The Shore Before Us

Tinos29 May 2016

In this depth of quiet,
I can hear the pads
of a cat’s paws brush
against the cobbles
of the narrow path
separating the close set
houses across from one another,
the windows of which are shuttered
against the afternoon heat of the south.

The cat halts.
All goes still.
The shadow of a shirt,
hanging on a line across the path,
is cast just in front of the cat.
Is it this that has
caused the cat halt?

A trailing geranium
bleeds a single petal
from the balcony
where, potted, it flourishes,
leaving its drop of blood
on a cobble two over
from where stands the cat.

I inhale the light
through which the petal fell
impressing it with fading tinges
of rubiness. As I inhale,
the cat moves through
the shadow of the shirt.

Somewhere nearby something
heavy drops with a dead thud,
halting the cat. Alert,
the cat moves slowly forward,
the silky grey coat of her
like a small wave
separated from the sea.

The heat presses its hand against me
as I press close against
the enshadowed part of the wall
to halt and sip from the bottle
of water I carry. I find I have
lost my way to the ruin
of a house where once a poet,
it had been said, had lived,
who wrote verse about the north.

Perhaps he had once seen,
in the falling
petal of a geranium,
a miniature of the Northern Lights
he had read about in a discovered
text about an archaeological
dig of the heavens? I follow

the broken crescent of the path
to the spot where the poet’s
house was said to have stood.
A crumble of wall is all
that remains. It looks a mouth
of broken teeth at me,
as though it is trying
to recite verse,
I, and a small indolent lizard
the whole of the audience.

I work my way back
down a different path,
at the foot of which
the wave grey cat crosses,
beyond which lies the graphite bay
where the boat I came in on sits anchored.
Rowers wait to tender passengers to it.
Their oars engage the water
in the universal language of rowing
away from, toward
an understanding of the shore before us.

Philip Kuepper
(30 April 2016)

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