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ICONS

From the restaurant terrace on the cliff top

at Agios Giorgios, Cape Drepanos,

we can see the small harbour below,

its sea wall curved like a scythe and, opposite,

the flat topped, steep sided, uninhabited

islet of Yeronisos, ‘Holy Island’ –

set today in that special, placid blue.

Folk tales have Greeks, after the fall of Troy

and exiled from home, land there and build

a temple to Apollo. Excavations

suggest the sanctuary was founded

by Cleopatra for Caesarion,

her son by Julius Caesar, the heir

she hoped, to Rome – Apollo being the god

of archery, knowledge, medicine, plague.

A few miles south on what, before the hotels

and villas came, was a deserted shore,

Colonel Grivas, Greek Cypriot ‘hero’

or ‘terrorist’, landed one November night

in ’54 to expel the British.

 

The restaurant is packed with middle class

local families in their Palm Sunday best.

After our mezze, fish fresh from the harbour,

we tourist St George’s church along the cliff –

a modern chapel-sized basilica

with its own square and drinking fountain.

We light a candle, as we always do,

more ‘good deed in a naughty world’ than faith.

A steady footfall of true believers

kisses the glass fronted icon of the saint.

A votive pink baby doll hangs from it.

Fifty yards inland, where there are ruins

of a Roman city, is a medieval shrine

to the saint – once a prayerful place for those,

Greek or Muslim, before Partition,

seeking love or strayed goats and donkeys.

 

On the fountain is a crude mosaic

of the Roman Soldier/Christian Martyr

slaying a dragon with its devil’s breath –

in Palestine, perhaps, or Syria.

Three leagues south is Aphrodite’s Rock

where the goddess was born among the spume.

Nowhere full of myth and history,

of irony and contradiction,

delineated by paint on wood

or finds in the earth or words in the air

is far from here over the bluest,

most changeable of seas.

 

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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3 Responses
  • Sarah Selzer
    April 27, 2018

    A shame we couldn’t visit the restaurant again this Easter Sunday….. closed for celebrations elsewhere! And Aphrodite’s birthplace now advertising a golf club and luxury apartments. Another splendid poem thank you!

  • Keith Johnson
    April 28, 2018

    Sounds like the Cyprus poems are a set that could be rolled into one – curling back like a scroll:

    BITTER LEMONS OF CYPRUS, Lawrence Durrell:

    ‘I had become, with the approach of night, once more aware of loneliness and time – those two companions without whom no journey can yield us anything…’

    ‘But that is what islands are for; they are places where different destinies can meet and intersect in the full isolation of time…’

    ‘Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will – whatever we may think. They flower spontaneously out of the demands of our natures – and the best of them lead us not only outwards in space, but inwards as well. Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection…’

  • David Selzer
    April 29, 2018

    Ah, more to come, Keith – so a long scroll. Colin Thubron’s A JOURNEY INTO CYPRUS is my favourite.

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