“Ithaca” by C. P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

C. P. Cavafy, “Ithaca” from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems  (Princeton University Press, 1975). Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Translation Copyright © 1975, 1992 by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.

* Thanks to reader Belkis for suggesting this piece as a favorite poem.

I thought it paired nicely with Glen Hansard’s “Song of Good Hope.”

And take your time babe
It’s not as bad as it seems, you’ll be fine babe
It’s just some rivers and streams in between
You and where you wanna be
And watch the signs now
You’ll know what they mean, you’ll be fine now
Just stay close to me and make good hope
Walk with you through everything

“Freedom” by William Stafford (repost)

Freedom is not following a river.
Freedom is following a river
though, if you want to.

It is deciding now by what happens now.
It is knowing that luck makes a difference.

No leader is free; no follower is free–
the rest of us can often be free.
Most of the world are living by
creeds too odd, chancy, and habit-forming
to be worth arguing about by reason.

If you are oppressed, wake up about
four in the morning; most places
you can usually be free some of the time
if you wake up before other people.

from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems
Copyright 1998 by Graywolf Press

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Originally posted May 26, 2016; Brian Dean Powers included this piece during “Words With Brian” (his week of “hosting” Words for the Year). See his other selections here.

 

“There Will Be Things You Do” by Kim Dower

you won’t know why.
Maybe waiting to tie
your shoelaces

until everything else
is in place.
Could be you’ll slide

your egg yolks aside
eat every bit of bacon,
toast, whites while the forsaken

yellow orbs stare at you
from the side pocket
of your empty plate.

People will ask
why do you save
your yolks for last

and you won’t know—
won’t recall
the cousin from the south

came to visit one summer
ate his eggs so odd
your family said

stuck with you
like the way
you love to be kissed

on the back of your neck
can vaguely recollect
your mother’s kisses

after your bath
too gentle for memory.
There will be things you do

you won’t know why
like the way you look
up at the sky

when anxious or blue
it’s what your father
used to do

every family trip
when nothing else
was right

except those clouds
moving north by northwest
through the night

he showed you
what pilots knew:
factors for safe flying

are visibility
and how low
and mean the clouds are.

“There Will Be Things You Do” by Kim Dower from Last Train to the Missing Planet. © Red Hen Press, 2016.

* Thank you, Michelle T., for the recommendation. ❤


 

“To the Poets” by Howard Nemerov

Song sparrow’s limited creativity,
Three eighth-notes and a trill all summer long,
The falling second of the chickadee–
It’s a pretty humble business, singing song.

 
 
* Special thanks to reader Robert E. who offered this as one of his favorite poems. I appreciate the suggestion, and look forward to sharing more reader recommended pieces in the coming year.

Feel free to submit your own favorite via my contact page. ~Christy

“Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down” by Chris Bursk

If I’m going to be ashes in a decade or so,
why stay up past midnight staring at the television
as if it might have a change of heart
and put a third-party candidate in office for once
or end the war, and, while it was at it, clear up my grandson’s acne?
Maybe I should just enjoy the dog’s howling next door.
All night it’s been tugging at its chain
as if the links might finally get bored with being metal and snap.

If I’m going to be incinerated — burnt to a crisp —
in roughly 3,650 days, why am I sulking
because this morning of all mornings my car tired of doing
the same thing it had done the morning before,
and because half my class chose not to show up for a lecture that
I, their professor, a year from retirement, had hoped
would change their entire outlook
on comma splices? Once I’m ashes drifting away on the water,

what will it matter that years ago I threw up on my senior-prom date,
or last week forgot my wife’s sixty-first birthday,
or this morning embarrassed my grandson in front of his friends?
How do any of us prepare for the future
when we’re so busy making a mess
of the present? Perhaps this is time’s truest revenge:
to make us aware of its passing, every minute
of every day. Approximately 5,256,000 minutes

from now — give or take a month or year or two —
my son is going to stand on a bridge
with his children and do something he never thought
he’d have to do: let his quirky,
annoying, yet lovable (I’d hoped!) father slip through his fingers.
That’s my only comfort: I will be ashes
so fine they won’t even question the rocks
they fall on, the creek that sweeps them away.

For once I’ll not embarrass anyone.
For once I’ll not have to worry
about whether I’m doing something right.
I’ll perform the one miracle of my life.

by CHRIS BURSK, via The Sun Magazine. (Read more of Chris’s work; and Learn more about Chris.)

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* Many thanks to Ruby Pipes who recommended this poem for us. ❤