Weekly Poem: ‘On a Greek Proverb’

BY Mary Jo Brooks  February 11, 2013 at 10:28 AM EST

By A.E. Stallings


We’re here for the time being, I answer to the query—
Just for a couple of years, we said, a dozen years back.
Nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

We dine sitting on folding chairs—they were cheap but cheery.
We’ve taped the broken window pane. TV’s still out of whack.
We’re here for the time being, I answer to the query.

When we crossed the water, we only brought what we could carry,
But there are always boxes that you never do unpack.
Nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

Sometimes when I’m feeling weepy, you propose a theory:
Nostalgia and tear gas have the same acrid smack.
We’re here for the time being, I answer to the query—

We stash bones in the closet when we don’t have time to bury,
Stuff receipts in envelopes, file papers in a stack.
Nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

Twelve years now and we’re still eating off the ordinary:
We left our wedding china behind, afraid that it might crack.
We’re here for the time being, we answer to the query,
But nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

A.E. Stallings is a poet and translator who has lived in Athens, Greece, for the last 13 years. Trained as a classicist, studying ancient Greek and Latin, she garnered much acclaim for her translation of the Roman philosopher Lecretius’ “The Nature of Things.” Her own poetry has garnered several prizes, and in 2011 she was a recipient of a MacArthur “genius” award. Most recently she published a collection titled “Olives,” which includes poems about life—both ancient and modern—in her adopted home.

Watch our profile of Stallings here.