Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Journey to Ithaca


This spring when you walk far from your old town,

the blossoms will fall over your coiled nape,

and the rosemary and leaves from the grape

vine, will be crisp and tender underfoot.

May you sail on still waters, from the Seine

to Venice, where your mother gave you birth:

knowing yourself at once, right from the first,

until you find the ship with your own name.

Boarding, to find the distant place you seek,

destination you’ve journeyed from the start,

but don’t neglect the proper journey there

and all the things along the way you’ll need.

The home hidden unknown in your soft heart,

is isle of Ithaca, roving no more.


This summer, as the light streams through the grape

vine, where fruit hangs golden, wily goatherds

counsel you—set out on Ithaca’s road.

When your long fate is written and it’s rare,

no one else will go with you. Asunder,

you walk alone this idyllic thin path:

when you have played resinous aftermath,

the strings are violin, with the thunder

of horses’ hooves, and the dust in your eyes.

Don’t be the one the wild wolves chase behind,

don’t let them hunt you or you are the prey.

It’s Ithaca, in all its lovely sights,

that you, all your life, are searching to find:

that ivory-clothed bride will wed today.


Fall in with the ancient vineyard bees’ hum,

our lives, vanishing, like smoke before dawn,

and combined, our efforts don’t leave us wan,

we leave behind an emperor’s ransom.

Then source the harvest by a godless clock,

when our enemy is bitter late frost

among the grape vines, we keep blithely on:

it is Ithaca we seek and its lock.

With the keys you’ll not be chasing phantoms;

you were crucified a long time ago.

With small forged spheres’ iron, have stamina;

you don’t care if you live or the reasons.

Then the wind will blow ceaselessly hollow,

and you will almost forget Ithaca.


If, by this candle’s light, your heart is warm,

then this winter’s snow has not frozen you

from the journey to Ithaca, and few

have travelled where rovani is worth more

than the destination, your final home.

Is anything more satisfying than

a reward for your work, labour you can

glad eschew for where the wintered vines roam?

Home is where the roasted apples wassail,

and where the hearth is lit, black kettle sings.

What clay road could lead you onward, surging

by way of horse cart, warship, and vessel,

to the isle in the Ionian Sea?

To the isle where Odysseus is king?


The pebbled path and trodden weed have lead

you, to glittering cities vast and bright,

the seas you crossed were thick with limpid salt,

and graveyards in the dead of night glowed red.

Still you continued, pressed on, in white cloth

with pearlesque buttons to the linen ground,

sun in morning light walked bravely through towns,

while the brine met the land with a wide froth.

The horses trod this way before, but now

at their moonlit equestrian reigns sits

a faery with light-struck wings in stardust,

or cupid with twanging bow and arrow,

or a deft angel who can waltz and spin,

with end in sight: Ithaca’s corridors.


From the ancient oracle wafts perfume,

the wine cellars stacked from floor to ceiling,

the library books of shelved majesty,

carpeted garden where white lilies bloom.

You’ll see with binoculars: clear vision’s

only end is to sit down with silvered

hairs shining on your reading head, mustered

courage, to teach the young ’uns from wisdom.

Ithaca is where the bronzed galleon

arrives in a gust of wind, flagrant, fresh,

as melodic score of black olive nears,

with the sideways walk of pink crustacean;

at long last you will take a weary breath

when you arrive, licking the salt from tears.


You will remember, when the years have passed,

not Ithaca’s end, friends, but the travels—

through the dark woods, your children unravelled,

en route to sea lilies lodged in stone cracks.

Gardens of Ithaca, with their kumquats,

violets, crimson grapefruits spelling prose, 

interspersed with wild white Banksia rose,

jasmine, ivy, scarlet pomegranates.

The green cliffs over the sea wore their wealth

of sea birds—the fine Egyptian vulture—

island cypresses rose armoured, snow tipped.

The place to arrive in still of night, stealth

on journey—short as a dream, a flicker—

protecting golden eagle’s flight from cliff.

Emily Isaacson


[image: adobe stock, licensed]