By Kelly Cressio-Moeller:
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?
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?”