“Soy quien soy.
Una coincidencia no menos impensable
que cualquier otra.”

Wislawa Symborska

Travel Diary II
6 Nov 2021

Travel Diary II

Post by Rowena Hill

Read the SPANISH version


I Boarded a Train

I boarded a train
with an exact destination.
I don’t know when it veered off;
for some time I haven’t recognized the names
of the stations,
weeds are growing between the rails.

Dia Island

An hour over rough sea
and fifty years in time
back to my youth:
an unspoilt Greek island
(forbidden to developers).
Fierce sun, jade and turquoise sea,
vibrato of bare rock,
the white box of a church
where valiant St.George
and austere St.Analepsis
free the heart of dragons
and promise ascent to purity,
here within reach.
Then fish cooked on an open fire,
the boat crew and their country’s pain.

Etruscan Jewelry

These necklaces
their crosses, circles, dull gems,
are gates to another world
where the sun may be called Usil
and rivers run for horned Acheloo
and earth and sky are in love
like the married pairs on tombs.


“Like any small town in Italy”,
Gianfranco said.
A Roman arch
to a road of fine stone buildings
a walled baronial palace
a fervent church
a light grey spacious air
friendly to sunlight
room to walk and look and breathe
what more does Fano need
to be special?

Monte Giove

for Dalmina

Small sweet pears are dropping in the parking lot
at the top of the hill.
A formal path leads to the church door
between symmetrical blocks of cells
and walls that hide gardens.
A view of hills and sea,
and the monks’ shop:
essences of flowers
pine cough drops.


for Carmen

Four hundred people live
in a village with good stone houses
for a thousand.
On a steep winding street
one sleeping dog
and an abandoned car.
Where are they unraveling,
the gestures that belonged here?
Who can fill the rooms?
The walls are burdened with voices
to be silenced not in death
but in exile.

Ancient Stones

A diet of ancient stones
has built in my stomach a stage
from which to spy on the gods
and the work of their tentacles.

Temple of Poseidon, Paestum

You, stone monster
have sown your columns
in my whole expanse,
folded my wings in your secret cell.
With you I breathe and ascend
to the ceiling of your golden sphere.


These pillars stand
in a field of ruins
where tourists stroll dazzled
by the Mediterranean sun.
These pillars stand on a bedrock
of irreducible vision:
tourists and ruins dissolve
in the haze of ephemerality.
These pillars have roots and grow
in the nascent brain.

Monreale Cloister

Vast empty square
below the modulated masses
of the cathedral,
it must be walked leisurely
stopping at each fine pillar
that tells its figured drama
or mystery of faith,
animation in simplicity
compressed into each capital.
In the northwest corner
a columned off court has gone Moorish
for a festive fountain.

Chiesa Matrice, Erice

On entering
eyes leap
to the astonishing roof,
plaits and arabesques,
plaster become rope.

Villa del Casale

What a passion for animals, these Romans:
variations on hunts,
sea monsters, fish in the waves,
exotic lion and elephant
landing from ships.
Was it their livelihood?
Are they emblems or sacred beasts?
Did images of ferocity
keep both sexes aroused,
or was it the eyes’ choice
for fields of pure decoration
in tiny stained-glass cubes?


Surely nothing could grow
on the volcanic cinders and rocks
piled up to the steaming peak.
Low patches of yellow-green leaves
spread out from a center
like the scattered craters,
slow slow explosion
of stubborn vegetable fire.

Catacombs, Syracuse

The dead don’t need space
or light,
only the people visiting
these warrens
pause in cleared circles to breathe
under the low ceiling.
How did they mark the slot
for each heap of bones?


Ascent by vertiginous bends
to a village with a history
as a hunting ground for pederasts.
The streets are shabby.
The taps on the restaurant basin
are a cock and balls.

Fast Boat to Greenwich

Under the power of the churning wake
the view is a whole because
eyes embrace it:
elegant, old, shoddy, impossible, new,
towers, domes, receding bridges,
a great white cruiser moored
beside battleships;

gherkin, cheese-grater,
the magnificent shard
drawn into the river’s pulse.

Right now, this is earth’s greatest city.

The marvel left behind
the eye still seeks the towers
from point to compass point
as the river twists.

Hadrian’s Wall

The stones spell a long-drawn-out sentence
of fear and domination,
an inside and outside
the subdued world’s fringe.
Sheep graze now
on both sides of the wall
and hikers thank it
for spanning the landscape.


The eyes that chose the site
flat in an immense theatre
of austere hills,
the hands that raised the stones

– were they hairy? brown? –

come back to life in the visitors
who linger in the circle
attempting gestures,
measuring steps to the center.
Someone has left flowers.


Visitors flock from the parking ground
filling the streets.
The abbey is out of focus
beyond houses and shops.

For a moment, from the sky
through the ruined rose window
the pure light that wrapped the monks
even in their cold cells
stares down.

Great Croxwell Tithe Barn

Cousin Emily said
“I want to show you an old barn.”
A barn? That’s nice, maybe
there’ll be ghosts of animals.
At the door: shock. A perfect
soaring ogival space
contained by a plaited wooden vault.
How can the trunks of trees have served so long
gnarled and robust in their places
in the pillars upholding the shell?
How can the monks’ store and counting house
speak so solemnly of faith?


It’s a theatre assembled by the hand
of a giant stone mason,
one wing a high brick wall
grimy and echoing with shouts
slates grinding and workers’ bodies
hurled soft against rock;
center stage masonry arms
to hold squat boats in a pool
as the sea rises and ebbs.

The full moon summons ghosts
and erases them.

St. Andrew’s, Bayvil

The door to the modest stone church is on the latch,
it opens on to grey and white
like a plain nun’s habit
or a thrush, mimus gilvus;
box pews, three decker pulpit.
More sermon perhaps than worship
but at this distance
the fine severity is touching.

Beyond Parrog

Early morning on the cliffs:
light blows round me
is tossed by the sea
swells to escape
from every pore in my body.
Rocks below the plunging walls
are rampant dragons
then again rocks remade
essence of earth in labor
shapes of time.
My eyes and the rocks are welded
where infinity has touched
the surface of the day.

Read the SPANISH version



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