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PANTELLERIA

The Carthaginians had a name for it,

and the Romans, the Greeks – the Arabs too,

Bint al-Riyah, Daughter of the Winds.

This mountainous, volcanic island,

with its stone tombs and obsidian tools,

lies between Sicily and Tunisia,

fifty miles from Agrigento, forty

from Sharik Peninsula – which was called

the Cape of Mercury when the sea

was Mare Internum, Mare Nostrum.

 

Smaller than Manhattan, with fewer people

than Peebles, who speak a Sicilian

replete with Arabic. Among the hot springs

and the fumaroles throughout the lowlands are

round, dry-stone walled gardens made from shaped lava,

built, some say, by the Phoenicians. Baffling

the winds, trapping the heat of the sun, catching

the fogs that rise from the Gulf of Hammamet

and drift across the island, they nurture

lemons and limes and kumquats and oranges.

 

North and south of Pantelleria

triremes passed, and aircraft carriers –

eastwards, in the strong cross currents, on deep,

deep waters small craft with refugees.

 

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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