The ferryman pulled hard,
gliding back to life
among the smoother skinned:
it was no Charon,
who rowed me here
to Hades’ shores.
Two shades, wrapped in the tunnelled darkness,
waited to lead me past
an iron-hinged Cerberus.
It was cool in here,
Heaven’s breath in Hell’s throat.
As dark met light a small sign read
‘Welcome to the Street of Pain’,
(a pet name, so they said).
People drinking coffee, wine,
talking, smoking; so much time
to dwell on this, or that.
But I had a house to go to,
I was told.
Mine to live in and grow old.
I hung my clothes
on hooks set in the wall;
claws of some ancient beast,
waiting to spring if ever I sought
a chance to escape, to run to the sea;
a life once again in the land of the clean.
Staring at Elounda’s shore,
I remembered childhood’s tales.
How Leto’s daughter, Britomartis,
pursued by lusty Minos over Crete,
chose the sea instead if him.
Artemis gave her sea-nymph shape,
and out there, maybe as I gaze,
ever free from Minos, she still swims.
The sun was hot enough to melt waxed wings.
Heat shimmered off the cracked white track,
flowers and leaves of dusty roadside weeds,
clung to their slow, parched dying days,
shunned by insects.
As I moved to sit amongst the wisdom of the café,
people smiled at me once more.
In the breezy shade and wine,
I learned of easy death, and life
on Cretan Spinalonga,
Isle of Lepers.