The Fresco

Akrotiri_minoan_town29 February 2016

‘The display of Navy
rowers proves superb,
here, in the harbor
at Thera; fourteen ships
manned to perfection,
the seven smaller ones
with five rowers each.

Nearly the whole
of the town has turned out
to celebrate the crews parading.
Vermilion and blue buildings
tumble the cliffs to the lip
of the harbor, tumble
like words eager to be spoken,
the people on the balconies
like accents to the words.
Children cheer.

The harbor water is the purple
of grapes (Goblets filled with wine
appear miniatures of the harbor.)
water out of which dolphins arc,
blue crescents, prophesying
fair seas.  (Come night
a clear sky will find
a moon to complement the arc
of the dolphins.)

How they row!, the ships,
all in synchronized stroking,
showing all who see them
just how powerful they are,
serving notice to anyone,
“Don’t mess with us.”
The gods do look up them
with beneficence.

But the earth, the earth
is another matter, entirely,
from the gods.
When the volcano blew,
the words on the lip of the harbor
were turned to ashes,
the goblets of wine, drunk beyond dry.
The whole of the Navy was
swallowed by the waves,
from which formed
the caldera seen today.
And Thera rose a ruin,
a suddenly cryptic script
of buildings written
on the parched isle.

By the way, if you haven’t
figured it out as yet,
I am whispering to you this scene
from the fresco you are standing before.
I am one of the town’s inhabitants
who had come out that day to watch.
Think of me your ghostly
audio guide, risen,
to make it come alive!’

Philip Kuepper
(10 February 2016)

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