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Richard Devereux: a poem

Nikos Coffee-shop, Athens, 1976

Ephie approved of Niko's.

Here you met a better class of Communist:

Maoists and Trotskyists. There were

Anarchists too – the less crazy ones –

but definitely no Kappa Kappa Epsilon.

The Stalinists had established

coffee-bars of their own.

In the garbled streets behind the Polytechnic,

on the first floor of a tired block,

the walls were bullet-pocked

from when the Fascists shot it up.

Always on the point of closing,

Niko never let the sunshine in.

His cassettes of Theodorakis often stuck.

He served three types of coffee:

Greek, Frappé and Nes

and kept a tray of stale baklavá.

The beer was Amstel. He'd banned Fix –

"fascist-owned piss". Which was also why

you couldn't get a Metaxa.

Our smoke of choice – the foul Karelia.

Young men professed beards.

They played at chess with sets

some pieces short of thirty-two,

wagering coffee on the mate.

The girls were beautifully plain

with sallow skin and dark eyes,

wallowing in a fog of Eric Fromm.

Richard Devereux lives in Bristol. The focus of much of his poetry is Greece. The above poem is set in the years following the overthrow of the Colonels’ dictatorship. His collection Bill tells the story of his grandfather in Greece in WWI. His poetry has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Raceme and Poetica.

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