dark starry sky over sea
Photo by David Troeger on Unsplash

Night at Ithaca by Federica Santini

Unmoved, you hold the expanse of the sea

in your palm, outstretched melody of sense.

Dust shudders in the black gnats of stars.

The pulse of the tide moves with your hand,

your longing undoes the thread on the shroud.

Cut back your losses in an extravagance

of senses entwined, foam enraged on the rocks.

Knife in hand, rise free from waiting and pain:

the pattern undone, your own voyage begins.


Federica Santini lives in Atlanta, GA, and teaches at Kennesaw State University. She holds an MA from the University of Siena, Italy, and a PhD from UCLA. Her work has been published widely in North America and Europe. Her chapbook, Unearthed, is forthcoming with Kelsay Books.

Author's note

"Night at Ithaca" is a revisitation of the long absence of Odysseus, in which I wanted to look at Penelope’s perspective and destiny. In the Odyssey, Penelope patiently waits while Odysseus wanders for years across the Mediterranean; in order to keep suitors at bay, she asks that they wait until she has finished weaving a shroud and delays the moment by unravelling it every night. When Odysseus finally returns, she accepts him back and is since remembered as a loyal, patient wife. I wanted to twist her character into weaving not the shroud but her own destiny, giving voice to her doubts and independence: what if Penelope decided to cut the thread and live on her own terms?