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Santorini


Turn any corner in this village,
the owner of the eccentric bookstore assured me,
and you are likely to run into
the history of Greek poetry,
and sure enough there was a woman
picking out lemons from a pile of lemons
and a barber leaning in his doorway with folded arms.

I even thought I saw Yannis Ritsos
whispering something to George Seferis
as they sat under a white awning
while the others pulled down their hat brims
and pretended not to be listening in.

And Cavafy might have risen
in a room like the one where I woke up
to chalk-washed walls, two wicker chairs,
and on a battered table, coffee
and a single peach, newly sliced.

But let us not go overboard.
When I peered out the small window
at the foot of the bed
that offered the immensity of the Aegean,
I did not see the sail of Odysseus at dawn
rounding the island's volcanic corner
and coming slowing but plainly into view.

Rather, I heard the hornet whine
of a motorbike flying up the street,
a metal grill being unlocked and lifted open,
then some mourning doves on the roof,
a clatter of dishes in a kitchen,
and other siren songs of an ordinary day.


Billy Collins

The Rain in Portugal
Picador


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