after Sappho*


Stop your sighs now, friend.

Comb your hair, mend your blouse,

and quit pandering for                                     pity.

I have seen your                                                 trembling,

knuckles all knotted in nerves.

Almost nothing but                                                 flesh by now, old age

sags your inner thighs and                                     covers

muscle with cobwebbed ideals. Youth             flies in pursuit

of yesterday and you do nothing to stop it.

If you sleep, you are wasting the moon.

If you cry, you shed only your own tears.

But if you straighten your spine,                         noble

one, and see that today is for                                     taking

back, then you can truly                                     sing to us

about                                                                         the one with violets in her lap.

Reclaim that beauty quickly,                                     mostly

before any ripe heartache                                     goes astray



* Please note: the text in the right column comes from If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, Anne Carson’s translation.