Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cretan Cantata

image from

Cretan Cantata

“You can knock on a deaf man’s door forever.”
--Nikos Kazantzakis.

I awoke to the soft sound of water lapping,
                                                       lying in a blue fisherman’s boat,
                                              wearing a white suit,
                                  with a sweaty white shirt
                        & shiny black shoes.
The sun was still low
in a neon blue sky, but          it was already hot.
                                              I sat up.
The bow of the dingy was on the beach.
                                              I stepped out into deep white sand,
                          staring at the incredibly clear
                          turquoise water in the harbor.

“Good morning, boss” an old fisherman said,
sitting on the keel of an overturned boat
repairing a fishing net.            I stared blankly at him, realizing
                            that I had no idea where I was.
                                               I had a headache,
& there was the strong taste of anise in my dry mouth.

“Did you sleep well, boss. My God, last night you danced
like a demon & drank a lot of ouzo.”
“And you are?”
You know me,”  he said, flashing white teeth in his tanned face,
“I am called Nikos, but I have other names, if you are interested.”
“Like what?”
“Alexis Zorba for today.”
“Excuse me, but where the hell am I?”
You kill me, boss; did you hit your head last night?”
“Please, humor me, what is this place?”
He laughed loudly, wheezing with mirth.
“OK, boss, we play this. You are in the queen city of Heraklion,
on the magical island of Crete, at the Venetian Harbor. That is
the old Venetian Fortress at the head of the spit. This is the
beloved Sea of Crete that sits at the feet of the great Aegean.”
I shook my head, forcing a smile,
“The last thing I remember is drinking spiked egg nog at a Christmas
party in Seattle.”
“America, of course--& what do you do there?”
“I was a teacher, but now I am mostly a poet, a philosopher, 
a photographer.”
He looked at me seriously;
“Let people be, boss--don’t open their eyes. For supposing you did, what
would they see? Just their misery! Leave their eyes closed, boss, & let
them go on dreaming.”
“I think I may be dreaming right now.”
“Sure, sure, of course you are, but for now just share my wine, listen
to the sea, relax--nothing else.”
“You do know that I shall write about you one day.”
“No matter, boss, just breathe, live, find joy in looking at the breasts
of women--for those of us who actually live the mysteries of life do not
have the time to write about them. D’you see?”
“Even though I like you, Zorba, I must disagree, for poets are as important
to history as politicians, bankers, warriors, revolutionaries--hell, more so.
We illuminate the lyrics of the heart, the songs of the soul.”
“Ah, the human soul is heavy, clumsy, held fast in the mud of the flesh.
It can divine nothing clearly or with certainty.”
“You have eyes, but do not truly see. You have a soul, but seem deaf
to its singing. Surely, you jest, for you seem to be a man who finds
joy in life.”
“I tell you, boss, there is more wisdom in a steaming pile of fish guts
than in all your damn books.”
Suddenly I could hear the gulls, the wind calling my name.
“I guess I must go, for now.”
“May you ride on the backs of angels, boss, & don’t forget old Zorba
after you arrive at your destination.”

I awoke to the sound of water flushing
             in our basement bathroom. 
             My sweet wife was up, & getting ready for work.
As I stirred from slumber,
the strong taste of licorice 
embraced my morning.

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over at dVerse Poets MTB

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Claudia said...

very cool storytelling glenn and what a vivid dream - or who knows if it was one after all.. smiles
i love egg nog by the way... just small sips though... smiles

brudberg said...

What a way to exit into a dream.. I wonder if I should write about fish-guts.. maybe I will find the truth there after all this... But I will take it easy with eggnog.. (Here we get drunk on mulled wine instead)

Anonymous said...

cool piece. Love the connection you made between anise and licorice

Anonymous said...

I liked this a lot. I read all of Zorba's lines with a funny accent in my head. Didn't mean to, but couldn't help it. I liked the ending, too. Peace, Linda

Michael said...

Great story Glenn, so long as you can wake up and identify where the water is coming from and rest easy it is not gushing under your bed all will be good.

Unknown said...

Here is a thought provoking, fantastical encounter. Poets are oft maligned and rarely cherished. Art and life intermingle enhancing and heightening the experiences of each. We dive into the waters to exist in the liminal spaces. And, I agree, the world needs more Gnosticism, which is why in my poem I have Woland damned by his own ignorant philosophy, the irony! Thank you, as ever, for your kind words.

Vaksinius / Vaccinius said...

The deceiver has got many natures. That is for sure. I miss a morale statement.

Kathy Reed said...

Love the movie and what you did with
Zorba! I thought of his life as a kind of poetry all by itself.

Mary said...

Lots of wisdom in this post, Glenn. Especially that poets are as important to history as politicians, bankers, warriors, and revolutionaries. Ha, at least I'd like to think that!

lynn__ said...

You the boss, Glenn! Enjoyed the dialogue and scene you dreamed up...even if your shiny black shoes got wet, it was worth the taste of anise, I'd say :)

Gabriella said...

You really set the atmosphere with Crete in the background and that conversation is quite something. Pity Zorba fails to appreciate the worth of poets though.

Wolfsrosebud said...

did not expect that end... i was tied up in the conversation... we can dream

Marina Sofia said...

But what can the poet write about if they haven't lived, if they over-analyse without feeling the music, succumbing to it and to the dance of life?
Lovely reference to an iconic film and book!

vivinfrance said...

I was there with you.

Sabio Lantz said...

Is Zorba married, waking to the same woman? Who won the debate in your bifurcated mind?

Well, probably no debate, just happy to sit on the beach together again, laughing at each other!

Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

fantastic ~