Posted by: John Looker | 29 November, 2010


Revised version; 7 Dec.
I’ve rewritten the last stanza following comments from Kiersty Boon  (the link to her website is opposite).
It’s better.


It’s dawn. We’re sailing through the Dardanelles
eastward to Istanbul, the narrow sea
a scimitar polished by the sun, the hills
like plump divans below a silver sky.

Who are we? Why are we here? We are Hellenes,
we’re Greeks, steering wide of the walls of Troy,
bringing our gods and laws, seeking new lands
to settle, to build our cities, pursue our trade.

We are Persians. We’re the troops of Alexander.
With our robes and icons we are citizens
of Byzantium; now crusaders hot for plunder;
now Turks, turbaned, fighting for Suleyman.

And we’re through! Our steel deck and the straits behind
are red in the setting sun. We’ve travelled far
and at last we’re tired, we’re tired. What was it for?

And where are we heading now? Breathe deep. Be calm.

© John Stevens 2010


  1. I love the opening. Great poem


  2. Certainly beautifully atmospheric and telling of an emotion, John. It feels calm and full of expectation. I worry about the exclamation mark after we’re through and then a comma… it feels too easy and too colloquial for the middle of a stanza. But then I’ve tried to see how you would rework that joy they feel before the trepidation and it is a dilemma. I think maybe to keep the fatigue would be less indicative of their relief at their travel but then it sticks out a little too much.
    I hope you don’t mind that slight critique? I think your poems have great worth and would feel that I had done you an injustice if I had not related to you my thoughts as a reader?


    • Thanks a lot for taking the trouble to offer a critique, Kiersty. You make a very interesting point, and one that had not occurred to me. I begin to see a possible improvement, but I’m going to have to think it through for a few days … I’m a slow thinker!


  3. I’ve now revised the last stanza, changing the sequence of points, and I think that’s improved it. Thanks Kiersty.


  4. I love this and the exclamation point. It (the exclamation point) evokes a time when it served a purpose. At least in my weary brain. 🙂


    • I’m glad you liked this; the poem was one that meant more to me than meets the eye.
      I agree with you about punctuation: the right mark in the right place can make all the difference, and the exclamation point loses its impact when it is overused.


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