Vol. 34 No. 1 1967 - page 68

J .
Piraeus, and a girl whose limbs had been stunted and broken to a
straight-backed simian crouch. Pleasures half-forgotten! Though there
are a few seamen (especially the black Cravan, stateless, his papers
cheaply forged) who are glad not to go on shore. I think of the
moment he came up to me with his soft effeminate voice, looming
gigantic in his blackness, in that dark Piraeus bar, to say he understood
I was looking for seamen who did not mind going many months with–
out touching land.
One more hour of calm, while Peralda lies locked between cold
flanks: the inexhaustible ageless veined and marble whore, clothed in
widow's black, her bed linens stiff as shroud . The vineyard is as old,
a rich malmsey from gnarled growths. There is liparite ash on the
glass, a volcanic taste to the wine. The whore Serafina returned, I
conjecture, to the place of her birth after many wanderings, but her
first lovers had been here. She had been raped, still a young shep–
herdess, by Barbary pirates; scarcely nubile, was kidnapped by Sara–
cens; was paid by Angevins in the odd indecipherable coin of plunder–
ed African cities. Later, the drunken old Prince of Ustica would have
paused, I think, on a visit to the shrine: to thrust her against a wall,
before the jeering of his men. Her black skirts hang stiff, are scarcely
ruffled on wild sirocco days by winds that shake the inn. She is old.
Her breasts sag with the weight of political oppression, shake from the
dark conflicts of convicts and priests, from tragic family quarrels and
the death of fishermen at sea. Moreover she is faintly bent at the
waist, from the lifting of great stones in the sulphur mine. She tears
at her food indignantly, having been a child at the invention of the
I think of her as placed here to delight the wanderer. She looked
at me once, when she descended from Peralda, darkly and with a calm
expectancy. On past visits to the island I have always been in a great
hurry to get to the continent or back to the
But now,
she knows, I have the night before me. The schooner will not return
before dawn. She sits there, silent and craggy, an obstacle in my path.
So I too, out of piety and the wanderer's obligation, I too briefly take
my place at that dark stall, between those cold thighs, taste the
bruised mouth of olive and wine, hold up the great breasts and black
nipples, leave my token seeds as a traveler drops a single coin or at
most two into the beggar's cup, at the cathedral's dusty portal. I
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