Eleni Sikelianos

Two poems from Make Yourself Happy

I HAD TAKEN THE LONG WAY HOME, the really long way.

I traveled to the edge of the human continent. There, I couldn’t tell the difference between the insurgents and the Mennonites. The Shaker girls wore blue-evening-light dresses and danced in a circle speaking of the widow they had neglected. We went to the website of all acts of poetry, a huge screen at the very edge of the room, a bit basement, that seemed to grow little by little (would it overwhelm the scene?) when you pointed out to the dawn on the rightside horizon & my eyelashes made a shadow I could see. Will the screen engulf the world?
will the web?
was the widow their window?
what is an act of poetry?
Catching the light
with the side
of my eye.

the horse says neigh
the human says yeay
a grasshopper, you said
will never be sad.
That’s the first thing.


What I want and what I winnow
When I see it it’s Sappho biting into a sesame seed
She arrives right through the centuries
Walked from Mólivos to Pétra
Bright blossoms along the way
Green fields seaside and some rundown stone houses among the hotels
Sappho, how’s it going
Everything’s great, I recognize
The sun    but where have our gods gone    never
Mind, so much hiding the meat, giving them the fat
Now I can piss in the garden
I can throw my book in the sea
Drink my wine
Without wondering which meadow will winnow me, what girl
Like an apple will make me
Sweet-mouthed, happy
Here I am eating ordinary bread! Leaping out of that terrible habitat
(the past) I can pluck & pluck
Her maidenhead
From the top of the Present
Maidenhead tree


Eleni Sikelianos’s hybrid essay/memoir You Animal Machine was published this June. She is the author of another hybrid memoir, The Book of Jon, and seven books of poetry, most recently The Loving Detail of the Living & the Dead. In October, she opened for Cibo Matto and Nels Cline at the Henry Miller Library.