strings of silver lights between the garden trees
float and sway in the summer air, and all the colors of the stars—
when crowned luminous in gold hair she appears at the door,
of the stars, the brightest
she dances with me, free and wild in a scarlet prom gown
mingling the silver bracelets on our wrists as we walk home
and lays her head in my lap by a cold screen's glow
she burns me
o beloved, soft-eyed, blessed of deathless Aphrodite!
I lean against the bathroom door to hear her sing
in the white-dropping rain. she dresses in front of me and laughs,
"we're both girls here"
in the still togetherness of 2 a.m. and fleece bundled around her arms
lying next to her, I cannot help but pray—mother Sappho,
why (now again) do I suffer? what (now again)
should I do?
mother, I tremble in anxious pain, she loves a man more than me
when I look at her, I am like a stone and my palms seem to bleed
as she meets them. I have been struck by the brilliance
and beauty of the sun
but you whisper—come, radiant lyre, and find your voice
rest and wait for the dawn to open for you. your pain is love
and no healing waits in silence. you shall know when
to open your lips.
and as strings of purple nightlights watch our bed
and the summer air reaches from the window to pick strands
of her gold hair, the blessed sleeps, and my hand cups
the glow of her cheek
A/N: This poem was written as an experiment in writing Sapphic lyric verse. The following lines, marked in the text, are excerpts from Sappho's surviving poems and fragments. I primarily used Anne Carson's translations, as they are most similar to my style of poetry. I have included the original Greek translation of the line, the number of the fragment, and Carson's translation from her collection If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho.
1. of the stars, the brightest
ἀστέρων πάντων ὀ κάλλιστος
Carson: "of all stars the most beautiful"
2. she burns me
Carson: "you burn me"
3. deathless Aphrodite
Carson: "deathless Aphrodite"
4. why (now again) do I suffer? what (now again) should I do?
ἤρε' ὄττι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι δηὖτε κάλημμι
Carson: "[you] asked what (now again) I have suffered and why (now again) I am calling out"
5. she loves a man more than me
Ἤ τιν' ἄλλον [μᾶλλον] ἀνθρώπων ἔμεθεν φίλησθα
Carson: "or you love some man more than me"
6. I have been struck by the brilliance and beauty of the sun
*The original Greek of this passage is unavailable, as new fragments of the same poem were discovered after Carson's translation. Even though this translation is now technically outdated, I still liked it enough to include.
Carson: "and this to me—the brilliance and beauty of the sun—desire has allotted"
7. come, radiant lyre, and find your voice
ἄγι δή, χέλυ δῖα, μοι φωνάεσσα γένοιο
Carson: "yes! radiant lyre speak to me, become a voice"