National Poetry Month, day four

I found this poem in the collection Good Poems for Hard Times, edited by Garrison Keillor. It’s a moody poem, not at all optimistic, as it hinges upon an unmet person at an awful time in their lives. It casts Ithaca as a cold, bleak place — and assuming that the author means Ithaca, NY, this is not my experience at all, but there’s nothing about my experience that trumps another’s. And besides, perhaps author Leonard Nathan isn’t actually referring to Ithaca, NY but calling back to the mythic Ithaca of Odysseus and his long journey home.

by Leonard Nathan

There was a woman in Ithaca
who cried softly all night
in the next room and helpless
I fell in love with her under the blanket
of snow that settled on all the roofs
of the town, filling up
every dark depression.

Next morning
in the motel coffee shop
I studied all the made-up faces
of women. Was it the middle-aged blonde
who kidded the waitress
or the young brunette lifting
her cup like a toast?

Love, whoever you are,
your courage was my companion
for many cold towns
after the betrayal of Ithaca,
and when I order coffee
in a strange place, still
I say, lifting, this is for you.

More on Leonard Nathan.

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