Vol. 34 No. 1 1967 - page 66

front, surrounded by his political equipment: the typewriter and
small ditto machine, his sack of leaflets and roll of Caribbean maps.
And a tiny black cardboard suitcase for clothing. He held a transistor
close to one ear and stared eagerly ahead. Meanwhile I lay propped
against the wheelhouse, with Sangiorgio above me, taking advantage
of the sun. I lay with my head in shade, my body exposed. The sun
poured down on my slack loins. I waited for energies to return:
longings, the old wild excitement of plunging onto the mainland and
its chaos. But first there would be the island. All afternoon we watched
the volcano approach, and the great cone as of snow, but girdled by a
low brownish haze. Odd: on this summer day the volcano grew
larger, receded, disappeared, returned. And the trawler lurched and
wallowed, laboring on a flat sea. By five o'clock the haze was gone,
and the volcano's snow became great quarries blazing in the sun.
So we have the first night of our journey on the island. A still
moment for reflection, and to catch one's breath between the ship's
disorder and the disorder of the continent. And another breath of
sulphur, garlic, figs, wine. I jot down a few notes. I write at a rough
table facing the open door of the inn, the dock and miniature harbor
in the dusk. Meanwhile Peralda tumbles and thrashes with Serafina
in our room upstairs. Serafina!
her widow's black she is as ancient
as this wall of rock breaking the surface of the sea. Triremes and
feluccas should be anchored here: on the breakwater a faint lantern
burns, gift of an Iberian chief. According to Sangiorgio, the volcano
presages calm. "When the wind blows from the North or Northwest,
the smoke is faint, white and thin. But if from the South or Southeast,
the smoke is black and opaque, concealing the summit." The augury
is clear. He speaks with authority, as from a book. The schooner (for
Sangiorgio's trawler is forbidden there) will take us to the mainland
I reflect at my table on this peaceful ashen place abstracted from
time. Triremes and feluccas: the breakwater sheltered Phoenicians.
This island with its innkeeper who is also the collector of customs and
onetime jailer, and its one blind priest, and its one whore: this pumice
isle of figs and currants and olives, sprouting from clinkers and shale–
I think this must be the most ancient place in the world. Even the
convicts are old. The two convicts roaming in their black and yellow
stripes are men under a curse, reduced to snuffing like dogs for food:
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