Nikoletta Nousiopoulos – Three Poems
the high priest
smoke shifts; he builds the fire with branches
and paper birds─the opening of pine trees
evaporate, and then an after-thought:
I live in the memory of his hands,
on the valley of a cloud, in the spidery shadow
tormenting a grassy hill.
the only darkness I know is confiscated.
my allegiance to the stars ignites static cringes
at the bottom of a deer-gut belly.
by morning he covers the body’s dampness
with meteorites, which flicker my displacement:
I am only a follower who prays on her knees.
I came to touch your replica, that egg-
shaped, statuesque symbol of cosmos—
Two eagles crowned me: I was victory.
At dusk the servants undid my toga
so it loosened down my ankles—I undressed
for the oracle who turned and said nothing
in regard to July’s lack of poppies.
He only touched my face to free me,
he only touched my belly-button, the center
of soul, where my baby will be my fissure.
harvest the ugly ones, too
Beneath the surface of flesh, slightly
anchored & closed off, the mind
edges out of the forehead, as if
off-shore; swollen seagulls witness
wave revolutions. This time, I stir
the ugliest stars into harvesting.
Breaking my little teeth, eating
broken bees with a metallic fork,
I cherish the slime of oysters.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
For most of my life, I have tortured myself in the quest of external beauty. The superficial tends to drown our current culture with unrealistic expectations for men and women, and standards of success that do not adhere to values like happiness, dedication, hard-work, or inner peace. Beauty has not transformed, but our interpretations of this wonder, on a larger, more generalized scale, has been surgically cut, added to, and modified, in an attempt to repair, yet only failing to come close to any sort of solitary explanation. Therefore, beauty is abstract, particular, and experienced by all, though experienced individually, and through various lenses that have sensed pain and joy simultaneously, and within mortal boundaries.
For me, beauty moved from abstraction (often talked about by Plato and the ancient Greek philosophers) to something which is more containable, something which can be measured.
I measure beauty by the rate my body changes in temperature and interior jolts. My smile widens; my pupils dilate and retract. There is always a physical experience when I encounter beauty, although I would argue that the real manifestation of beauty occurs within one’s own consciousness, it is completely debatable, while also perfectly singular.
Beauty is in everyone and everything, which is a very Christian way of saying “God.” So I suppose beauty is my religion. On the surface, such a statement sounds vain and insincere, but I cannot deny that beauty moves me to live and create, to cry and eventually perish. Who am I to define beauty? I only know it’s a wonderful thing.
Nikoletta Nousiopoulos published all the dead goats in 2010 with Little Red Tree Publishing. Some of her poetry has appeared in Pioneertown Literary Journal, Thin Noon, Meadowland Review, Connecticut River Review, and others. She works as an adjunct professor of writing at Mitchell College, Three Rivers Community College, Johnson & Wales University, and Quinebaug Valley Community College.