Suite for Santorini By Alex Miller

Suite for Santorini 


Sunlit lacquer: a swimming woman's skin. 
Ochre trumpet blossoms curl over 
an icon-painter's door. Bright towns darken, eclipsed 
by a cruise ship's shadow where the tourists 
form squawking gaggles in the arbor’s shade.
And there, a beggar crouches like a coyote, 
or like the fluttering shadow of our sin. 
Rose hips swell in the volcanic sand, 
huge lemons in the hilly churchyard threaten 
to split and sign the gravel with their juices. 
The cool nights fall like fruit, deep 
into the palm of the persistent breeze. 
Now everything is ready, ripe for our abuses 
in the virgin groves of Santorini.


Bell notes glance the cobble, mud roads
raise their hackles, blow away as dust, 
and a ferry’s klaxon torpedoes blue-domed Fira
where a battlement of pigeons puffs
like flak. The steeple is Hector’s spear
throwing its shadow over an acre
of Floridians, battalions breaking against docks,
and an oyster’s scalloped shield is tireless
until I twist it open with a knife.
Now the licorice taste of dog-days lingers 
between freshening, sea-tart gulps of brine:
the island is polishing its blade again
for summer, money, the familiar 
raid that ravishes and sustains her.


I know, these lines will dry like seaweed on a beach
below the island’s kestrel-haunted rim,
or be delayed forever trying to reach, 
through Oia’s tangle, the battlements
of a crumbling Byzantine ruin. 
Let that April cure its hangover
between bookshelves, looking for an edition
of Byron with a marbled cover
or napping in my memory’s faded clothes. 
She asked me then, with naive love, 
which islands I’d make poems when we got home.
Only this one, if ink can map its tumbling coves 
where mules dawdle eating clover
and doves burst from the asphodels.

Alex Miller is the author of A Bow From My Shadow, a collection of poems written in dialogue with work by Luke Irwin. His work has appeared in magazines like The Cortland Review, The Cider Press Review, The Millions, and The Adirondack Review. He is a Lecturer in literature at Gordon College in Wenham, MA, and an English teacher.

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