The Metéora

                                                                                To all you patriarchs
                                                            who hold the clouds
                                                                      in your hands—

                    Α. Asteres Planetai
                              [Greek, “Wandering Stars”]

i. First House, 39° 43′ 26″ N, 21° 37′ 27″ E, 367.4 m

                                        Leaving Kastraki’s village square, we / venture two kilometers northeast /
                                        to those steep steps of Metéora’s / closest holy house, of which only /
                                        six now remain, Moni Agiou / Nikolaou Anapafsa, where /
                                        we greet our silent guide’s smiling though / nameless face, wrinkled with paths souls trace:

                    Tiptoeing olive groves, we follow
                         (t)his hand’s kindness with fondness, heavens
                         dividing tunics of clouds hidden
                         crowds of (sp)arrows sh(r)ed, wedding knowledge
                         to minds hardwired heads open, below
                         such inviting skies her spires surface,

                                   and behind our guide we climb surface
                              no flesh has blushed since fire rushed below,
                         Prometheus bringing man knowledge
                         of what hides above, souls that follow
                              each of us whose sinning their hidden
                                   eyes know, our better brothers heaven’s

ii. Second House, 39° 43′ 35″ N, 21° 37′ 34″ E, 549.5 m

                                        Pillaging our glances with its dome / scraping heaven’s own, resting on one /
                                        pillar’s highest cliff sits stoic wealth, / Moni Megalou Meteorou /
                                        the most famous though second house, that / founded by Saint Athanasios /
                                        himself, enriched by emperor’s gift, / its frescoes waiting northwest of us:

                    Blessèd Mother bestows with heaven’s
                         pious thro(n)es, quiet king(dom)s hidden
                         from earth’s dominion, monks who follow
                         wandering stars home, where prayers surface
                         pinnacles of monoliths knowledge
                         polishes with ropes they throw below,

                                   drawing up from earth’s well those below
                              these fishers of men (d)angling knowledge
                         notice, pure pri(n)ces (t)his world’s surface
                         never dirties with its filth, heavens
                              above summoning all who follow,
                                   and fall, on (t)his path only hidden

iii. Third House, 39° 43′ 30″ N, 21° 37′ 48″ E, 497.1 m

                                        Seven hundred meters down its slope / on a bluff below clings our third house, /
                                        Moni Varlaam’s late-Byzantine door / guarded by a conqueror’s bones, those /
                                        of a once-great Alexander stripped / of legend’s armour, humility /
                                        eating his throne as a portrait cleaves / to its wall above votive candles:

                    from children whose father seems hidden,
                         we who think our Selves orphaned—follow
                         something passion ignites and heaven’s
                         door’s opened wide, old ropes thrown below
                         replaced when he lets them break, surface
                         sacrificed when, desiring knowledge,

                                   he sends more than we can take, knowledge
                              from his holiest men we surface-
                         dwelling penitents purchase below
                         the eyes and ears of (t)his world, hidden
                              wisdom a pilgrimage to heaven’s
                                   hermitage teaches, sages follow

                         our shadows with incense that, below,
                         would send into frenzied thro(n)es hidden
                         demons who(se) dark intentions follow.

                    Ω. Okypedilos
                              [Greek, “With Swift Sandals” or,

iv. Fourth House, 39° 43′ 17″ N, 21° 37′ 53″ E, 428.1 m

                                        Veering right when we near a signpost / poking out of the road’s forked tongue, by /
                                        a little wooden bridge we accept / its hand of stained glass, and in its light’s /
                                        beaming grasp we pass over a deep / ravine to a stony peak, atop /
                                        which the nuns of Moni Agias / Varvaras Rousanou summon us:

                    Above cloaks of smoke, roses follow
                         those whose ascension shakes from heavens
                         fragrant showers of petals hidden
                         in her skirts, the horizon’s knowledge
                         of what pain’s thorns pierce our hearts below
                         scattered when bells peal peaces, surface

                                   strewn with love choruses to surface
                              throw, prayers sent from and answered below
                         as passions pass from wounds to knowledge,
                         winking wombs of portals we follow
                              as, bleeding out egos, these hidden
                                   mansions summon us to wealth, heaven’s

v. Fifth House, 39° 42′ 46″ N, 21° 38′ 08″ E, 499.9 m

                                        Remotest house and with the longest / approach, even James Bond’s bullets tired /
                                        of flying when fired out toward this / loneliest and most austere Moni /
                                        Agias Triados, for our eyes / only, its extraordinary /
                                        views unfold with reverence as we / kneel in its ancient sanctuary:

                    treasuries none trespass, what heavens
                         protect off-limits, from hands hidden,
                         kept invisible until—follow
                         (t)his example to temples surface
                         scratches with superficial knowledge,
                         its grasp too shallow to reach below,

                                   its choirs chanting not of depth below,
                              but where now we go, voices knowledge
                         says you should follow if past surface
                         what your soul seeks grows, toward heavens
                              fly as angels do, with us follow
                                   (t)his guide the sky disguises, hidden

vi. Sixth House, 39° 42′ 32″ N, 21° 38′ 18″ E, 434.1 m

                                        Pacing the final lap of heaven’s / path, at the end of its last one-and- /
                                        a-half kilometers, lucrative / nuns—the only other sisters at /
                                        home in these holy mountains—sew closed / centuries’ gaps, selling more than mere /
                                        souvenirs, but even DVDs, / from Moni Agiou Stefanou:

                    behind a smile, like his eyes, hidden
                         he finds us miles beyond them, ‘Follow
                         the clouds and you will know—’ past heavens
                         from which gods cast bolts of silk below,
                         spilling themselves they flow to surface,
                         entering caves as light does, knowledge

                                   filling men’s heads and tombs, with knowledge
                              his brethren give us to hold, surface
                         we do, we who, called up from below,
                         greet these monks with gifts of gold hidden
                              in palms we (p)raise as guests of heaven’s
                                   bridegroom, (p)raising (t)his sun we follow

                         with solar deference, from below
                         rising and sitting with them hidden
                         and revered by a faith flames follow.