Poetry by Athena M. Henderson
Commentary by Scott Thompson

Athena’s lifelong involvement with activism began when she served in the Greek Resistance against the Nazis as a young teenager. In 1967, a military junta known as the Regime of the Colonels seized power in Greece with the support of the CIA and the United States government. One of the ruling Colonels, George Papadopoulos, was a CIA liaison agent himself as well as being a former Nazi collaborator. The CIA had literally handed Greece over to some of the same people who had betrayed their own country to the Nazis.

When Greek resistance fighter Alexandros Panagoulis attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate Colonel Papadopoulos, he was captured and subjected to torture. A small group of activists was soon arrested and accused of plotting to help Panagoulis escape—Lady Amalia Fleming (widow of the discoverer of penicillin), John Skelton of Pennsylvania, Constantine Androutsopoulos, Constantine Bekakos, and “a American divorcee of Greek descent, from Minneapolis” named Athina Psichoyou—none other than Occupy Saint Paul’s Athena Henderson!

Athena was sentenced to 14 months in the court martial that followed, and she suffered the same torture as the man she was accused of trying to rescue. Her torture was carried out in a building next to the American Embassy, yet Athena (an American citizen by birth and a longtime resident of the Twin Cities) was given no assistance by our government. When she finally got out she returned home to Minnesota, where she had been previously active in the movement against the war in Vietnam, and later married poet James Henderson.

When the Occupy movement began last fall, Athena and James became involved with Occupy Saint Paul, and have now joined the editorial team for Occupied Minds.

Athena’s poetry includes some graphic images of torture at the hands of the military government. Her portrayal is not hypothetical. It’s her own experience, and when she describes the crimes committed against her as “the American way” she’s not just being political. The American government facilitated the military coup, stood by the criminals who carried it out, and did nothing at all to help her when she was in the hands of the torturers. Despite the things she has suffered in her lifetime of resistance against tyranny, Athena remains committed to the struggle, and an inspiration to all of us in Occupy Saint Paul.

by Athena M. Henderson

A glass filled with blood
sits on the floor beside the Turkish toilet.
Nails and teeth fill the drawer
of the torturer’s desk.
Falanga—beatings of the soles of the feet
with leather whips—blood flows.
Electro shocks to the genitals and breasts
of women roll their eyeballs.
Hanging by the wrists, near suffocation
heads are dunked in toilets filled with human feces.
Hot and then cold water
burning needles in urethras.
Lit cigarettes making holes in the skin of breasts
guns inserted into vaginas.
Buried alive.
Men, do not wear neckties.
Women, do not wear your hair in a braid.
It makes a good handhold for torturers
to fling you across the room
into the wall.

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