I had been walking for hours. Hungry, thirsty, sweat dripping down my face, I was hardly capable of thinking, or imagining, my usual pastimes. Yet, here it was, in front of me, an impossible sight, a mirage. What else could this door-frame be in the middle of fields, in the center of the Peloponnese?
The air around me was hot, suffocating, as if half of the baked earth had floated upwards and was now swimming in it; it resonated thick with the sound of cicadas. The relentless sun had been plaguing me all morning. And it was the sun – more than anything else – that made me sit under that frame; on the thin band of shade it provided.
Resting my head on my knees, I lost consciousness. I don’t know how long I was out, but when I came to the frame was casting an elongated shadow.
Getting up, I felt my knees stiffen. I took a closer look. I could now see this ‘thing’ was not really a door frame. It was carved out of a kind of wood I had not seen before, of a tree I’d never encountered in my life.
Puzzled I touched it lightly. It moved! Alarmed, I jumped back. It stopped moving. I started feeling the frame for clues.
At the top right hand corner I traced something protruding, something like a splinter or a thin nail. I pulled gently. A slight breeze brushed my face, as if a door had been opened. I could smell jasmine, lemon and tar all mixed up; I could taste the salt of the Aegean sea! I heard the cries of sea-gulls and the flutter of their wings. A door had really been opened to another world.
I wrote this poem thinking of the Aegean, the stories attached to it, from the Trojan war, to Odysseus’ crisscrossing the sea to return to Ithaca, to the sponge divers risking their lives to earn a living…
This poem appeared in Poetry Monthly, issue 150, October 2008. (This was the last edition of the magazine; afterwards, it came back as the online journal Poetry Monthly International)
Song of the Aegean
Sea, azure, shoal, white sails,
Pines, sponges, diving tales