In every market and shop and taverna
they are saying “Oriste! Oriste!
meaning “May I help you?” or “At your service”
but not so nice or courteous-sounding,

literally, “I’m listening”
and when translated into English
for the benefit of non-Greeks,
“What do you want?”

More assertion than question,
a word without wavering in it,
without pretence, without false graces,
like a perfect form,
like a marble column,
the sheer lines cutting the light.

Not a plea, and not a prayer,
and still, a word like an act
of clear, hard love
for the God who is everywhere and does not exist,
who cannot be described or conceived of,
who is revealed in every stranger who walks in.
Oriste!” What do you want? I’m listening.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Oriste”?

I lived and worked in Greece for four years. This poem is inspired by a Greek word and by my experience of Greece and Greek people.

What poetic techniques did you use in “Oriste”?

This is a totally “free verse” poem. I was trying to be spare and clear—to match the subject matter of the poem.

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