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ISSUE:  Summer 1979

Coldly flushed at dawn,
swallowing sun each evening,
brooding visible world’s end:
I finally take the challenge,
go to meet the mountain.

Windless sizzle of resiny pines.
Heat devils dance in gorges.
I fumble up and up,
look down at a lineny wrinkled blue
cloth spread over an endless tabletop.
Over my shoulder
when were olive and carob trees
of such a quenching, reassuring green?
Belated tears of exile rinse the dust
from the glare of a survived
season now over, under.
I am above that line:
mountain crowning from water,
island touching sky.

At the shady waist of the mountain
I come to the Convent of the Annunciation.
No reason to climb higher
than this huddle of whitewashed chapels,
music of running water,
arbor of grapes whose juice is thickening to syrup.
Bees kiss fingers
sticky with watermelon juice and ouzo.
A mottled cat pads by,
buxom and noncommittal as the nuns
asleep or praying in their cells
whose silence may be saying
Don’t move abruptly, you’ll disturb the bees.
Pull your skirt down, cover your knees.
Keep holy silence.
We go by the Old Calendar here.

Harder to remember the descent—
too fast, on someone’s donkey.
Before I know it I am at sea level
soaking in purple twilight, looking up
as at the moon now sidling from behind it
and saying to the mountain
I know you.
I have been there.


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