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The Greeks of 1983

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

—C. P. Cavafy

Like one of Cavafy’s young boys lurking

in the dark cafes of Alexandria for love,

I was close to the grammarians and the aristocrats,

living in Pennsylvania among the exiled

Greeks, who fed me ripe pistachios

and bites of lamb.They sang me songs

about the blue fields of garlic,

stone streets and white houses,

dark curtains drawn against the noon.

We drank strong coffee and they read my future

in the muddy grounds: You will work

along the edges all your life, never at the center

and never rich, but a good friend to the rich

especially in your later years.

I felt myself beloved of all the poets I read:

one of Auden’s men, one of Sappho’s women,

one of the animals of Gerald Stern.

My Greeks taught me the sound of waves

over black beaches, showed me seashells smaller

than a fingernail, the yellow moon—

fengare—reflected in the sea.

I learned six words for love

and the word for daisy which is my name—

how to say the big sea, little orange tree,

and my child. Sometimes they called me that—

to pethi mou—and in those days we were as

little children, making our first visions

setting out on our marvelous journeys.

from Dear AllFind more by Maggie Anderson at the library

Copyright © 2017 Maggie Anderson
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Maggie Anderson Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.