To cure the hard habit of anger, eat an orange so slowly the juice
spills from your fingers
and waters the wild gladioli that purple the stones on high Kastelli.
To learn patience, go with Ritsa
to the little stoa of a shop in Skala, where old Pandalis weighs the small bags
of chickpeas and rice you’ve filled from slouching burlap sacks,
weighs them as slowly as the priest celebrates mass on Good Friday.
As slowly, to understand
what he must charge you, Pandalis then converts euros to drachmas,
then back again to euros, so you can pay a just price.
From this waiting, learn
that a life need not change as the money changes—
but it helps, as you wait, to remember how goats on the rocky path
down to Psili Ammos bleat mournfully
above the silence of the sea. It helps to stand as the goats do,
firmly on their rocks—
or, as I have learned, to balance on the small wood pallet
in the bathroom of the poet’s house, watching rinse water and suds
inch down the drain beside the toilet—which requires a long stick
to help it clear.
One waits for Pandalis. One waits for the water to drain.
One looks out the square bathroom window to the monastery on the hill
in the slant of afternoon light
a city whose west-facing walls change into facets of quartz,
a shining city toward which you bow in homage to clarity, grateful not to mind
how mind and body shiver, grateful to be
learning at long last, in a small bathroom of shit smell and soap,
that character is not measured
by its depth,
but by the ascent it makes, moment by moment, from that depth.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.