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2 poems by Kostya Tsolakis

First Time

I wear the blue Versace polo shirt,

one size too big, my mother bought me.

We meet in Thissio, sit outside

a bar by the Temple of Hephaestus.

He looks different from the pic he sent –

balder, heavier. But he has a smooth voice,

the kind they use in milk or yoghurt adverts.

I lie about my age.

I have a Moscow Mule in a coral bottle.

He drinks something in a heavy-bottomed glass.

We talk about our summer plans.

A taxi takes us to a place north of Omonia Square.

In the dark hotel reception, he pays

5,000 drachmas. A blue note. I don’t contribute.

Even with the window open, the room stifles.

On a tray, laid out like wedding rings,

two condoms.

He keeps the light off.

I’d expected lovemaking to be

a soft, easy affair –

a seaside room,

the scent of lemons,

lapping waves.

Instead, this angular, stinky wrestle,

and his voice turning childish,

he calls me baby

as we soak the bedlinen.

We dress in the dark.

We don’t kiss goodnight.

If there was blood on the sheet,

it isn’t the sort tradition likes

presented from a balcony.


his room smells of body spray

something sharp, peppery

the air is stale, the window

won’t open more than an inch

bare wood-chip walls, scuffed lino floor

a cell, really

just about fits a single bed, double duvet

spilling down the side like beer head

a knackered chest of drawers

bottom one missing

top-deck commuters look in

as they slog up the high street

disinterested, or maybe what they see

in the sooty glass is their reflection

a heart-shaped silver frame

on the windowsill breaks

this austerity: a boy

six or seven, in a snoopy t-shirt

grins at the camera, the woman

next to him sits straight-backed, hands

folded stiffly in her lap, her tight perm

just like the one my mother had

he sees my eye is fixed on her

opens his mouth, scratches his beard

no words come out, he pulls

the chord, the blind rolls down

woman and child vanish

he takes his t-shirt off



Kostya Tsolakis is a London-based poet and journalist, born and raised in Athens, Greece. He is founding editor of harana poetry, the online magazine for poets writing in English as a second language, and is deputy poetry editor at Ambit. His debut pamphlet, Ephebos, will be published by ignitionpress in November.


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