07 May 2015

KEEPING VIGIL (In Memory Of Robert Thompson)

1:  Molasses

One by one lights
Flicker and are extinguished.
The city is shutting down.

A street organ is playing, 
Spinning music of long ago–
Songs of loss and desire,
Songs of betrayal,
Wine-soaked singing:
"The sponge diver's body
Was pulled from the deep"
Laments a verse,
"His life snuffed out."

Slow molasses the sounds,
An unsynchronized polyphony
Drifting in the jasmine scented night

2:  Dream
Come to me shadow and starlight
Come for one unmeasured moment

A sweat, a burn,
Skin caressed
Flesh alert to flesh,
Arms interlaced

We are anchored in darkness,
Shades guarding us from the world.

And seaweed,
In place of pillows
I startle at the stubble, the salty velvet of your cheek
All is joy – You

3:  Seduction
Reality is easily suspended.
Scattered clothing,   
The mattress half stripped 
Our lips tendriled.

As it coils, the vine is fragrant
With superficial tenderness.
In nakedness
Our whispered sentiments and rhymes
It matters if they are recycled,
It matters.  
Intimacy longs for candour.

4:  Melody
I was a lace maker,
Cutting and decorating cloth
Intertwining yarns of linen
And yarns of silver too, and gold.
Bent over my task, a work of skill
And a skill of patience

One day I set aside the bobbins and the needle
I turned to face you and found  
More than indifference hiding in your eyes
I spied a sign, a poisoned look
The affirmation
I had stayed foolish and grown old.

Once upon a time I lived by the foothills of a mountain.
At dusk I sat outdoors
Gathering and plaiting thread
Winding it in spools,
Working beneath the gaze of the summit
Beneath  its cloud covered, inaccessible terrain

Sing to me, I asked as I stood up,
I want to hear you, I want to hear you!
Speak of the wild things nurtured in your solitude
Of waterfalls, the gentle carpeting of mosses
Walk me beyond the parched landscape of silence
Arrange your notes atonal as the beating wind
Melodic as a burst of rain.

5:  Salonika
They were two  
And holding hands. 
Before, I had known them as one and one

The girl's hair, yellow like ripened lemons
Fell in sharp angles around her face –
I remember he laughed, a confident laugh.

In all the years of our acquaintance
I hadn't understood how much he enjoyed laughter
But he did, as I realized late at twilight
When the ravages took hold and I took stock.

We wandered leisurely on the promenade
Heading westward toward the tower.
Its turret and battlements were veiled,
Climbing invisibly to merge
With the midnight of the sky.

It was a prison once
Used for torturing and killing
More so than for confinement,
A tower of death.

The captives, who were they, I wondered,
Their screaming silenced now
Bruised souls with missing names
Bodies whose blood coloured the soil.

and ashes, ashes,
ashes returning southward
to a home where forever
the innocence was lost
ashes moving aimlessly through space,
dispersing finally,
mist over the beloved hills
over the bountiful sea.

bright blue numerals,
she stayed alive and brought them home
"what is it on your arm?"
The two-masted caique was brightly lit
Its crew calling out for passengers.
He was first on the gangplank:
"Who's game for a sightseeing cruise?"

It was a floating bar we walked into:
"I'll take a Heineken!" 
"Me too!"  "Me too!"
"It's one o'clock, what time do they close?"
"Whenever," chuckled the waitress,
"No particular time,
We close when we run out of customers" –
She was from Belgium, come south for the summer.
When the boat set out we ordered more beer
"Heineken with a light misting of seawater...
It has a pleasing taste," he said.
It did.  Delicious! A benefit of hugging
The gunwale with one hand,
A mug of beer with the other.
We swung by our table for refills.    

"it isn't done, asking such questions!"
"it's alright, she's a child."
for a few seconds she stared at me, an air
of bitterness and pride in her glance.
she explained quickly, with a flash of anger.
she may as well have said nothing,
years had to pass before I understood
what price her nostos.

6:  Lit
For something like twenty thousand drachmas,
The rough equivalent of one hundred and fifty dollars,
One could purchase a Cuban cigar.
I knew nothing of Montechristo or Partagas, 
Which flavor was cedar-like, which leathery
And couldn't decide on the brand of brandy to suit an honest smoke.
By now we were in the hotel –
The rooftop pub overlooked the gardens,
Farther out, the blackness of the Aegean.

An inaudible strip of waves
Crested white beneath the moonlight;
"I love a moonlit sea," I informed the waiter
Gesticulating at the majesty of it all.
"That is the Thermaic gulf," he corrected me.
A cigar yielding friend came to my defense:
"The moonlit Thermaic gulf!"
But, my cruising companions having retired for the night
I also thought it best to make my exit –
After all I wasn't given to the newfangled fad,
The sophisticated decadence of savouring cigars. 

7:  Meltemi
It is madness how much I love this sea,
This  gleaming patch of undulating water
Piercing into the horseshoed shore
Calling me, restoring me.  

Stoic sea, endless and beautiful
Swim to me,

My surreal lover,
Taking me to depths nearing the drowning point.
Freedom abounds in his embrace,
My heart is full.

Yearly, the winds of summer travel southward,
Over the waves, across the land.
Even in the slow and sweet-wine season
Particularly in the simple, guileless time of year
The modest breeze will die,
The tempest will emerge.

While I keep vigil
First light overtakes the night
Stretching slowly with expert apathy.
There is no majesty to an illuminated sorrow –
Better to stumble in the dark
Pretending that my blows are caused by phantoms.

As the day begins its futile march
Handshakes will be forgotten,
Innocence will be sacrificed.
At breakfast, lotus eaters will shrug and say
There can exist only one Penelope.

After the meltemi rushes past            
Nothing comes back to center
As you escape
As I wait
As we sail on

It is madness how much I love this sea,