Downhill from the Marble Village by David Havird

Downhill from the Marble Village

David Havird

I went by public bus to the marble village,
Saturday’s end of the line.
Square slabs of marble paved the thoroughfare;
steep marble steps climbed to the upper levels.
Marble the archways that gave on a cavernous
maze of mule tracks, marble paved.

A sign near the bus stop directed me to a church.
How long it would take to walk there and back who knew?
The grassy pathway down was sometimes steep,
with jagged rocks, which pointed upward, and thistles,
not to mention the plastic bottles,
cellophane wrappers, wads of white tissue …

My sandals, right for the port, for my loitering there,
were wrong for hiking downhill from the marble escarpment.
Their rubber foot beds gripped the soles of my feet,
gripped them with sweat like glue—
it was, without much shade, a blistering hike—
while step by step inertia tested the bond
and the least misstep ruptured the grip.

Early Byzantine, the church
belonged to the seventh century, maybe the ninth—
left open page-down on my bed, the guidebook knew—
and boasted if not a kissed-bleary icon,
maybe a soot-dimmed fragment of fresco worth
one’s straining to see, if luck had the church unlocked.

The way was not for sandals—I turned back—
much less for shoes, or so the bells,
as I translate their summons, tell;
but rather for feet, bones bruised, soles pierced and bleeding,
the pilgrim’s bare feet. I should, they’re tolling, the bells
of the portside cathedral this Sunday morning at 7—

I should have kicked those goddamned sandals off.
The site attained and myself shed of my lading,
from that deep vein I’d have as good as winged
my way uphill? No, agony
it had to be returning—this I know—
bedazzling though the destination was
and cool because it was marble.

About the Author

David Havird is the author of two collections, Map Home (2013) and Penelope’s Design (2010), which won the 2009 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize. He teaches English at Centenary College of Louisiana. Since 2009 he has taught a course annually in Greece. His poem “Shooing Flies” appears in the Lowestoft Chronicle #20 (December 2014). For more about the author: