Santorini, I fell in love with your blue, sea blue, Aegean blue stretching for miles to the horizon: azure, lapis, sapphire. All that undulating, shivering blue. I fell in love with your whitewashed houses silhouetted against that blue. I wore my passport on a string around my neck. We rode the ferry from the mainland to save the cost of a room. Back then, the book in my backpack told me where to catch the train or the bus or the boat. Santorini, we disembarked blinking into your days. We carried a rough loaf to slice with a Swiss Army knife. Donkeys hitched to wooden carts pulled us up to the dusty town square filled with dusty strays and a dusty bus, which took us still further, up past olive groves to ruins in the middle of a field, gray pillars and statues with no faces or arms. Santorini, back then I thought time was your ocean, endlessly shimmering. Now I know time is a rope with a noose. It was Easter, though we had forgotten, and asked a girl in her yard why every bell on the island was ringing. She mimed a scarecrow–arms out, head lolling, dark hair cascading down. It was years before I understood, Santorini. I bought a string of black beads etched with gold. I bought leather sandals that laced up my calves. We ate calamari in spicy red sauce straight out of the can. For dessert, we ate thick yogurt with honey, then held the honey jar up in front of the sun.
Kathleen McGookey’s fourth book, Instructions for My Imposter, is out from Press 53. Her work has appeared in journals including Copper Nickel, Crazyhorse, December, Field, Glassworks, Miramar, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Quiddity, and Sweet. Last June, her work was featured on American Life in Poetry. She has received grants from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sustainable Arts Foundation.
Photography by Rajiv Bajaj (@rajiv63)