The baklava was sweet as profit and twice as sticky,
And the ouzo and dark coffee flowed as the dishes were cleared
And the tables rearranged. The musicians struck up a tune
And the hosts gestured eagerly for the strangers to rise.
The waiters, smiling, joined their hands to demonstrate.
As a newborn colt first tries his spindly legs
And wobbles beneath his mother’s watchful gaze,
So did these men, first haltingly, then more assured,
Try the simple dances. Slowly did their restraint dissolve,
Caught up in the spirit, the ouzo, and the bouzouki’s strings.
Yes, soon they dipped and swayed like experts,
Stomping like true sons of the island’s shores.
Cries of “OPA!” ringing down the streets
The old men in the roadways, eyebrows raised
Exchanged amused and knowing glances. “Those tourists…!”
The dancing and the drinking, the drinking and the dancing
Carried on through unknown hours, until it seemed
That the very house might be loosed from its ancient stone foundations.
As the level boat deck, seeming solid, slowly begins to stir
As the storm approaches, so did the floor gently weave and rock.
But suddenly the musicians stopped. And when they stopped,
The dancers stopped. And when the dancers stopped,
The deep bass rumble that had underlied their dance became a solo voice,
Taking on new meaning. For now the house itself was dancing –
To a tune of ancient vintage, one written by Gaia Herself.
“EARTHQUAKE!” cried Delaceur, and the newcomers
Looked about themselves in horror. The islanders had vanished already,
Alerted by some primal instinct – save for Stavros their host, who caught
The eye of McAdoo and serenely nodded, as if to say
“Ah yes – I believe your request has been granted.”
A wave then passed across the landscape
A graceful wriggle, a sinuous crest
As a cobra when it raises itself to strike,
Or as the belly of the Lady Asta undulates
When she does the hoochy-coochy at the Monroe County Fair.
As that wave passed beneath the house of Stavros,
The ground rose, and the floor cracked across like an eggshell
And as the wave passed, the floor collapsed
Opening an unfathomable pit below. The lights went out,
But not before McAdoo saw the roofbeams and the plaster fall.
Put a blind man with depression in a coal mine at midnight
And he would not see such blackness as yawned now beneath them
That blackness took them in, these men of wealth and power
It swallowed them like so many sardines, like minnows,
Like plankton down the gullet of a whale.
For how long he swirled down that sea of nothing
McAdoo could never say. The darkness took all, light,
Sound, thought, time itself… and then he was again.
He lay, it seemed, upon a beach – felt sand against his back,
And heard the gentle sound of lapping waves.
“Ah,” he thought, “They saved me from the house,
They must have taken us all to the shore
Away from falling buildings.” Then thought of his companions
Brought his eyes full open, and set him bolt upright
To find his fellows, and gaze upon his new surroundings.