THE ISLAND

 

There are so many, and each one
Its own. But why this, and this still?
Was there a sign? Perhaps just
The ancient, utter silence, a hawk
Hanging upon emptiness alone
Between the cyclopean cliffs.
Leaving the quay, the rusty steamer,
The narrow, huddled, whitewashed street,
We scrambled upward to the sky.
Upon the crest a monastery
Hewn from salt, and in the hills beyond
A desert waste of scrub and tamarisk.
Two eagles circled in the sky
Above and where they led we drew,
Breasting a further spur and climbing down
Into another sea beyond. Upon an edge
To stumble upon death, a hideous abyss,
The ravening, black rip and spoil
Grinding in the cleft fault unseen.
On the far crag a shrine, and there,
Secret, and shouldered by the hill,
A cove, with the sea far beneath.
Descending, first, the tang of smoke,
Burnt fish, herbs, oil, with voices,
A bouzouki, the wild music swaying
On the wind. Sponge divers with their gear,
The battered caique drawn above the tide,
A driftwood fire, charred sand,
And the curved finger nail of beach
Brilliant with sun, filed smooth,
Its edge lace satin scrolled and swathed.
Despite ourselves, such stillness
In the place, a silence ages still.
So still the gods sleep in this place.
Odysseus, and his crew. Their laughter,
And tall tales about the fire. Grinning,
He stands and pours out the rough wine.
A shifty, weather beaten face.
Eyes that yield nothing and command.
And all his questions, never satisfied,
Or tired, and talking half the night.
Out there, he jabs, they fished out
From the depths not squid but bronze,
Spewed bile, shell-crusted by the sea.
Such weight he grits his teeth to say.
Telling, he handles it, the blind,
Enormous, slippery, green weight
He pulls and draws out with both hands,
The swimmer glistening in their nets
Keeling the sky, awful, and terrible.
The body that he speaks with all he is.
And in his eye the god, the same, tall,
Proud, dispassionate regard.

 

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