Sappho: A Voice
I. Your biography is legend like your death down the face of white cliffs into the Ionian sea. You called hurricanes with a whisper and in that whisper felt erotic. Call out to Achilles as a high, blushing apple. Did you tear your garments in grief? Those white robes clean as the cliffs you stood upon as you redefined the poet, alone and feeling, raw as the salt that spat back through to which the winds you murmured. Before you leapt you must have licked your lips to taste that delicious ocean once more before dying your clean death, metered as the crash of the tides, and before your fall you were closer to the gods, closer for Aphrodite to hear you cursing her for the bittersweet all through your descent. You sent your body as a love letter to him. II. Lyric over the click of fish spines drawn back through teeth, beside the lyre plucked like those fragile piscine bones. Each foot the pluckers forgot not, for with their music verse was bread dipped in honey and in which listening girls became bright shaking leaves who surpassed in beauty all mortality. Choral, coral. From the sea you rose, rosy-armed, were named the tenth muse. Aphrodisiacal, nectar in the cup, sliding down the throat, raised in you a song of Pleaides. The moon is round as the coins you adorn, as sweet faces, as young breasts on you and your chorus of girls. How syllabic they stand on what the dawn light scatters, unwary of golden death and its soft stress.
—italicized lines in this poem stem from Sappho’s poems
I’ve planned a wedding with half a guest list, but all the booze & salmon filets to feed both halves, invited and yet to be. The invitation reads: We, Katherine and yet to be found invite you to join us in celebrating our love and union on Saturday, the 18th of April, 2020. The date sounded futuristic enough to give me time to find someone to fill in the “yet to be found” position. No Save the Dates were sent for it felt like tempting fate. Many calls rang in as these hand- calligraphed, hand-delivered envelopes were uncovered in mailboxes. Who is yet to be found? Will you take his name? Found? To be found? Sounds exotic. When do we get to meet him? As soon as I’ve found him or her; I’ve yet to decide. Some white lies were crafted for cake tasters; about my fiancé(e) being out of the country or having a severe gluten intolerance to where (s)he can eat it, but can’t be around the raw, uncooked flour. The florist understood well enough my spouse-to-be’s rare allergy to cut stems, satisfied by being strong enough to work in such a hazardous environment. Peonies, peach and mahogany. Peach for my cheeks, mahogany for my spouse-to-be’s eyes; it seemed statistically plausible. I found an observatory with light coming from all sides for the ceremony, to light the tear I know will fall as our hands join, found the angle I’d face so friends and family will see it like a little jewel glued to my cheek. I divulge to my pet rabbit, who of course will be Instagrammably incorporated as the ring bearer and flower girl in one, my preemptive planning, her gnashing expresses worry, as I’ve learned to decode from years of cohabitation. I explain that weddings are always spectacle, always planned by the bride, masked as ceremony and celebration representative of the relationship up until that point, turn, step, but it’s all a spell we tell ourselves about the occasion. Really I’m saving him or her time, pain, time. In the end, (s)he’ll be grateful that all (s)he has to do is find a tux or dress, slip on or lace up and walk down the aisle.
About the Author
Katherine Gaffney completed her MFA at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is currently working on her PhD at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her work has previously appeared in jubilat, Harpur Palate, Mississippi Review, Meridian, and elsewhere. She has attended the Tin House’s Summer Writing Workshop, the SAFTA Residency, and the Sewanee Writer’s Conference as a scholar. Her first chapbook, Once Read as Ruin, was published at Finishing Line Press.