Sappho’s Gift This Spring Morning

Can passion or creativity come ex nihilo? I don’t know but I believe they can be cultivated; they can grow. I know for me passion for photography and video is greater today than even just last year. I think images all the time now—when I’m on the treadmill at the gym, while driving to UPS or sipping my McDonald’s senior decaf looking at what’s new in the spring garden.
A pristine love for words and writing comes and goes. I like elegant paucity which is why I adore poetry, but only when my mind is clear like a spring morning. The few words that run across the page in a lyric poem seem all to shine with the gravity of heavenly thoughts. They fall, as my piano teacher once instructed me for plucking notes from the piano, like pearls dropping on a wooden floor when the string breaks.
This morning, lounging in bed while the sun cleared the sky of nighttime clouds, I read Willis Barnstone’s translations from the Greek of Sappho’s poems (Sweetbitter Love: Poems of Sappho, Shambhala, 2006). From “Prayer to Afroditi”:

Come to me now and loosen me

from blunt agony. Labor

and fill my heart with fire. Stand by me

and be my ally.

The poems struck two chords. Like other Greeks of her time, praying to the Olympian gods must have been as commonplace as Christians today praying to Jesus: for gifts of love or harvest, for relief from sickness or love’s agonies. The other chord goes mano a mano with this morning’s sunlight: love, spring love, adulterous love, any kind of love!

Sometimes love feels like a giant feast’s aftertaste in the mouth or morning-after mouth: too much, and too much regret. Love can sate to the point of repugnance. Other times love regains its spring-water freshness, a feather touch on the skin, a simple, devastating “hello,” a quick kiss, a whisper of choir in a quiet church, her faint perfume while you’re cleaning the house months after she has gone.


when I look at you a moment

my voice is empty

and can say nothing as my tongue

cracks and slender fire races

under my skin. My eyes are dead

to light, my ears

pound, and sweat pours over me.

I convulse…

This woman Sappho, in Barnstone’s translation (I didn’t much care for his translation of the New Testament Gospels but here he shines), sound like a modern woman—soft, bold, loving and envying, needy or in love. She speaks of emotions you or I might have today, this moment. And she makes us feel less alone with our solitary thoughts, our despairing feeling. We’re linked, all to one another, like Indra’s net in which are caught the jewels of consciousness, of our pure humanity.

Posted via email from The Pursuit of Duende

About orlando gustilo

Digital content producer, photographer, writer.
This entry was posted in creativity, Digital Content Production, Photography, Writers. Bookmark the permalink.

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