Jon Corelis

Ithaka - Poem by Jon Corelis

You've got to start out from wherever you are, to arrive
at the end of the road which has led you to where you are now.
Those island dreams, of the barebreasted virgins who sang
with skulls at their feet, and the dangerous craft of the witch,
whose calling could not be denied, and, deadliest of all,
the shining girl who smiled on the opulent shore,
where the trees dropped apples into your outstretched hand,
and the amorous vines grappled your feet as you trudged
to the palace that could have been yours, with its heartless wealth
and shallow-eyed retainers, - all these lures
were only starting-points towards your goal,
having no purpose but to be left behind.
You had a destination: it was yourself;
and though that self was hewn from anger, nursed
on slaughter, like the dead who sent you back
to stand revealed as father, husband, son,
fresh from the gore of fools whose last mistake
was not to know you, still, the choice you made
was not the choice of that great predator
who bartered life for pride on those bleak plains
and starkly summed the choice that breaks us all;
and if his bitter ghost recanted, choosing
the living homeless wretch above the warrior
famed in death, you, that come as both,
must know there's more than what is ultimate,
that life, while never fair, is always just,
since justice is what we are. Now leave behind
those twenty years that heaven has robbed you of,
and let your anger fade into the mists
that shroud the grey horizons of the dead.
It's done its job: it brought you to your home,
this undreamed isle, awash in the sensual sea,
whose undulant hills recline against the bays
and, crowned with eagles, gently challenge the sky.
She is the core, the hugely rooted pivot,
whose branching blood so deeply grips this earth
no wrath of storm nor insolence of men
can budge her from the birth she testifies
or shake the love like iron in her breast,
flutter her foliage in what light breeze it may.
No random winds delayed this homecoming
or blindly drove you finally to this shore.
The gods know what they're doing. So set your hand
to whatever they send you today, you mysterious stranger,
for they at last will ripen all desire.
Vines curl among the rocks; the air is sweet
with thyme and droning bees; the drowsy clang
of goat's bells drifts from ridge to ridge: perhaps
you're only beginning your setting out, perhaps
when you finally understand what such a place means,
then wherever you are will be the end of the road.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, August 18, 2009

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