I woke up from a jet-lag coma this morning to the news of the bombing in Belgium, barely 24 hours after we returned from our magical Greece and Italy tour. Can our minds process another tragedy?
I think of Delphi. How people made a pilgrimage to this high place for answers from oracles who only gave riddles. How people came to be set free and to find a way to go on with their lives. How people came to worship gods in hopes that their life would find some consistency and good fortune.
Below is a poem I wrote on our bus ride after Delphi. I keep thinking about our trek up that hill and the cold fog, especially this morning, perhaps because I feel such kinship right now with the Greeks who sought answers.
The clouds obscure the mountaintops.
Do the gods reside there?
Watching us walk among the ruins,
Snapping pictures to remember,
Trying to imagine what was,
Trying to tap into antiquity’s memory,
Wondering if the ancient Greeks who lived under such grandiose stories
Or just like us.
Trying to make sense of ruins and early death,
Of imposing threats and sulfuric water,
Of warm winters and the lone papery flower in a sea of green weeds–
Bright red, its black eye sending augurers searching for meaning.
Do the gods stand in the fog to hide?
We walk among ruins, inspired and timid.
We touch our hands to the stones and brush fingers past incoherent symbols.
We shiver at empty stadiums–
There is no applause anymore,
The athletes’ bones part of the earth.
We search for something whole,
Something undisturbed by trembling earth and unsentimental enemies.
All we see is ruins.
All we see is the fog.
The gods do not come down.
The ruins stand there with thousands of stories in fragments,
Buried in earth and time.
The memory of our ancestors like the fog–intangible, fluid, obscured,
With so many secrets,
Lifting as our fingers almost touch it.
We are separate always from the fog,
Yet it looms and calls out in papery red whispers and forgotten tongues.
We come down from the mountain–
An unsettling departure,
The oracle’s riddle for all of us.