SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LI-YOUNG LEE

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By Li-Young Lee:


from ALWAYS A ROSE

Not for the golden pears, rotten on the ground—
their sweetness their secret—not for the scent
of their dying did I go back to my father’s house. Not for the grass
grown wild as his beard in his lasts months,
nor for the hard, little apples that littered the yard,
and vines, rampant on the porch, tying the door shut,
did I stand there, late, rain arriving.
The rain came. And where there is rain
there is time, and memory, and sometimes sweetness.
Where there is a son there is a father.
And if there is love there is
no forgetting, but regret rending
two shaggy hearts.
I said good-bye to the forsythia, flowerless for years.
I turned from the hive-laden pine.
Then, I saw it—you, actually.
Past the choked rhododendrons,
behind the perishing gladiolas, there
in the far corner of the yard, you, my rose,
lovely for nothing, lonely for no one,
stunning the afternoon
with your single flower ablaze.
I left that place, I let the rain
mediate on the brilliance of one blossom
quivering in the beginning downpour.


VISIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

Because this graveyard is a hill,
I must climb up to see my dead,
stopping once midway to rest
beside this tree.

It was here, between the anticipation
of exhaustion, and exhaustion,
between vale and peak,
my father came down to me

and we climbed arm in arm to the top.
He cradled the bouquet I’d brought,
and I, a good son, never mentioned his grave,
erect like a door behind him.

And it was here, one summer day, I sat down
to read an old book. When I looked up
from the noon-lit page, I saw a vision
of a world about to come, and a world about to go.

Truth is, I’ve not seen my father
since he died, and, no, the dead
do not walk arm in arm with me.

If I carry flowers to them, I do so without their help,
the blossoms not always bright, torch-like,
but often heavy as sodden newspaper.

Truth is, I came here with my son one day,
and we rested against this tree,
and I fell asleep, and dreamed

a dream which, upon my boy waking me, I told.
Neither of us understood.
Then we went up.

Even this is not accurate.
Let me begin again:

Between two griefs, a tree.
Between my hands, white chrysanthemums, yellow
      chrysanthemums.

The old book I finished reading
I’ve since read again and again.

And what was far grows near,
and what is near grows more dear,

and all of my visions and interpretations
depend on what I see,

and between my eyes is always
the rain, the migrant rain.


Today’s poems were published in Rose (BOA Editions, 1986) and appear here with permission from the poet.


Li-Young Lee is the author of four books of poetry, including, most recently, Behind My Eyes. His earlier collections are Book of My Nights; Rose, winner of the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award; The City in Which I Love You, the 1990 Lamont Poetry Selection; and a memoir entitled The Winged Seed: A Remembrance, which received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and will be reissued by BOA Editions in 2012. Lee’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Lannan Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, as well as grants from the Illinois Arts Council, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Editor’s Note: Because it has been three years since my father died. Because three years ago, Li-Young Lee’s Rose was the labyrinth I walked to access my grief. Because “Truth is, I’ve not seen my father / since he died.” And while rereading this collection forces me to confront this reality, it also reminds me that “if there is love there is / no forgetting.”

Want more from Li-Young Lee?
Blue Flower Arts
The Poetry Foundation
Academy of American Poets

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: KAREN ALKALAY-GUT

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By Karen Alkalay-Gut:


HER STORY

I have never been able to tell her story
Sometimes it escapes me, sometimes I am not sure
It could really have happened, sometimes I read
Different accounts of her demise, or a paragraph
From some testimony jogs my memory and the terrible days
When I first heard what happened to her return.

This much is in my blood:
I was conceived on the day she died.
This much is in my blood.
She blew up trains.
The courage came from her uplifted chin
And the two infants she watched
Dashed against the wall of their home.
Avram twelve months old and Masha two years.
My first cousins.
They too – in my blood – all that is left.

If I can write of these babies,
I can manage the rest –
Following her path as she escaped
The prison camp with her husband
And joined the Otrianski Otriade
Lenin Brigade, Lipinskana Forest.

I can feel her mouth, her narrow lips clamped
As she bends over the delicate mines,
Solemn as in the photo when as a child
She sat for with the rest of the choir
Unsmiling amid the festive singers
Unwilling perhaps to feel poetic joy
Perhaps destined for so much more.

There are at least three accounts of her death:
The partisan Abba Kovner told me she was caught
In a mission and hung. He looked away when he spoke,
Not piercing me as always with his tragic eyes,
And I knew there was more he would not say.

Another book says she lagged behind the platoon
Escaping an attack, perhaps pregnant,
And was imprisoned in Zhedtl.
The jail was ignited, perhaps by accident,
And she was just one of the victims.

When mother first told me the story
She had just heard at the hairdresser’s,
I must have been fifteen, and outraged
That she was weeping, tears
Rolling down her face. She knew
All I cared for was my own life,
And her latest discovery
Of the fate of her youngest sister
A disruption.
But who else could she tell?

The loft in the barn, she said,
They were hiding there – three women,
Her husband and her. They came
And set the barn afire. He helped
The women first, and his wife came last
But didn’t come, was burnt alive.

Malcah Malcah who saved all our lives
Malcah who was waiting for them
When the ship brought them back to Danzig
After they were barred from the Holy Land,
Who found them the agricultural visas to England
And saw them off the night that Hitler invaded.
But there is no real story.
All that remains is a faded snapshot
A few sentences in unread memorial tomes,
And me, who cannot tell any story for sure.


Today’s poem was originally published in Prairie Schooner and appears here with permission from the poet.


Karen Alkalay-Gut is now easing out of a fifty-year academic career at Tel Aviv University and beginning to concentrate on writing. Born in London during World War II, she was raised in Rochester, New York and moved to Israel in 1972. She has published almost 30 books in English, and Hebrew, Spanish, and Italian translation, and has collaborated on half a dozen music CDs.

Editor’s Note: Is it possible to read today’s poem without being moved to tears? To wax poetic (this is the place for that, after all), when I read today’s poem the first words that come to mind are “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” No, really. Let me.

1) Parallelism, as both an incantatory device and as a conversation between the poem and biblical poetry. “This much is in my blood: / I was conceived on the day she died. / This much is in my blood.” “Malcah Malcah who saved all our lives / Malcah who was waiting for them.” This parallelism is working on more levels than we might imagine. To echo the Bible in this way is a tradition that dates back to the earliest World War II and Holocaust poetry. But, in fact, it dates back to long before the Holocaust, finding rich roots among the varied history of all Jews in exile, and particularly those in Spain’s Golden Age and the time of the expulsion.

2) Vivid imagery that does not let us forget the many tragedies of “her story.” “[T]he two infants she watched / Dashed against the wall of their home,” “I can feel her mouth, her narrow lips clamped / As she bends over the delicate mines,” “He helped / The women first, and his wife came last / But didn’t come, was burnt alive.” This poem is rife with what Aristotle termed Pathos, the emotional connection to the audience. This is not a poem that you can read without feeling, deeply.

3) The poet herself shines through as a character, real and flawed and human. We know her struggles and her failings, and we experience them with her. “If I can write of these babies, / I can manage the rest,” “When mother first told me the story… I must have been fifteen, and outraged / That she was weeping… She knew / All I cared for was my own life, / And her latest discovery / Of the fate of her youngest sister / A disruption.”

4) Malcah, on the other hand, is made a hero through raw nostalgia. Malcah means “queen,” and while the poet did not invent her lost aunt’s name, bringing her name into the poem elevates the heroine to near-godly proportions. “She blew up trains. / The courage came from her uplifted chin,” “Malcah who saved all our lives / Malcah who was waiting for them / When the ship brought them back to Danzig / After they were barred from the Holy Land, / Who found them the agricultural visas to England / And saw them off the night that Hitler invaded.” Malcah the martyr, who did not die before first ensuring that the poet and her family would live.

5) “Her Story.” It is no secret that I am a big fan of herstory. I created a project to revive and celebrate it. But herstory, as today’s poem makes clear, is multi-faceted. It is women’s history, it is one woman’s history, it is women’s stories, and it is one woman’s story. But in today’s poem it is also the admission that there is no one story. (An idea I am incredibly interested in, as I spent the fall of 2013 researching my own family’s history through the lens of varying versions of the same story, much as today’s poem does.) In today’s poem we are given every known version of Malcah’s story, but the poet twins the telling of “her story” with the idea that “there is no real story” to tell. This is as true to an accurate historical retelling as anyone can come.

Want more from Karen Alkalay-Gut?
Karen Alkalay-Gut’s Official Website
Interview in The Madison Journal of Literary Criticism
Tel Aviv Radio
Buy The Encantadas: Evolution and Emotion from Amazon
The Bridge at Raqqa (eBook)
Youtube

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: HANNAH BESSINGER

Hannah Bessinger Photo


FUGUE
By Hannah Bessinger

I remember the sunset pooling into the hollows
of your collarbones.

Your sweater was plum-colored and torn
near the neck.

I could hear the beat of flywings
after you left me

alone on our green porch swing at dusk. Every time
I returned,

I watched their black bodies gleaming in the air
like bits of iron.

I remember our mother crumpling onto the kitchen
floor. The phone’s

battery falling out and hitting the tile.

The kids next door got a BB gun for Christmas. The older
one shot a ring-necked dove.

Our cat dragged it to the porch, and I found it the next
morning,

its white feathers piercing the air.

The flies had settled into the holes in its body.

You were dressed in purple when they buried you.

I felt October folding into itself
like a paper boat,

the leaves spinning madly towards the earth.

The hard wood of the piano bench
etched lines into my thighs.

I played only Bach the entire year. By the end
I did not think,

and my hands moved from memory
through the pages of counterpoint,

one melody announcing itself to the world
with my left hand,

the other curling into itself at first, then rising,
lifting its voice to meet the air,

the night, the sky.


Today’s poem was originally published in Thrush Poetry Journal, and appears here with permission from the poet.


Hannah Bessinger is currently an MFA student at North Carolina State University. She grew up in Georgia, and finds that the landscape of the South influences her writing. She is currently working on a poetry thesis, and she plans to apply to medical school after graduation from her MFA program.

Editor’s Note: I was once told by an editor that a poem of mine was “curly.” Now, mind you, this editor’s feedback was in translation. Nonetheless, I have wondered at the essence of that comment for some time. Today’s poem helps me to understand what was meant. In English, we would not typically say “curly” about a poem. But we would say “shifting.” We would say “transformative.” We would focus on the poem’s movement—how it turns, how it moves like waves lapping the shore and returning to sea. How it moves like a dancer, both committed to form and inspired to unique expression. These are the ways today’s poem moves.

Begin in memory. Remember a person. Remember someone you loved. Turn from that person to decay, to “the beat of flywings / after you left me,” “their black bodies gleaming in the air / like bits of iron.” Turn next to loss. To mother. To the kids next door, their BB gun, destruction. Return to loss. To decay. Turn to burial. Poem, be a scavenger bird, circling. Then break the circle. Step outside. Into October, “the leaves spinning madly towards the earth.” Step farther out. Into music, “one melody announcing itself to the world.” Then rise. Rise from the palpable, the comprehensible, the “hard wood of the piano bench” to the observable yet inconceivable, to “the night, the sky.”

This is the dance of today’s poem. This movement its ocean. And all the while we are grounded in concrete detail. In vivid imagery. The particular experience of the poet so distinct it becomes our own. The title sets the stage, and the performance unfurls before us. Writhing. Twisting. Curly, if you will.

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A Review of Len Joy’s American Past Time

Len Joy's Novel, American Past Time

A Review of Len Joy’s American Past Time

by Jody Hobbs Hesler

Len Joy’s debut novel, American Past Time, is part time capsule and part baseball love affair. The title itself promises this (baseball is considered an America’s pastime, and this novel takes place in America’s past). It hearkens to the American hunger for the major leagues and the good life, spanning twenty years in the lives of the Stonemason family – from the post-war world of 1953 all the way to the summer of 1973.

Readers might expect such a nostalgic look at America to take a too-narrow, Mom-and-apple-pie approach, but Joy avoids this pitfall. What readers get instead is a steady-on account of a gifted ball player, Dancer Stonemason, first as he is poised on the brink of what might be a glorious career in the majors, next as he reckons with the more tortured day-in, day-out existence of a factory job in the 1950s American South, and beyond.

The first section of the book belongs to Dancer. The point of view shifts to his wife, Dede, in the next section, and finally to that of their two sons, Jimmy and Clayton, in the third and final section of the novel. Joy chose a pivotal twenty years to cover in his work. His characters reckon with pressures at the workplace from the Ku Klux Klan, the shocking (especially at the time) discovery of a wife’s lesbian lover, stories of the Civil Rights Movement,= and evidence of the slow changes it brings, a son going off to Vietnam, cancer, and more.

The Stonemasons’ many struggles, failures, and triumphs parallel the challenges and changes of the nation throughout these same times. But we start simply, with Dancer’s pure love of baseball: “He had a hand built for pitching – a pancake-sized palm and long, tapered fingers that hid the ball from the batter for that extra heartbeat” (2).

One bright day in Maple Springs, Missouri – a week before Dancer is scheduled to sub for a major league pitcher and get his chance at the big leagues – his wife and son come to watch him pitch. Everything he loves is in one place. Even the weather cooperates with Dancer’s optimism: “The sky was great-to-be-alive blue” (18).

Before the game, Rolla Rebel team owner, Doc, advises Dancer to go easy on his arm to keep it fresh for next week, and they plan to pull him after a few innings. But as the game promises to become legendary, fellow Rebel and veteran catcher, Billy Pardue, tells him, “You want to stay up in the Bigs, remember this – respect the goddam game. Play every game like it’s your last” (17), echoing Dancer’s own desire to honor his love for the game and continue.

As the innings progress toward what will become Dancer’s one perfect game, the community watching seems to unite in awe of him: “As he walked out to the mound for the seventh inning the crowd was eerily quiet, as if they were afraid the cheering might upset the baseball gods” (20-21).

Afterward, clouds roll into that “great-to-be-alive blue” sky. Doc lets Dancer know he can’t fill in for the major league pitcher anymore because he exhausted his arm, but surely he would get another chance. And Dancer takes heart. “It was a perfect game. No one could take that from him. … No matter what else happened they would always have that game. That moment. And Doc was right. He was young. He’d get another chance” (27). That innocent trust in the future sets up the disappointment and aching nostalgia that follow Dancer, and really all of us, after a peak moment we never know will be the last of its kind.

Dancer’s legendary game buys him a few years of low-level local fame, but we learn soon afterward that “the problem with his arm had developed the spring after the perfect game” (29). Dancer takes a better-paying job, pouring steel at the Caterpillar foundry, and the weight he gains in muscle mass, according to Doc, “might have thrown off his mechanics” (29). Whatever the cause, clearly nothing will be the same for Dancer again.

Soon Dancer is nobody’s hero anymore, and the work is hard and unrelenting. On the job, Dancer faces pressure from the owner’s son to attend Ku Klux Klan meetings. At home, his wife and two sons need more than he seems able to provide. He starts drinking with his best friend, staying out later and later. Everything starts slipping. Eventually, his wife Dede fears, “Things were never going to be normal in Maple Springs. Dancer was broken. … [E]very time she got a little bit ahead, Dancer would end up knocking that rock back down the hill” (199). All evidence seems to doom Dancer to ultimate failure. But sometimes, when second chances happen, they don’t look a thing like what you would expect.

This novel is a paean to the American Dream, not the showy upmarket commercial full-of-promises version, but the sort of dream you gain through trial, error, toil, and endurance. In Len Joy’s American Past Time, Dancer Stonemason rebuilds his dreams against the backdrop of a country doing the same thing.

Len Joy, American Past Time. Hark! New Era Publishing, LLC, 2014: $5.99

***

Jody Hobbs Hesler lives and writes in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her fiction, feature articles, essays, and book reviews appear or are forthcoming in Steel Toe Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Prime Number, Pearl, Charlottesville Family Magazine, A Short Ride: Remembering Barry Hannah, and others. You can follow her at jodyhobbshesler.com or on her Facebook writer page: Jody Hobbs Hesler – Writer.

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MARCI CALABRETTA

MarciCalabretta


By Marci Calabretta:


CATERPILLAR SEASON

Wild strawberries were blooming
as we ambled toward the cottonwood shade.

You were examining the prophecy of snowfall
in the measurements of woolly caterpillars

and I asked your opinion on the nature of happiness,
perhaps because you called me sister

or because I called you brother and stranger.
Tiger-banded dragonflies skimmed the grass.

Fern and myrtle, downy brown and black.
You laid the larvae on my palms without speaking.

I never knew you had such silences.
Overhead, wires heavy with starlings or crows―

I couldn’t tell against the steel sky. But I remember
later that night, the steam from our tea

curling above us and into our mouths, as though
the answer could last us a whole season of snow.


BROTHER RETURNS AS CHRYSANTHEMUM

Didn’t we think we were more than this―
little suns unfurling above the earth?

We thought we were constellations
in soil, entire galaxies anchored to dust.

Ravenous, we believed our thousand
arms could hoard the horizon―

eclipsing ourselves even as we waned,
bereft of all but shadow.


Today’s poems were originally published in Thrush Poetry Journal, and appear here with permission from the poet.


Marci Calabretta is the recipient of poetry fellowships from Kundiman and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Her work has appeared most recently in Thrush, Lunch Ticket, American Letters & Commentary, and Chautauqua. Her chapbook, Last Train to the Midnight Market, was published by Finishing Line Press. She is co-founder and managing editor for Print-Oriented Bastards, an assistant editor for Jai-Alai Magazine, and a contributing editor for Florida Book Review.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poems are wildly vivid and pleasantly unexpected. In “Caterpillar Season,” the poet couples the lush of wild strawberries with the oracular act of “examining the prophecy of snowfall.” The poem is like a parable in which the nature of happiness might be gleaned from the wonders of a nature so vibrant it feels at times as if it might fly or blossom from the page. “Brother Returns as Chrysanthemum” is anchored in the metaphysical, grappling with human existence and our role in the universe. The culmination of the poem, “eclipsing ourselves even as we waned, / bereft of all but shadow,” is a gorgeous finale that grounds us in the observable while inviting us to contemplation. Both poems indulge in delicious alliteration, fervently celebrating language and the poetic act.

Want more from Marci Calabretta?
Marci Calabretta’s official website
Lunch Ticket
Purchase Last Train to the Midnight Market from Finishing Line Press
Co-founder and managing editor for Print-Oriented Bastards

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Let Me Die, But Not Die Out: A Review of The Complete Poems of James Dickey

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Let Me Die, But Not Die Out: A Review of The Complete Poems of James Dickey

by

Okla Elliott

[This piece initially appeared in The Southeast Review.]

James Dickey ranks among the titanic figures of twentieth-century American literature. He and his work remind one of Norman Mailer and Robert Penn Warren in particular—the former because of the ecstatic and primal violence their work shares, and the latter because of the depth and range of their vision and how it plays out across many literary genres. Mailer and Dickey also share a self-mythologizing effort that made them larger-than-life (who does not hear an echo of Mailer’s Advertisements for Myself in Dickey’s Self-Interviews?), while Dickey and Warren are both decidedly southern writers. In fact, an almost direct genealogy from Warren to Dickey can be discerned. But while useful comparisons might be made between Mailer and Dickey, particularly in their novels, for the purposes of thinking about Dickey’s poetry, it is Warren who can lend us the greater insight.

Dickey’s poetry shares something besides its southern flavor with Warren’s. It oscillates between unimaginably powerful and so bad it is almost embarrassing to read. Luckily for Dickey and Warren, and for their readers, they produced such copious amounts of poetry and in myriad styles that we can simply ignore the outright failures and enjoy the genius-level poems, of which they both produced many. In fact, I contend, it is something more than mere accident that Dickey and Warren should both have such exquisite successes alongside such dismal failures; there is something about their outsized ambition (in the best sense of that word), the long reach of their work that, yes, sometimes overreaches, that makes both these extremes of production not only possible but necessary.

Let’s take a look at a poem which is indicative of the energy and concerns found throughout Dickey’s poetry—though it would be misleading to pretend any single poem could represent the range of his output, given how radically Dickey re-invented himself throughout his poetic life (yet a further trait he shares with Warren). Here are the opening stanzas of “For the Last Wolverine”:
They will soon be down

To one, but still he will be
For a little while still will be stopping

Flakes in the air with a look,
Surrounding himself with the silence
Of whitening snarls. Let him eat
The last red meal of the condemned

To extinction, tearing the guts
From an elk. Yet that is not enough
For me. I would have him eat

The heart, and, from it, have an idea (367)

This poem is certainly about the extinction of species and perhaps about the constant threat of nuclear annihilation that pervaded the national consciousness in 1966, the year of the poem’s publication, but it is about poetry itself in equal measure. As Dickey writes later in the poem:

But, small, filthy, unwinged,
You will soon be crouching
Alone, with maybe some dim racial notion
Of being the last, but none of how much
Your unnoticed going will mean:
How much the timid poem needs

The mindless explosion of your rage (369)

This poem is powerful, is infused with that green energy Dylan Thomas writes of so beautifully, but it is also social critique, critique of the state of poetry, and environmental critique of the modern world, with which Dickey was not much in love. Dickey finds ways to include all these themes many times over in his poems, from “The Shark at the Window” (a southern-modernist take on family and marriage) to “The Wax Museum in Hamburg” (a meditation on Nazi Germany and power relations in history) to many more. Here is the first stanza of “Amputee Ward: Okinawa 1945,” which until this volume had only appeared in a 1948 issue of Coraddi, the undergraduate-run literary journal at UNC-Greensboro.

Displayed in acreages of crackling light
More hopeless than the spatulate cross
Thrust by a withering sea, they lie
In the immaculate percentage of their loss. (6)

This poem shows Dickey as a formalist master and is an early example of his writing about the Pacific front during WWII, a theme that would continue on until his 1993 novel, To the White Sea.

It would be impossible to give an adequate sampling in this short review, but suffice it to say that the over 700 pages of poetry found in The Complete Poems of James Dickey is a treasure with a staggering variety of bounty. But it is not solely Dickey’s poetry that suggests this volume to poetry lovers and libraries everywhere. Ward Briggs writes in his preface that compiling and editing Dickey’s poems was a labor of love and this is apparent on nearly every page. The generous and insightful preface and introduction should prove valuable for classroom use. The extensive notes by Briggs, the remarks by Dickey on the composition of certain poems, and various indexes included in the 213-page critical apparatus make this the definitive edition for literary scholars and diehard fans. And, what is perhaps the greatest achievement of the book, the painstaking organization of the poems in order of publication (with the year printed beneath each title) invites us to read the book as a sort of documentary of Dickey’s literary development through his fifty-year career. I would strongly suggest that readers follow Briggs’s organization and take the book in from beginning to end. The effect is striking indeed.

In the final analysis, The Complete Poems of James Dickey is a success on nearly every front. It corrects errors and omissions from the previous attempt at a complete or collected poems. It includes useful scholarly trappings (preface, introduction, critical apparatus). And it offers the best possible portrait of Dickey-as-poet. This is certain to be the definitive edition for decades to come. One only hopes that the paperback edition will be split into two volumes, thus allowing for a wider popular readership. At 960 pages and $85 in cost, the hardback will likely only end up in libraries and the offices of well-heeled academics. Dickey’s poetry deserves this, but it likewise deserves a broad non-specialist readership as well.

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: KELLY CRESSIO-MOELLER

Photo on 2014-12-29 at 18.20_2_2


By Kelly Cressio-Moeller:


ITHAKA

Dear Penelope, do you now sleep among the catacombs?

Scarves of white drift over the Aegean – an altar of bottomless blue.

I have gone to the edge of the world and still cannot find you.

Even the olive trees raise their spangled limbs skyward in longing.

Mother Earth slides her abacus beads, conjures storms quick as curses.

When lightning struck, did the boat protect or beckon the bolt?

Island flowers shut their eyes only when the stars disrobe – hope and sorrow held
within the same root.

She imagines him bright-toothed & swarthy, but her husband is just sunburned & homesick.

So many suitors holding her skeins – she’s woven a trail for her waylaid mariner, long
as his beard and her undoing.

In twenty years she has never asked, What shall I wish for myself?

Odysseus wonders, Do I have the right to return?

Maids cast offerings to the sea: red rose petals and grape leaves, love and wine all that remain.


** The line What shall I wish for myself? is a reworking Mary Oliver’s line What shall I wish for, for myself?


Today’s poem was originally published in Thrush Poetry Journal and appears here with permission from the poet.


Kelly Cressio-Moeller’s poetry is forthcoming in burntdistrict and has previously appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Gargoyle, Poet Lore, Rattle, Spillway, ZYZZYVA and elsewhere as well as the anthology First Water: Best of Pirene’s Fountain and Diane Lockward’s book, The Crafty Poet. Three of her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She shares her fully-caffeinated life with her tall husband, two ever-growing sons, and their immortal basset hound in Northern California.

Editor’s Note: “Ithaka” exists in the eye of the storm of the epic. Address and persona are interwoven with the personal, the poet’s experience becoming one with Penelope’s need and Odysseus’ long journey home. Against the backdrop of the familiar, we find ourselves adrift on a sea of the unexpected, where lyricism is heroic and longing is complex. Similes and metaphors are seamlessly stitched into the poem’s fabric: limbs are spangled, clouds are “scarves of white,” the ocean is an altar. When the poet enters, the simple is made profound: “I have gone to the edge of the world and still cannot find you.” When we arrive, the shores are shaped like questions: “Do I have the right to return?” “What shall I wish for myself?

Want more from Kelly Cressio-Moeller?
Boxcar Poetry Review
Cultural Weekly
Escape Into Life
Rattle
Valparaiso Poetry Review

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