The Fox at Ancient Asini
David Havird

A Still Life

Those bits of terracotta are pottery shards. 
Some of them even display a trace
of geometrical design.  And here's
the cove below that spot, blue now
which had been green, on what had been
the shaded side of the citadel.  There on that ledge
when we were peering down at the cove—was it
a fox?  Fox it became when it uncurled. 
Now this, encircled by weeds,
is the hewn stone mouth of maybe a cistern.
The poet Seferis, when he was here with his wife,
disturbed a bat.  Losing its hold,
it came at the sunlight.  A spear at a shield. 
Maybe the King of Asini's gibbering ghost.

In Homer's catalogue of ships,
to which Asini contributes,
the King is nameless.  This absence
provokes in Seferis such nostalgia
he's able to touch the stones where he touched them—
where maybe he did, the points of contact
regardless abraded by time—
and trace there a palpable presence.

Whether those rocks, that limestone,
ever belonged to the castle,
the Swedes who dug here would know.  I'm posing
right on the edge of the spur.  Posing
as if I own it.  Tolo is there—
those white hotels and tavernas lining the shore. 
And that on the island's a chapel—the roof, terracotta. 

My gaze embraced the bay
while I returned in thought to the cistern.
As I imagined things, its depth,
escaping the reach of our flashlight,
adhered to our soles; and our shadows,
repulsed by the shield-bearing sun,
deepened a shade underfoot.
I pictured off the coast of our home state
the crude oil billowing up
through deepwater's ruptured horizon, tar
capturing even this bay.

The purple thistles, which we had to dodge,
were leaning to snag the westering sun.
The zeal of bees in the lavender blossoms
gave the heat the scent of thyme.  
We've now retraced our steps, and here we are—
or rather here's our table under a cedar:
horiátiki, yes, Greek salad,
eggplant imam, giant beans,
a sweating carafe of young white wine from Nemea. 
"I glanced away, then back and found it gone,"
I say of the fox. 
The red fox that awoke in the yellow weeds.

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