Volume 24, Number 3

Dances of the Solar Ostrich-men

Arturo Desimone

Four days to Christian Nativity Day in Athens, I walk down the boulevard of fools, the long commercial street in Athens on the day after Christmas Nativity Eleison, the Greek winter cold positions its knee in my back. The city is quiet, few tourists during this time of the anarchists who throw Apple of Discord at black iron police vans, of the fantasies of hysterical Northern newspapers describing war and third world conditions. A gypsy woman with tiger-striped ear muffs sells branches of a sainted fern plant outside a cafe where old men smoke and drink. The cold slurs my fingers grasping a pen as I sit on the terrace drawing her.

The road slopes upwards to Syntagma where hundreds of protesters amassed, did some kind of provincial but genuine imitation of ancient Athenian tribal warrior-democracy, and after nine weeks steadfast were broken by baton, defeated, a few say they were raped in police vans, a gay theater director was buggered by the police—they probably kept their vast, expensive helmets on—many others were kicked.

Syntagma now had some families with children, balloons, cotton candy vendors.

Just beyond was a mausoleum in the sun for fallen and unknown soldiers as exists in Rome and in every other militarized Mediterranean country.

There was a procession now at this mausoleum and not just symbols, not only flowers and residue for a fallen Saint of Aggression or Saint of Strength, an official ceremony taking place. Costumed young men who looked like ostriches carried high-tech giant rifles as they pirouetted in the soft sunlight, the wind bringing the smell of the vineyard from the elevation overlooking the mausoleum in a pit. I got my Panasony camera ready.

They wore their traditional folkloric get up of countryside pagan Greece: little beret hats with pony's strands of black hairs hanging in the their faces of harsh dark looks. The youths swung and made giant preying animal, pious mantis steps with their big red shoes that had black fuzzy balls like a porcupine of fabric that shook on each shoe tip. Modern guns hung from their vests. The nineteen, twenty-year old fighters kicked in the cold air, dancing in a martial blood and soil mystery mass, like birds in violence about to go coo!; mute-mouthed before the tomb of a dead nationalist fighter.

The tomb had the shape of a mouth, with brassy-golden vases in the shape of hearts inscribed with greek letters and holding what seemed prehistoric flowers.

Athens, here, stood naked, revealed for what it was for centuries: a poor, provincial fishing town of illiterates who had neither known how to swim nor how to read their Byzantine Konei language, who trafficked in caged birds, who arranged weddings for their daughters, Athenian brides in folkloric dresses of white, yellow and blue, with brocades of starfish and fisher's colored lanterns—but there was no Zeus, no Apollo. There was no envious and punishing Hera except for the uncooling shade of rich Germany, her pacific aggression more devastating that the jabs of these boys.

Whenever there was a debate in Amsterdam organized by my comrades in the Greek Solidarity movement always some Germanic woman from an esoteric or left Theosophical society would stand up from the audience, breaking out shouting in defense of the Greek people who gave the world Plato and philosophers like Zeus and the ideas of Sappho; I knew then already, before coming here that she was addressing the wrong people, some dead people of marble statues and togas in books she studied in gymnasium, who died or never existed.

The real Athenians were those who at this time of the year still had the rite of the sword diver: eternal luck was to the young sponge-diver men who competed in winter, the next day they would dive holding a knot of wind in their lungs, into the sea near Kerameikos to fetch a gleaming sword that had been thrown in by a blindfolded idiot.

A bachelor who managed to pick up the sword and bring it up to air, would wave his sword shouting as he bobbed in seawater up to his chest, after he stole it back from the flat shark and the sand-monster. This win meant he would be married by age 20 and financially healthy for the coming years. Not long ago they married at 17, his grandparents had done so, now maybe they hoped for 30; ritual was always reenactment of a people's memory, the history of the irrational classes, philosophy of the nonlogical races and breath of their hourly struggle.

This was on a Saint's day, a rite for Saint Jorgos maybe, and not for Olympos or Hera rotten and spoiled mother of Herakles the half-human.

When grandparents of today's Greeks danced on peasant holidays, it was not for a conference of the gossipy Olympians: instead a spirit of the earth mated with Byzantine saints built the Parthenon to give rain to maize sowers, fish to the hook and line gatherers in their boats and the latter's families.

These tough soldiers now marched with their rifles dancing around the great stone Acropolis, worshipping not the gods that the Parthenon's people had known. Their ritual reenactment was of other, more recent Greek memories of the 20th century, more recent than the abduction and kidnapping of Persephone by Hades who caused earth's mourning of grief-winters by keeping the daughter in his Netherworld cage hypnotizing her with his jewels and films on plasma television sets.

A drum beat. The boys jumped, walked, kicked like exotic male birds, reptiles, albatross-roosters fighting owls in the danger of moonlight over forest. They marched down the steps. A man with a lopsided fez and sunglasses who was foreign to the mystery cult ritual exited the wooden ticket sales hut and announced to the tourists their treat. The audience could take pictures with the traditional-garbed Athenian defenders now.

I did not want to take a picture with the big carnivorous fighter birds—I needed to fight battles for my own cock.

The tourists applauded but did not see that all this folklore had been married to a military state, they kicked and showed their animal instincts and martial arts to celebrate an ethnic state, their dance was a victory of having committed a successful cleansing of an Albanian village, of having raped the wife and daughter of some famous intellectual who was a Freemason or an anarchist before the First World War.

Army initiations took place on Mount Parthenon, doubtless they were the first sons in their families, in their long lines of ancestors who immigrated to Athens to ever bother climbing up those steps and rocks to see the old temples.

They were trained to metamorph into nightbirds, to hide and move through the brush, across the river loud with the sounds of insects, their knives in hand, to enter the gray unpainted houses of the wandering people, families who were enemies of the ethnic state—Albanians, Jews, gypsies, those who were cosmopolitan, of a winged free spine-tail, without loyalty and romanticizing treason, who needed to be butchered like the diseased flocks of geese for a state of unsmiling Athena to be born, her face full of iron and pride. The tourists cameras do not capture what the eye and nose of a son of those blinded and gagged by Fascism, what the son and grandson of Fascism's fledglings can plainly note.

At night in the meadows down far from the mountain, see the movement of the ostrich-men, the Hellas soldiers with their black kilts and black lantern shoes.

High on drugs, they leap like ballerinas through the thickets carrying rifles. Noise of riverflies and trickle of moon-river. Soldiers of a modern nation under an Orthodoxy without prayers, looking for someone of the enemy nation of the sultan to ambush, to fuck up.

High-tone sound of insects, water is a song of crying moon through the reeds. Smell and noises of a torch flaring: these are the little musics of a mass-murder that is about to unfold, of a village of white mud people who will have their bodies emptied of their stomachaches and heart-cries into the river, the soldiers, at least three of whom are named Jorgos feed the dragonflies.

The soldier with nightvision goggles and special technology of stealth is on his gang adrenaline-medicine, one like no other mischief or love or travesty with some school-mate had ever given.

He is the fury at work for Hera's provincial envy, claws of bronze and copper protrude from under his eyelids, misunderstood godless-divine ecstacy of transcending being human as the white owl in the tree shrugs its wings, smoking Marlboros, indifference masked as wisdom he flicks a blasé glance upon gang crimes by laughing ostrich-men on Albanian bodies of people born to wash windows and leave behind widowers and widows and take out garbage and to be defeated.

The gringo tourists however, in their short Nike (Goddess Victory) pants and holding picture books of Eros sex-positions from Greek urns and Minoan Art, and some white sun-lotion cream on their nose were not here by the river of crying moon-games and St Jorgos feeding the dragonflies to take a hysterical smiling Polaroid with a soldier so they can show friends and family the handsome Grecian youth, his cock showing through the tight felt pants, such a charmin young fella!