on the page magazine

issue no. 7, spring 2002
home & escape


Sleeping Near Water

by Charles Fishman

Kefallinia, 1995

A kid on a motorbike shows us the way.
The pensione is a backstreet dive:
from the bedroom, the view is rooftops,
a wedge of turquoise water, a scatter
of warped boards, open tar pots, tubs
of unwashed gravel.   This is where we are,

but soon we are leaving.  It is already late
in the day—the agent has gone swimming.
A raging fight with the boy brings "Uncle" back
from the beach.  We would have lifted him
from the sand so we could find a sweeter place,
would have carried him back, dripping and hissing.

The corner room he shows us opens on water
and we fall back on the bed, at peace.  The room
has a small balcony: from here, the full sweep
of the shore can be seen, gradations of darkness
and light, the pale aqua sea blown rose and carmine
as the melting sun recedes, then petalled into folds
of purple and black silk.

Before the sun falls out of the sky and the scythe
of the lit coast darkens entirely, we drink the retsina
wine our friends gave us at parting, we eat the Ligourio
bread and cheese, we toast each other: to our health,
to love, and to the wealth of friends.

Water and light and the soft night breeze
blowing white curtains toward the blackened sea,
the ancient Greek sea whispering beneath us . . .
this was nearly two years ago, beloved,
but now memory surges back:

sleeping near water, on that scimitar coast
under stars, the surf breaking ceaselessly under us
where we slept, where the white curtains floated
in the soft beauty of night.

Charles Fishman's books include Mortal Companions, The Firewalkers, and Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust. His book The Death Mazurka was selected by the American Library Association as one of the outstanding books of 1989 and nominated for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. His poem "New Car Blues" appeared in the Cars issue of On the Page.

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