September 2019

Back to Issue 6

Bus to Arhanes, Crete

By Jena Woodhouse


Travelling along the valley’s curving upper lip,

we transit steep slopes dense with hives

and trellises of vines, where goats are grazed

and olives flood dark nodes of fruit with molten

gold in places where the nature goddess

and her adorants were seen, according to

the evidence recorded on Minoan rings, dancing

in the sacred groves, venerating stones and trees.


To say the destination’s name (where I’ll buy

rouge pomegranates, where I’ll light a candle

in a church whose name is not displayed),

you have to exhale twice, then hiss: two heartfelt sighs

and then a kiss ~ Ar – ha – nes is a kilim woven

over fifty centuries from filaments of village lives,

blood and sinew, breath and bone. Today the coloured

houses hum in harmony, in autumn sun; the old men

in the bus all cross themselves as we pass wayside

domes – having gained the threshold to this alien

millennium replete with stories better not disclosed.


Arhanes presses close against the lower jaw of Juktas –

a mountain likened to a god’s profile, the face of Zeus.

Brimstone occupies the massive cranium beneath

old shrines – the sulphur that forms vital compounds,

and, as villagers will claim, emanates magnetic force –  

a charisma none dares ignore, as votive offerings attest –

that captivated King Minos of Knossos and his court.