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On this good day of days, I wonder if you’ve seen the bright stripes
of sun beaming through the window, or is your heart too shuttered?

The rain has stopped; old Rafiki is tuning his mandolin.
People bring jars to gather honey from the cracks in his voice.

Sara still speaks of the midwife who buried your cord to free
you of vendettas. For you, she said, figs will ripen early.

Why, now, do you pollute your mind with actions of evil men?
Every day, it’s harder for me to scrub the soot from your shirts.

Our fate is already sown into the grain of our coffins.
The olive tree knows for whom to bend and pour her fragrant oil.

Let us take the skiff in the morning to Paximadia.
Together, we’ll hunt the rosy pumice blessed by Artemis.


This is my first attempt at an ancient poetry form developed in the Mediterranean island of Crete. It is called mantinada, derived from Venetian for “morning song”. The couplets are decapentasyllabic, fifteen syllables per line, and are not required to rhyme. In its purest meter, there would be a midline caesura (pause). I let that go in favour of a more conversational style.

© Elaine Stirling, 2014