene: James G. Stavridis, or James George “Jim” Stavridis, nicknamed “Zorbas”.
An eminent person who after having served as an admiral in the U.S. Navy, he became Head of the Atlantic Alliance as NATO commander, and played an important role in bringing peace to the turbulent political waters of the Aegean, where in the past, as nowadays, the refugees’ boats were sunk. The grandson of a Greek deported by the Turks during the 1920 population exchanges, he arrived at Ellis Island, N.Y., via Athens, and found himself in the moving position of reentering (as he would say) the same port of Smyrna (now Izmir), from where his harried grandfather had left. Only this time triumphant and victorious, arbiter and guarantor of Peace, Democracy, Equality and Freedom for all people on earth. My, what changes life has! He himself regards the moment as “the most amazing historical irony”, and imagines the look on his ancestor’s face, George Zafiris Stavridis, if there was a way he could ever learn that his grandson, who speaks barely a few words of Greek, returns in command of a billion dollar destroyer to the very city of Smyrna — now called Izmir—from where he sailed in a boat piled with other refugees all those years ago. I was moved to tears with the description of this dramatic moment from the glorious life of a contemporary American hero, whom Hillary Clinton wanted as her Vice President, and as Secretary General the newly elected US President, Donald Trump. Now there’s recognition for you! But he is of Greek descent, isn’t he? What do you expect? The immortal Greek spirit that always triumphs thanks to its creativity, its inspiration, its productivity, its steadfastness — the ingenuity of resourceful Ulysses, finds itself “abroad”, somewhere where the organized sources and reliable institutions will for sure allow him to unfurl his talents and skillfulness to the utmost. And America, the United States, is one of the few organized nations in the worl where each person is employed in the extreme for the benefit of the Common Good and in the service of the Entire Public. If only the same would happen to our crisis-ridden beloved Greece, where throughout the State exist and fight thousands of anonymous heroes of daily life who strive to make a living, wrestling with countless adverse circumstances and malaise since the establishment of the New Greek State. It is likely that the traditional Envy and the consequent Disunity is the main reason why instead of promoting prominent personalities, “heads are cut off” since ancient times (we shouldn’t forget the conium that Socrates was compelled to drink ,τhe self-exile of Euripides, Sophocles, Pythagoras, and so many others…).
And since emotionalism leads poets to a climax by crystallizing imagination and God-inspired, holy ecstasy in a few words, I am presenting here this humble poem of mine.
*Nemesis Fate: From George Seferis’ poem “The Last Stop”’
In honour of James G. Stavridis
He would have been specially proud, your grandfather,
P. George Zafiris Stavridis,
Were he to see you, were he able to learn, to hear
That his grandson, James George “Jim” Stavridis (Zorbas)
Would one day enter triumphant in Smyrna
On a frigate worth a thousand million dollars,
Whereas he, himself, was piled in a small, narrow leaking boat
With other refugees, way back in the 1920 decade,
Deported forcibly by the Turks.
An unwilling victim of population exchanges
Hospitable Greece welcomed him,
as this poor country usually takes in
People persecuted, refugees, immigrants,
And all those who obey theuniversal Law of Chance and Necessity,
In Nemesis that even the Olympian gods fear.
And all Greeks faithful
To the dictates of the First among the immortals
Follow the traditional sacred habit
Of Hospitality, just as Abraham accepted the Angels.
Thus Zeus enjoins us
To provide shelter, food and water,
To ensure basic material needs
And spiritual goods
Irrespective of ethical or other values,
Regardless of religious or ideological beliefs,
And devoid of sex discrimination, erotic orientation
And other ways
Besides, we shall all be judged by the three-member karmic committee
Of Kings of the Underworld:
Minos, Rhadamanthus, Aeacus
Are waiting to weigh our souls
And if our wrongs are burdened by our
Goodness, even in the least,
Let’s say the weight of a feather,
Then… perhaps we shall return here,
Straining in leaking boats
Tossed about on the giant waves
Of the Aegean, sometimes as victims, sometimes as sacrificers,
And other times as observers, or perhaps arbiters
At the best of times…
Grabbed you above the wings
Of the Statue of Liberty,
James George “Jim” Stavridis,
With the nickname of the legendary Zorbas
(O immortal Kazantzakis!).
And brought you where
Objectively you should be
And because you merit
An impartial judge,
A trustworthy witness
Of the pain
Of men and things
Living or lifeless.
Because in War
and the five elements
of Energy (including
ether – quintessence)
participate, commiserate, co-create
the new Renaissance to come.
Konstantinos Bouras, poet and critic www.konstantinosbouras.gr
Translated from the Greek by Yannis Goumas