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1999 - Saloni Mediterranean

Angela Costi

Angela Costi

Since 1993 I have been performing my words in various venues around Melbourne, including Theatreworks, Span Gallery and La Mama. My poetry, plays and prose have been published in a wide variety of publications (such as Australasian Drama Studies and The Australian), and produced by small independent theatre ensembles and on radio (including Radio National-ABC and 3RRR).

In 1995, I was lucky enough to receive a travel award from the Australian National Languages and Literacy Board to study Classic Greek drama in Greece and Cyprus. Through this study I came across the Ancient Greek myth of the Danaids, which was first told by Pindar, the Ancient poet. This myth inspired me to write Divine Law, which was selected to be read at the International Women Playwrights' Conference in Athens, October 2000.

My connection with the Mediterranean was deepened when I spent some time there in 1995. In Cyprus I visited my Great Aunty Niki; it was like looking into my future's mirror - I knew that when I reached her age I would look exactly like her. An incredible sense of past, present and future was fused that very moment I looked into her eyes and she recognised me before I spoke.

There is a considerable part of my writing which is informed and influenced by my Cypriot heritage. It's certainly not a need to write out my past but rather to share select fictional insights; particularly the delicate, elaborate, burdensome and sacred aspects of my Mediterrenean connection.

"Dancing Through Mirrors" was one of the pieces I performed at Saloni Mediterranean at the Fitzroy Gallery, 1999. The poem was compelled into existence by my recollection of a song I grew up with. This song was sung in Greek but it was about dancing a Turkish dance. Aspects of the song are woven into the poem and I sing them when the poem is performed.

Dancing Through Mirrors

by Angela Costi

This poem was read at Saloni Mediterranean, March 18, 1999.

siekou horepse, kouklie mou
na se tho, na se haro
kouna liyo to kormie sou
a tin na na yiavro
tin na na na

and as she danced
hips, lap lap lapping
a lacework of water patterns
from belly to breasts
arm pits to thighs
weaving an invite to warm lakes
for poor swimmers

She is as Greek
as I am Turkish
I accept her invitation
of hip bone and song
we dance to same history
and our seduction is fierce

tsifdedelli Tourkiko
a ti na na yiavro
ti na na na
tsifdedelli Tourkiko
a ti na na yiavro
ti na na na

the frigid snake may succumb
to the wriggle, the burn of desire
without blood
it may tire of fixed position
tail thumping the North
head biting the South
and the smallness of the divide

from prayer call to bell
lokoumia to Turkish Delight
kibbeh to koubba, remember
the coffee of mud
brews by the same rules
its smell has no borders

and we always dance through mirrors
wearing ancestral father's victory grin
plucking ancient mother's eyebrows

our skin of rippling lakes
now the tosses and turns of waves
the scythe turns paddle in my hands
brebei lieyo na harou me
olive leaves are branching in her hair
a ni na ni yiavro, ni na ni, ni

churning our sweat for the feeding
sharing the fattened lamb, our Cyprus
— snake has eaten, searches
for shrapnel feast, retreats to
multinational drains, uranium, soil
oil, coal, shit and the rest — we break
one plate into two even pieces

Oba, I grab the paddy hand of a Celt
he jigs to our havas, she tugs
the skirts of a Saxoness
who curtsies and twirls
a Palestinian bows into a skipping step
with an Israeli springing so lightfoot in time
...a ni na ni yiavro, ni na ni, ni

our daisy chain of hands and feet
never complete
some don't budge from the wall
nails dig in deeper
a system of routes
for thistles and thorns

oba ni na ni na ni, ni na ni, na
slips the hope of a hop, hipper perhaps
with an intimate rap of fused speak
cross Timor, Jakarta and into the Balk
and land remembers its warmth
so Koori casts off her shoes
and finally... finally Mr. Ozzie-White
loosens his Mickey Mouse tie
Ella, oba ni na ni na ni, ni na ni, ni
ni na ni yiavro, ni na ni, na
oba ni na ni na ni, ni na ni, ni
ni na ni yiavro, ni na ni, na

© Angela Costi 1999

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