In the thick brush
they spend the hottest part of the day,
soaking their hooves
in the trickle of mountain water
the ravine hoards
on behalf of the oleander.
You slung your gun
across your back in order to heave
a huge grey stone
over the edge, so it rolled, then leaped
and crashed below.
This is what it took to break the shade,
to drive the beast,
not to mention a thrumming of wings
into the sky,
a wild confetti of frantic grouse,
but we had slugs,
not shot, and weren’t after their small meat,
but the huge ram’s,
whose rack you’d seen last spring, and whose stench
now parted air,
that scat-caked, rut-ripe perfume of beast.
Watch now, he runs,
you said, launching another boulder,
then out it sprang
through a gap in some pine, brown and black
with spiraled horns
impossibly agile for its size.
But, yes, he fell
with one shot, already an idea
of meat for fire
by the time we’d scrambled through the scree.
And that was all.
No, you were careful, even tender,
with the knife-work,
slitting the body wide with one stroke
then with your hands
lifting entire the miraculous
liver and heart,
emptying the beast on the mountain.
Later, it rained,
knocking dust off the patio stones.
Small frogs returned
from abroad to sing in the stream beds.
We sat and drank.
The beast talked to its rope in the tree.
And then you spoke:
no more, you said, enough with mourning,
then rose to turn
our guts, already searing on the fire.
Fishermen out before dawn. None returned.
I asked you why they left their nets behind,
but you were looking out, across to Assos,
and maybe didn’t hear me in the wind.
We both wore the same ironic mask:
one blue eye floating upon a white sea.
On that balcony, beside the iron table,
a geranium held on for dear life.
All day we watched waves capsize in the rain.
Our shoreline here: the other shoreline’s mirror.
Those aren’t nets, you said after a long time,
but mounds of sodden jackets and lost oars.
Stray cats sheltered in the light of the café.
We didn’t know the others huddled there.
The wind changed course and tried to explain
by shaking the geranium, but words sank
in the crossing, so we heard under water.
When I opened my hands, my palms burned,
as if they’d been lashed by splintered wood.
In sleep, you told me, we have been rowing.
Truth is, no one here knows where we’re going.
I begged you not to leave, but you’d already
slung a orange scarf over your wet head.
There aren’t enough boats to carry them,
I shouted, so there’s nothing left to do.
There is, you said. I’m going down to see.