Three Poems: Burning Sappho

by Temple Cone

by Quinn Dombrowski

Burning Sappho

“you burn me”
~ Sappho fr.38, trans. Anne Carson

First, understand
no one felt regret.
This tenth Muse,
whose limbs loosened
at a touch, melting
swift as tallow
into tears, sang
of slatterns and sluts,
made love a city pimp,
tricked out Psyche
in cheapest rouge.
She plucked hearts
easily as lyre strings,
mimicked, mocked
our secret hungers,
baring them to the light.
Even her papyri,
inked with characters
whose couplings
made the world
words, were flimsy
and tempting
as a woman’s lace,
her scent everywhere,
her lovers, rejected
or forgotten,
clutching still at this prize
raiment and the body
echoing within.
It took days to gather
all her books.
Outside the library,
a harbor breeze
stirred the hems of robes,
breathed dust underfoot.
The bundles caught fast,
collapsed in sighs
of feathery smoke
with a s ingeing flash
whose memory lasts
longer than its burning.

 
 

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Temple Cone is the author of two books of poetry, The Broken Meadow and No Loneliness. An associate professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy, he lives in Annapolis with his wife and daughter. Visit him at templecone.com.