The car’s headlights illuminate the verges
of the motorway through the foothills,
and show how high the rainfall has been.
Tall bushes of pink and white oleander
burgeon – beneath them, hyacinth, iris.
All around in darkness is the scrubland
humankind has made – with occasional
vineyards, orchards, and scant pasture for herds
of goats and sheep. It once was bourneless forest:
tamarisk, cypress, maple, oak, chestnut.
We arrive at the hotel long after midnight.
When we open our room’s patio door
we are surprised, this being two hundred feet
or so above sea level and the sea being
the Mediterranean, to hear waves
breaking rather loudly. We search for the light,
and, finding it, see the sounds are winds
roughly chafing a palm tree’s sword-shaped leaves
in the garden in front of the patio.
In the morning sunlight the breeze shakes the fronds
like drying clothes snapping on a line, or oars
erratically dipped then raised. The sun
catches the violet wings of a carpenter bee
gathering pollen from a red hibiscus bush
sturdy in the terracotta soil –
and, out of sight, a collared dove calls
flutingly ‘to-do-so, to-do so’,
and a church bell rings inexplicably.
From nowhere a flock of herring gulls flaps
across our view like raucous seafarers.
And there always over the wide bay – deep once
with sea turtles and octopus and swordfish,
the blue of its waters matching the sky’s –
is the grey massive of mountains thousands
of feet in height, scored with millennia
of run-off. They are pitted with caves –
refuges, holy places – cleft with gorges
so profound rain turns to vapour as it falls.
The compassing sun highlights each contour.
As daylight begins to fade swifts and swallows
loop and weave across the soft, prolific air.
During dinner a full moon rises
over the mountains, making the rippling bay
silver-gilt. Later, on the patio,
we hear thunder rumble out at sea.
Rain pitters and patters on the palm fronds.
Suddenly the storm breaks, becomes torrential.
All around us lightning cracks, forks, sheets.
Next day it rains unceasingly. Guests linger
on their phones – in the restaurant, in the bars –
wishing they were elsewhere, hurrying
up steps, along paths, through arcades swept
haphazardly with rain and wind to their rooms,
and the Wi-Fi and the flat screen TV.
Agios Niklaoscarpenter beecollared dovehibiscusKritiMirabella Bay