Kostya Tsolákis is a London-based poet and journalist, born and raised in Athens, Greece. A Warwick Writing Programme graduate, his poems have appeared in Ambit, Magma, perverse, Strix and Wasafiri, among others. In 2019 he won the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition (EAL category). He founded and co-edits harana poetry, the online magazine for poets writing in English as second or parallel language.
Someone else’s child
On 21 September 2018, 33-year-old LGBTQ+ activist and drag performer Zak Kostópoulos was brutally beaten up by two men after entering a jewellery shop in central Athens. In video footage, police officers are seen to be violently arresting Zak, and one officer is seen kicking him. According to the forensic report, Zak died from the multiple injuries he sustained.
I undress, watched over by medals for bravery
and life achievement awards, in Dad’s study. I sleep
in mismatched sheets in the new sofa bed — stiff
mattress unyielding to my shape. Square-jawed,
great-uncle Grigóris, in an army coat too big
for him and battle-muddied boots, stares straight
out of his thumb-smudged picture frame.
Morning, the mountains that penned in
my childhood covered in snow. Dad mutters
in the hallway: The Archangel has abandoned me.
Over lunch, he keeps silent, eyes fixed
on his soup, as though afraid he’s close
to using up his allocated words. Walking to the café,
he hands me his cane, won’t take my arm.
The bow-tied waiter shakes Dad’s hand, addresses
me by my dead half-brother’s name. I don’t
correct him, neither does Dad. Untouched,
Dad’s espresso grows cold. Now and then a spinning
light speeds by, washes his face a watery blue.
So much police … I say. Dad doesn’t respond. I want
to tell him how, minutes from here, someone else’s
child, made of the same material as me, was made
immaterial. How buffed boots, ordered to ‘prevent’
and ‘quell’, judged him a bone-snatching stray infected
with god-knows. How they pinned him, hand-cuffed,
against the rough, uneven pavement, kicked his heart
in. A Friday lunchtime in this city. But your weary
expression, Father, clamps the words in my throat.