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  • November 2007

    Andreas Papyrakis showed up one afternoon, dressed in black, hair black, mustache waxed. He spoke with such a strong accent I could barely understand him. He told me he was a rhyming coupleteer and that's how he made a living. He knew my sister and father. He also worked as a cook when his rhyming services were not required.

    "I am expendable," he said. "I am unmarried, have no children, and only a first grade education. If you want me to do in any enemy of the family, I'm the man." From someone who grew up in the land of vendetta, I decided to be careful.

    "I have no such desire," I said.

    He insisted.

    "Please. Tell me a name, and tomorrow his head will be in a plastic bag, on your table." I had a Coppola-like image of a bloated face listing on my desk....

    I thought about it.

    "How about you play the lyre for me?" We poured some raki.

    "No joy allowed," he said, downing the shot. "I am in mourning for my sister. Three years ago...."

    "You're willing to violate one of the ten commandments, but you can't break tradition?"

    He thought about it.

    "Let me tell you some couplets. Unjoyous. Without singing them."

    Here's three (translated with Alicia Stallings)

    1.
    Five thousand dreams I fashioned every hour of every day,
    But then along came wind and rain to sweep them all away.

    2.
    Deep underground where no sun rises, no moon shines above,
    That is the place where he must dwell, the man who loses love.

    3.
    Heart, break. Flesh, decompose. And Soul, desert the body’s frame.
    Since you denied me, go back to the dirt from which you came.
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