“Soldier of Marathon,” Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, WikiArt.

Part 5: Abreas Arrived Nyos Isle

Siren Parthenope lost to sea and flame,
Ships made passage to and from Isle of
Nyos, messages to and from Athens
Sent, merchant sailing ships, making
Port, Abreas arriving within few weeks,
Joyous reunion, my agate amulet round
Neck. When I heard his voice, all around
Me changed, Nyos was ancient fishing
Village, stone cottages, foundation ruins,
Temples to gods, none recalled deities
Worshiped there, time-broken marble
Altar I remembered gleaming and intact.

As my companion, older woman, who
Accompanied me on the sailing ship,
Stranger became friend, I knew her as
Cilla, secret dagger kept within folds of
Sash and gown. Confused, displaced
In passing of days and weeks, Abreas
Was first to inform: I had succumbed to
Fevers, rampant across Ægean Isles,
Illness brought by soldiers returning
Rrom wars in foreign lands. Faces more
Bound by cloth than veiled, mourners
Moved bodies from carts to open pits,
Mass graves of putrid corpses.

At edge of town, acrid smoke rose in
Plumes dark and curling, bodies burned
On funeral pyres, wood of sea-wrecked
Ship. “You and Cilla were on that ship,”
Abreas advised. “Old salts say that bird-
Like siren brought crew and passengers
To death on nearby rocks.” Too weak to
Walk but to ocean’s edge, my memory
Of this was clear, chains and shackles
Once secured age-old merchant ships
In rough seas to wharfs and quays. Pains
In wrists and ankles told of other fates.

“Winged Figure,” Abbott Handerson Thayer, 1904, WikiArt.

“What exactly happened?” I asked, fearing
Screeching Parthenope reappearing, Cilla
Regressing to walking corpse, foul and gore.
“Epidemic of death,” Cilla unraveled tale
Of torment and disease. Ashore we washed
In raging storms, to unspeakable petulance,
Fishing families too sick to bury dead. From
Mountains, shepherds brought herbs and
Extracts, by sips of willow bark tea, two of
Us were saved. “Parthenope?” I asked. Name
Drew blank faces and shrugs. Alas! Dark-
Wingéd creature was fevered dream.

Fifth and final part concludes this series of “Kardelen” poems.
Thanks for reading.

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