The lights appeared soft-filtered
in the humid evening, spread
like pearls over a coastal plain.
I recalled and enjoyed
the word “littoral,” associated
with Montale. Hills to the west
were as smooth as if captured flags,
violet and blue, had been lain
over them after a victory;
the sky was pink banners,
torchlit at the end of a celebration.
Was it by train or bus
we approached? I was alone,
had been for months; the “we”
was a private gesture I made then.
As if the town were offering
instant friends, wild partying far
from my usual good-tourist manners.
I later learned it was considered
the armpit of Europe.
Guys rob and knife without mussing
their hair or interrupting
their patter of obscene epigrams
on streets forever gray;
cops shrug expressively and take their cut.
How smart I was not to linger. The ferry
lay hung with lights at the dock.
By dawn we would be in Greece. Already
the sort of apparition
Elytis hymns was glancing
over her shoulder at me
in the glare of the Acropolis, the stones
somehow healing themselves around her …
The boat stank below deck.
I leaned on the rail,
sailing all night in the wrong direction.
Fred Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and
Happiness, both published by Story Line Press. His poetry has been published in other poems in print and online journals, and he currently teaches Creative Writing at George Washington University.