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The Greek Notebook

[NOTE: Fifty years of notebooks were lost in the fires last year. I’ve located on old backup drives and online copies in various private online communities and am reconstituting what I can. These are from a month on the Greek island of Hydra in the mid-1990s. I’m posting them here as a back-up to my backups.]

Crossing the Aegean

When all Earth’s seas shall levitate,
Draped dark within the skies,
Upon our eyes shall starfish dance
Their waltz of blind surprise.

The sun will rise within wine dark
As argonauts imbibed,
Whose drunken arms embraced that sleep
Where Phaeton’s horses stride.

Upon all Earth’s wind-sanded shores,
As dolphins learn to soar,
All we were upon the land
Will be locked behind the door

Of ivory and chastened gold,
That the mystery solved complete
Shall never til the seas’ long fall
Wake mariners from their sleep.

La Dolce Vita

Mighty Aphrodite
Has scorched the stones of Greece,
But the slaves of cruel Apollo
Are still begging for release.
They’re dancing to the pipes of Pan
In the Dark of the Moon Disco,
Where women wearing leather masks
Writhe in the steam below.
The wars of hate and fire
Drag on somewhere far away,
While here in Eros’ mansion
Pain is just a play
Performed by bored aristocrats
Whose ready money paid
For one more night with one more body
To be riven, drained and flayed.


The unquiet urge to ascend persists
And fills these parched stone seats.
Below the gold pool in the center,
Where once the altar stood,
Is revealed as pure still water.
Again tonight the son will slay,
Offstage, his father’s killer,
And carry out his mother’s corpse,
Now draped in twine and rags,
And lay it out, an offering, before us,
As the chorus, marching slowly,
Chants the moral of the play.
The daughter, drenched in ebony, screams
Words we hear but do not know.
Above these shadows on the stage
Bats through a maze of light pursue
Gnats within the smoke of speech.

Crossing the Gulf

My brown and sandled feet hang down
From the bow, flying low
Above the white churned foam.
Before me aqua scintillates
Stretching flat for miles
To the hills of haze and smoke
Where they’re burning the hay
To flat black stubble.
To the west, a sarcophagus of islands
Etches the limits of the sky,
And is consumed in the burnt orange mist
Of the sun’s long dive
Into the star rich sea.
Beside me dolphins crest the ebony swells,
Surfing the wake of our ship,
Synchronous and to the side of time.

The Hermitage

To cage the mind within the bars
Of barren faith and blind belief,
In robes of black, with sewn lips,
Affords the soul but small relief
From answers that no question asked,
From the fire’s slashing burn
That scrubs this island’s foot-slicked stones
Of olive leaves, but still we yearn
To be retrieved from that white smoke
That weaves within the stars,
And return to our boned bodies
Armed for centuries of war.

Origins of the Faith

They expose the unwanted infant
On a hot, flat stone or throw it,
Whirling, by the feet into the ravine
For the raven’s obscene brunch,
And walk back down
The barren brindle hill
To the village of rocks,
Hearing the mother moan,
Noting the father’s stern smile.
All male, the state demands,
And sound.

Through A Church Door

A child held firm in aging hands
Ascends within the light,
As sheets of water lave his skin,
Then to the basin he descends
Ringed all around with faces bright.
Now he joins the tribe of Man,
A ritual complete
As golden bands on fingers placed,
As priests in coffins sound retreat


Adrift on seas of wine
Off the coasts of slate,
The golden bells of mermaids rang
Night’s changes by the Gates

Of Hercules. The wind stood up
And danced upon our sheets.
A ship sailed through our window,
Its sailors clothed in sleet.

Among them brave Ulysses,
Captain Ahab and his crew.
Shipwrecked, they’d slept with dolphins
For an age, then sailed anew,

Northward to those seas of ice
In which steel seagulls rust.
From pole to pole they seek their homes
Long since turned to dust.

Above them fishing ships in fleets
Strain the sea for gold,
While at their tables Homer’s wine
Refuses to grow old.

At times upon our reefs of dream
We sense them as they pass —
Like shadows thrown by the moon,
Like whispers heard through glass.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Andy Havens November 29, 2019, 9:14 AM

    Trying to pick a favorite is like choosing what to eat for Thanksgiving. I’ll just have it all, at least twice.