You let your feet decide how to walk it,
andante or andantino—
only allow your breathing to become what wind is
in the eucalyptus, now a susurrus, now a slow erasure
of distractions. Cries
from the soccer field and the street noise
in Skala dissolve
in the attention the stones require
you give each footfall.
Step by step, it’s the old way to Hora—
the holy is hard-won,
though the simple heart finds no way hard.
You must recollect yourself, each moment an arrival
accomplishment. And so,
you study the stones as you walk,
this one a loaf, that one
shut like a book.
This one cracked open, reciting the mantra.
That one red at the core,
like a bloodstain.
Gathered one by one
by a human hand, cut, fit snug—or not—
the stones have been trod by
the boots of soldiers and the sandals of monks,
by the bare feet of children.
A Russian merchant
a relic sewn into his sleeve.
Bent under her haul of potatoes,
(fresh dirt from the harvest
still on them)
a peasant struggled up.
You can smell that dirt
the anise and chamomile your own feet crush
between stones as you climb,
stepping over a caravan of ants
that scurry to their nest with a moth wing
stiff as a taut sail off Grikou.
you walk it with all whose feet
have touched these stones,
and you walk it
with no one, no more alone
than the lichen on the stone
or the magpie
that soars into the silence over the olive trees and onions
in the steep fields, or the snail
fast at prayer in its spiral hermitage.
And if you are the burden you carry,
you are also
the road you walk on,
whose stones are here to teach
and a grace which, if hobbled, is fully
human—as is that hard-won
holy face whose eyes from the golden ceiling of the dome
look sternly into
your humbled, wordless heart.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.