The Coastal Path

translated by Adam J. Goldwyn
A sandy beach, capping with small dunes, as water infills the spaces between
East Sands at low tide. Photos provided by Eleni Kefala.

for Colin McEwan

I heard the news a few days ago
we hadn’t spoken in nearly two years
it was a Tuesday
in June
you wrote me you’d arrived
you checked the weather
“Maybe we could do the walk,” you said,
“before the storm comes.”
Within two hours you were here
in your hiking clothes
we ascended the hill
the slope full of grass
down below the deep blue sea
the low tide had uncovered the black of the depths.
You talked endlessly 
as though you were drunk 
about the sedimentary rocks
that stuck out like spikes
and formed small pools
on the seafloor
about layers of carbon,
limestone and sandstone
that prehistoric earthquakes compressed and molded
into a wrinkled carpet 
about the basalt stack called the Rock and Spindle,
the child of a volcano which erupted
millions of years ago
and cooled
into a spinning wheel among the ashes.

Rock and Spindle. Photos provided by Eleni Kefala.

After two hours we took the road back.
You had your gaze fixed on the sea
and the sun burned strangely.
Just as we descended to the coast
“A day for swimming!”
you shouted
and I began to laugh
only madmen leaped into these waters
(I don’t remember if I said it
or just thought it).
You threw your bag on a mossy rock
and walked barefoot
your footprints behind you
crushed the ridged sand
until your silhouette
was nearly lost
in the distance between us.
From your movements 
I figured you had stripped off your clothes
you advanced a bit
raised your hands
and you dove beneath the freezing water
naked. You almost faded from view. 

I was thinking recently
about how we had lost touch
and how I had wanted to tell you
that every time I descend to the coast
at low tide
just before nightfall
when there’s no one else around
(it’s going on one month now
that we’ve had to avoid each other like the plague)
I see you standing for a moment naked on the beach
and then slowly enter the freezing water
and lose yourself into the horizon.

Translation from the Greek

Eleni Kefala has published two books of poetry. She has been a finalist for the Diavazo First-Time Author Award (Greece) and winner of the State Prize for Poetry (Cyprus). She was a juror for the 2022 Neustadt Prize, and she teaches Latin American and comparative literature at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Adam J. Goldwyn is an associate professor of English at North Dakota State University and author of Byzantine Ecocriticism: Women, Nature, and Power in the Medieval Greek Romance (2018). Read his interview with Zisis Ainalis from the Summer 2020 issue.