Passage to Andros

Washed tints of steel blue gray
through a streaked window.

Rumbles, low and lower
chant and sway

An uninhabited isle looms out of the spots and dirt
suggesting mysteries it will not deliver.

Staring intently to find ultimates
but I only long
with no object.

Propped up on a hill,
after a full life,

this will speak its wisdom to me
and I will be ready for the clouds.

For now,
it is empty.


Passage to Rafina

I saw a happy couple today
on the brown vinyl seats
framing the ferry window.

He, a simple, gentle face
thick hair askew,
old shirt dirt polished jeans.

Her, plump,
childish hair
ill fitting clothes,
tight and loose,
shiny, unfashionable, scuffed purse radiant joy on a red, plain face.

Oblivious to the glaring insults
the world wished to send them,
they chatted and found delight
he mugged for her

and they laughed
over every entry in the checkbook.


Peloponnese Waiting Room

Everything is an affront to the ancient man,
sad olive sock protecting wounded foot.
His daughter's attempts to keep him clean
bewilder him.

The women on my bench
resent my unexpected presence and
rustle ominously as they plot.

Cracked, dirt polished tiles' patina
compliment brown walls.

The black shawled woman peers intently
at the door to the platform
but the train is not late.

The pigeons flutter the cigarette smoke
and the Albanians sleep in
icon golden light
from the dirty window.



Socrates is again sentenced to death
by a jury of drivers parked on the sidewalk

Nero's sign on the Parthenon
flows in dirty streaks down crumbling gray walls

Glorious Salamas is thrown away
in a strike of pharmacists.

Oedipus unseeing walks past
orphaned beggars in the street.

The Melieasian dialogues repeat
from FYROM their immorality

Sparta and Athens pollute the air
and the Neamean lion is roadkill.

The flute girls stare blankly naked
without skill from the calendars

Automotive tholos tombs preserve gold credit cards
and masks of personality.

Barbarian Birkenstocks stock the long streets
slippery marble stairs cheating the ankles.

Seeing these things,
and you will nothing worse,
I call him happy, Meander,
who has gazed on these things
and was not destroyed.



Tourist swarm packs descend
lemming their way to Fira,
vomit upward
a caldera of wine and postcards
leach Greece out of Kallista.
The bony ridge of t-shirt shops
bake in the sun.

Achilles' descendents
sulk behind counters
leaving the field of victory
to the
German panzers, American mobs,
Italian parties, English bwanas.

Helen’s daughters stare blankly
from calendars
souls naked as new lava
souls plain bare shapeless as bodies.

Killing Time at the Hotel Panorama

The wind blows from the northeast
driving waves onshore
insistent spray confronts the walker
conscience pricked by stones.

Philosophies slosh in eddies swirl,
the dry leafed supertanker dreams
bob to alien rhythms.

I lie on the carpet
thousand-miled voices
roll over my hope
knees pricked by fiber strands
nose in the stale reminders of a thousand guests.

Illusions retreat from
salt tang remnants
future dies on drying seaweed.

Even the storm will be gone by midnight.


Diakopton Station

(Diakopton is the town on the Athens - Patra run where you can catch the cog railway that winds up to Kalavryta.)

The politician's music blares
from a stand across the street
as the 6:47 ebbs to a stop,
late in the dusk.

The woman
in the black leather skirt speaks no English.
Life's patina shines mellow in her intelligent, hard face.
Today ascending to Kalavryta
I watched her stony-faced holding her narrow ground
against the interrogation of coarse-whiskered men,
and wished the gorge was not between us.

Now she is close
next on the unyielding bench
drawing the chirping youth
eager girls for her radiant blessing.
Now she rises to board
for Egio or Patra.
Now I am alone.

People wander across the tracks
the engineer in yellow knit shirt
slides to the ground,
dodges the children
walks to the baggage car
his orange, years-battered diesels
left to unrhythmically pant,
radiator vents banging open and shut.

Friends on the unjourneying ground
crane to speak to passengers,
lightly touching the welded cars
but the woman for Egio stares ahead
unseeing, alone.

A blare of horn and lights,
and in full darkness
the Athens express
creeps into town from the west
scattering the dogs and children.
The local's engineer sprints for his cab.

The express clears the switch
a moment,
the orange diesels bark black plums
pungent smoke incense hallows the air.
The line of heavy blue coaches
accelerate toward the west,
severing conversations.

The woman for Egio and I
wave to each other,
and her possibilities
slide away to the west.

A moment,
the express softly leaves
the station tracks
return to anticipation.

The politician is talking
to cheers and applause
as those in the station cafe
talk among themselves
and I wrap silence around me.


My Aegean

My Aegean is in the sky.
The play of white island
in the shifting infinite blue,
falling toward infinite blue.

The moment of a cloud contains cultures,
in the eternity of five minutes a peninsula is
disputed, settled, creates a culture
and dissipates in ephemeral wisps.

The islands are the most engaging
adventurous trips
daring jumps to destinations that move
before you arrive.

I am exiled, a long way from
the islands that express my soul
I can not always remember exactly
the wind on my face
the pull of a climb,
fated to be a memory
   a hope
      a painful loss.

Jason sails
the triremes pull,
tankers labor,
across my Aegean.

Last modified 5/9/14; posted 7/1/99; original content © 2014, 1999 John P. Nordin