Athens

Helen Farish

Did you take me for a Greek word?
Most do, but I pre-date the Greeks.

I used to describe a limestone plateau
where dusty snakes and small owls lived

with a people from whose mouths emerged
my extensive family. I miss the sound

of my original kin as I muck in
with this new crowd, biting my tongue

when I hear two or even three words stuck
together to describe skies my first family

got in a syllable – skies that occur at nightfall
in Attica after days of languor in late August

(you know the ones). But as I mourn the fall
in standards, I tell myself to be grateful

I’m uttered without nostalgia and remain
the name of this place. I’d hate to join Siam,

Byzantium, Saigon, Rangoon, Bombay –
beautiful words in various stages of decay.