Voices from an Island

Thera 1500 B.C.

An odor of sea
penetrates the hills.
In the houses
there is a rattle of cups.

The air is rich
with sage. On the frescoes
lilies red as the sun enter
the wind while a young woman
bends over them.

At noon in the square
the stony trot of donkeys
echoes. Women
slap linen against the fountain.

In the dark heart of the mill house,
men measure out barley.
Deaf to the fishmongers’ cries,
the tumble of children,
they hear only the flick
of grain in the pan.

Theran Girl Resettled in Syracuse

At night when I am home
again, the land rises up
to smother me,
the earth I tilled with
my own flesh.

It surged toward me
sending rocks
in my face, houses
sliding downward.
I watched the land plunge back
into the sea.

One morning,
the island was swathed
in pale light,
the barley hushed, the air
motionless. Then,
a drone of wasps.

A new land.
How to gather in?
At first
I tried to forget, thought
that if I emptied myself
the grief would drain away.

There are new streets now,
new foliage.
The birds here have their own

Days turn. A voice wells up
again, an echo.
Then, trees lift the tips of
their branches.
Houses have faces
I can take between my hands.

Theran Farmer, 1975

In spring
when I walk behind my horse,
bands of earth
widen into daylight,
shards appear
between the barley’s pale shoots.

One afternoon
as I followed my animals
into a cave, a goat
stepped through the floor.
I saw a staircase
winding below, then
the broken lines of streets,

Houses speak when
they are empty. An odor
lingers. The floors know
the old footfalls, the hands
that scrubbed them.

We plane down
the swollen boards on doors,
calk windows,
believing we own our houses.