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With acknowledgement to Catullus


Now he who sails the blue Aegean
Without a Santorini sunset seeing,
Is deemed the poorer for that lapse,
And seems a stranger or a solitary chap.

Much had I heard, and much had pondered,
About that vesperous solar gioconda,
That happy sorrow, fleeting joy.
So, for the evensong observance, I deployed

There, on the shattered half-cone's summit
Above a slope that hovers, dips, then plummets,
Among the congregators set
On cliff-top, perching, next a crumbling minaret.

At rear the gleaming dwellings nestled
Below a blue-domed church and belfry, vessels
In service to exotic sprites,
Now silent sentries at a raw, primordial rite.

They came in droves with day unwinding
To reaffirm deep ties together binding –
Bonds never to be rent asunder.
In droves they came to witness, worship, or to wonder.

In swarms, drawn on by will unbending
(The moth's strange predilection flamewards tending),
As pilgrims to a shrine, they came,
Each captive to a mesmerizing piper's strain.

All radiant splendour, seaward sliding,
Apollo's golden chariot, subsiding
At last into a darkening sea,
Sought rest and dreamtime's cyclical tranquillity.

Upon the cliff-edge daylight quivered
Then, dragged down by the current of time's river,
Let loose its hold upon the sky –
No lingering kiss, no tenuous glance, no distant sigh.

But, from the viewers, hushed applause rang,
In hymnal tones soft yet approving cheers sang –
Their thoughts upon horizons far
In time and space: upon the morrow's rising star.

And, twilight's dulcet shades descending,
From vantage-points those witnesses attending
Back down the mountain-side were swept,
Initiates into rituals forever kept.

Though Heaven's lantern, evanescent,
Revive upon the eastern shores, candescent,
Our fragile and ephemeral lights
Too soon must sink into that e'er-enduring night.

Yet, while communion fuels our candles,
We may aspire to emulate the angels
Within the span of this brief stay;
Grant Icarus his eucharist, bless break of day.

Each one of us, a shadow rising
Out of a vasty sea of night, devising
To seize a station in the sheen,
Shall find that place where sacred solitudes convene.

For life, however solitary
Sometimes it seem, can furnish sanctuary
And solace for the refugee
Within a solemnizing kindred's company,

When, in communal celebration
At day's last rite – a waning star's lustration –
We share the knowledge all are one,
Our souls ablaze before the quenching of the sun.
Oia congregation
radiant splendour, seaward sliding
sacred solitudes convene
photos: Stephen Alsford

Created: May 15, 2017. © Stephen Alsford