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At Corfu

 In seventeen hundred, a much hated sultan
visited us twice, finally
dying of headaches in the south harbor.
Ever since, visitors have come to the island.
They bring their dogs and children.
The ferry boat with a red cross freshly painted on it lifts in uneven drafts of smoke and steam devising the mustard horizon that is grotesque with purple thunderheads.
In the rising winds the angry sea birds circle the trafficking winter ghosts who are electric like the locusts at Patmos.
They are gathering sage in improvised slings along the hillsides, they are the lightning strikes scattering wild cats from the bone yard: here, since the war, fertilizer trucks have idled much like the island itself.
We blame the wild cats who have eaten all the jeweled yellow snakes of the island.
When sufficiently distant, the outhouses have a sweetness like frankincense.
A darker congregation, we think the last days began when they stripped the postage stamps of their lies and romance.
The chaff of the hillsides rises like a cramp, defeating a paring of moon .
its hot, modest conjunction of planets .
And with this sudden hard rain the bells on the ferry boat begin a long elicit angelus.
Two small Turkish boys run out into the storm-- here, by superstition, they must laugh and sing--like condemned lovers, ashen and kneeling, who are being washed by their dead grandmothers' grandmothers.

Poem by Norman Dubie
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