‘Oh, Canada’ and ‘Patera II’ by Christina Strigas

Oh, Canada

Watching the sun rise is one of the most trusted things.
I’m old school. Old soul for shining love.
In Greece, the sunrise overlooked the ocean,
in Canada, the sunrise overlooked Park Ex. 

When I was eight,
I saw Greece in your eyes.
I understood what the word immigrant implied.
All the looks, questions,
Where were you born?
I’m Canadian. I’m Greek.
I’m Greek-Canadian.

I’m nowhere to be found.

I mostly feel like a sea animal—
hooked me;
it adored my Canadian skin, its delicacy
flapping my fins in the air.
Olive complexion, dark hair and eyes.
Oh, you look Greek or Italian.
You have an accent.                    

Did you know the ocean grave is so silent?
There is no grandiose ocean here.
Canada is civil. Makes no war.
Canada opens up its arms to immigrants like us.
It wets our words with ghosts,
not the ones in movies or reality TV;
the real ones that terrorize immigrant dreams.        

Canada has clawed cold cuts on my skin,
The dry scathed skin of winter.
I’m allergic to the cold now,
Still translating documents for my mother since 1980.

They make me write about how she came to Canada on April 29, 1960.
She had two birthdays
my grandfather changed it to 1943
for food, survival;
and now I’m filling out 10 page applications
to prove she is who she says she is
after living here for fifty-eight years.
It’s always hopeless
When you can’t speak the language
You live in—
But it is hopeful
To have a nomad soul.  

You can be a stranger in two countries.
I see proof of that every day. 



I crashed on the floor
Next to your dead body, Patera
You were wrapped in a red flannel blanket of fire.
Your last breath,
Of three deep sighs . . . a matchstick
Flaring-up a crowd of love
We watched the horror.

Around your nailed feet,
Edges of years,
Like a quick flame,
Your light disappeared
Brushed by fingertips
An odyssey of stops,
A heart wrenching eulogy.         

But the saints are calling you—
To dream on a bed of red clouds,
they want your Good Friday bonfire.
Light up the glow Father
Patera, kalinihta.

When you died ten years ago,
the world shifted gears;
Greece and its olives,
Its braced trees
Seem so distant now
Miles of gravel
Now a dead memory

Epic to recall
How you stole cucumbers
in your youth,
How you got tired for days,
Walking miles to reach school—
No swings, amusement parks

No lights on the village streets.
No telephones,
Just one
soccer ball to bring your name in arenas. 

Raised on bread and lentils,
Hand-prepared— in a clay sink,
In one room with five siblings,

You left Greece with a five-dollar bill in your pocket
a Greek-English dictionary in your bag.


CHRISTINA STRIGAS is a full-time teacher. She teaches ESL to adults at McGill University, and French at a public elementary school for The Montreal English School Board. She is also a Course Lecturer at McGill University. Her work has appeared in Feminine Collective, SpillWords, Neon Mariposa Magazine, as well as some that will be publishing some work in the upcoming months, such as: Pink Plastic House, Thimble Lit Magazine, Rhythm & Bones, Twist in Time, and The Temz Review. Her poetry book, Love & Vodka was recommended by CBC News and made the Ultimate Canadian Poetry List. She has written two novels for MuseItUp Publishing. She lives in Montreal with her husband and two children.

Copyright © 2019 by Christina Strigas. All rights reserved.