Perhaps in the end there is only a great sadness

not, you understand, the sadness of tragedy

nor that longing for the island you never reached

but a kind of wisdom, a sort of recognition.

Where water and sand meet

small waves trundle up the beach

the sea is breathing in its sleep.


Perhaps, ultimately, there is only a great sadness

as in the deserted monastery where the hawk’s cry

sounds the hours and wooden beds await a visitor.

Empty terraces hang upon stillness,

within the chapel only ikons speak

and even they are puzzled.

Down in the village a woman keeps the key.


Perhaps, ultimately, there is only a great sadness

where once the temples crouched behind the beaches

blinking at Delion Apollo.

Do you hear the creak of oars, flap of sail?

Wood from the island trees

bread from the island corn

wine from under the feet of islanders.


As today at Vouna, far inland,

hidden in the high  eremia[1]

this peasant farmer, no education,

tends his sheep, rabbits, turkeys and that great sow

suckling her piglets in the yard.

Hens wander in and out his parlour. Dogs bark

then wag their tails, the couvenda[2] getting under way.

Bread, wine and a red egg.


“The festival is good for the island

but me it fails to touch.

Up here under the mountain who knows

if the monks are good men. God alone perhaps

and even he may not.

Ti na kanoume

emeis oi anthropoi!”[3]


Perhaps in the end there s only a great sadness

remembering a temple now hidden

in a mountain’s cloud.

“We the people are never satisfied. Our Cross.

Restless, we fail to see the beauty in what we have.

I have trodden my own wine.

No chemicals.


You ask if Geroundas the Thaumaturgist

Performed those miracles?

Only God knows – and even he may not.

This bread you understand comes

from my own fields.

These hands!”


In the end there is only the sadness of passing time,

the motor launch comes when the sail has gone,

aircraft follow the ferry boats.

As windless mills the tourists stand

watching the sea and one another.

Machines not hands.

Only the waves remain -  so long as the crowds

are small and the discotheques confined.


On furrowed beaches the running crabs have gone,

above the monastery only the hawk’s cry hangs.

For whom do the tapers burn in the locked

churches behind the tamarisks?


[1] Greek: desert - the high heartland of a Cycladean island.

[2] Greek: conversation.

[3] Greek: “What can we do – we the people?”