David Havird

David Havird Ferry to Naxos

David Havird is the author of two collections, both of them published by Texas Review Press: Map Home (2013) and Penelope’s Design (2010), which won the 2009 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize. His poems have appeared in many periodicals, including Agni, The New Yorker, Poetry, Sewanee Review, and Yale Review.

“Shooing Flies,” set on the Greek island of Sifnos, and “Downhill from the Marble Village,” set on Naxos, first appeared in the Lowestoft Chronicle.

David Havird teaches at Centenary College of Louisiana; since 2009 he has taught a May course in Greece.

For more about him, visit his Website.


I found the car key.
Maybe I ought to have sped to the port.
Thanks to a taxi, you were there
even ahead of time awaiting the ferry.

Instead, I braved the switchbacks,
narrow, gear-strippingly steep,
up that treeless rock
whose peak is St. Simeon’s perch.

I pictured you, umbrellaed, gazing the harbor.
Lean out from under the shade and shoot your gaze
up to the blue-domed church.
Is somebody up there waving?

I meant to distance myself
as far as I could from the port of return,
spirit from body. Away, though,
hadn’t we relished our bodies!

Out in the bay where a fisherman
netted an icon depicting the Virgin,
beside her whitewashed church
on the severed tip of a finger of stone

I’d fished for you with my eyes,
then handled ashore love’s shivering body,
which ached for another, the friction,
to redden its blue-lipped flame.

Who would have dreamed there’d be above it all
a nimbus of flies! Somebody, yes,
was waving and, bitten as if by sparks,
shooing flies.


I went by public bus to the marble village,
Saturday’s end of the line.
Square slabs of marble paved the thoroughfare;
steep marble steps climbed to the upper levels.
Marble the archways that gave on a cavernous
maze of mule tracks, marble paved.

A sign near the bus stop directed me to a church.
How long it would take to walk there and back who knew?
The grassy pathway down was sometimes steep,
with jagged rocks, which pointed upward, and thistles,
not to mention the plastic bottles,
cellophane wrappers, wads of white tissue …

My sandals, right for the port, for my loitering there,
were wrong for hiking downhill from the marble escarpment.
Their rubber foot beds gripped the soles of my feet,
gripped them with sweat like glue—
it was, without much shade, a blistering hike—
while step by step inertia tested the bond
and the least misstep ruptured the grip.

Early Byzantine, the church
belonged to the seventh century, maybe the ninth—
left open page-down on my bed, the guidebook knew—
and boasted if not a kissed-bleary icon,
maybe a soot-dimmed fragment of fresco worth
one’s straining to see, if luck had the church unlocked.

The way was not for sandals—I turned back—
much less for shoes, or so the bells,
as I translate their summons, tell;
but rather for feet, bones bruised, soles pierced and bleeding,
the pilgrim’s bare feet. I should, they’re tolling, the bells
of the portside cathedral this Sunday morning at 7—

I should have kicked those goddamned sandals off.
The site attained and myself shed of my lading,
from that deep vein I’d have as good as winged
my way uphill? No, agony
it had to be returning—this I know—
bedazzling though the destination was
and cool because it was marble.

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Poetry in this post: © David Havird
Published with the permission of David Havird