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