Some time after midnight, when the bars have closed,
the hoots and laughter of revellers
on the stone-clad stairs wakes us. Much later
wind, billowing through the open corridors
of the steel framed building, shakes our door
intermittently like some errant soul.
In the shallow valley below the hotel
a cock crows above the gusts and the rattles.
In the morning a warm west wind blows
over the sea from what was Carthage.
The valley slopes gradually to a cove.
Before tourism this was wilderness –
only the tideless waves on the gritty beach.
Now there are a score or so of sun loungers,
two tavernas, two supermarkets and a bar –
and some smallholdings amongst the scrub.
On the other side of the valley are
two more resort hotels like this, open
from May to October. At night, they are lit
like cruise ships. Beyond is Mount Vasiliko –
wind turbines on its slopes and, at its summit,
a monitoring post. Mare Nostrum
is everybody’s – a dozen or more navies,
and thousands of desperate optimists.
From the terrace by the pool, we can see,
through mountainous clefts, Mount Ida’s peak.
At the summit is Timios Stavros,
the Holy Cross chapel. In a cave
on its slopes, Zeus was born. Swifts call above us –
ecumenical, celestial, their flight
calligraphic. Crete is shaped like a
scabbardfish, feinting between Europe
and Africa. I think of the empty,
wintry rooms – the patience of islanders
used to long absences.