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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sappho

Anne Carson:
Eros the Bittersweet (read 2008)
Plainwater (read last month)
If not, winter (Fragments of Sappho) (read last night)
Decreation (to read tonight)

It is said one foot in the past, one in the future, and you piss on the present. So, sapphic fragments, here we go.
I had forgotten I had started a blog two years ago. I had forgotten about fier/fierce, Emily Dickinson.

This morning, I finished a poem inspired by Carson's translations of Sappho's fragments. I call it
This

left

thinking of the unexpected turns of meanings -- this.... this what? this + a time, or a person? This...
as opposed to that. This, with all the intimacy of pointing... double space, a little to the right... and the next word,
left. Left as in the past participle of leave. as in the sense of what is left over, what remains. But buried remains are still dead. So what is lost when it leaves if anything. What is gone in spite of what remains.

I'm asking a lot from the title.

It was inspired by thinking of these greek letters, some present, some lost. I have lost my ability to decipher the Greek, not that it was that great. The translation of fragments is not the usual transfer of a block of text
to another language, thought system. It is the thought system prodded by letters, syllables, what is known about Sappho,
it is also the hint of musicality, the movement, the silence that hints at the intention towards language.

Why would anyone be interested in poorly recorded songs? Or maybe it is that since the turn of the 19th century, we are interested in parcels of experience, like moveable parts, to be glued together in various tangrams to represent not circle, triangle, square, but suggestions of forms. Imagine, out of nine books of lyrics, only one poem is complete.



So here is my poem -- like any poem, it is a draft. 6/11/09
This
left

I
fragment tran-
slated
leaving only sinister turn
sus
pending

what is left

what did leave

what to do with remains
] demonstrative this

]what clamors bells
another
give
another
name.

II

I asked my friend how she reads Sappho.
like a biscuit –

and I imagine just mouthing it all in
bocal juices swilling words
distilling senses
a page with scattered words
that refuse to die

jawbones drawing the lips
raising bridges
and that tongue
disguising its muscle
tilts
lightly on
palate
sings fine bird songs, like this morning’s
bob o’link, his small breast a quiver
neck stretched up in the light
oblivious to the sizzling of the power lines
but who is to say?


What does our tongue hear
from that cavity which holds the heart?

III
Oh crazy heart begging translation
lo[ ]shortening valve
lov[ ]needing silent ease after all.

no
] blame
{ signature

song
moves
]that dark cave
the tongue hears
] beating host

IV
… any sing
led
single syllable:
]its singular sound
so puckered
sw[

some men say power is gold
some men say gold is shipweight
rolling tanks, armor-blind forces

so men gold
memory
plaited in her hair.

V
]
“if not, winter”

{ d minor winds its tune
two English syllables
gentle folk:
I want

this word: voglio

VI
Call that little Italian night bird
wake up to steal away

even a person with nothing
gives

this ] pause for thought
dare

VII
Exhaustion of the mind
is it memory
] citing fragment 47
“Eros shook my
mind like a mountain wind falling on oak trees”

I wish I’d thought of that line.

and bite into this biscuit from fragment 44
“…sweetflowing flute and kithara mingled
with the clip of castanets and piercingly then the maidens
sang a holy song and straight up the air went
amazing sound [ ”

biscuit lathered with butter and honey
imagination almond paste

elder women, men also fill bowls, chew slowly
one hundred times in the mouth
young children have strewn garlands

praise gathers strength against dark whispers

VIII
sweetworded desires
streetborders
outward

why on a beautiful day
[ ]enclosed in a mall

IX
Spangled mind she says?
Praise to dappled things he says.

birds embroidered in shimmer-silk
now dipped in silvercut pain
bound many rows back
like seasons ago

X
shadow rushes into emptiness
shivers through light
pinned in charcoaled lines
on the road
outlines
of burgeoning oak in spring
] the parade
again
] left

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