Four Voices

Article excerpt

(each triggered by a scrap of Sappho; translator, Anne Carson)

i

if not, winter

that summer he chased a man

all the way to Florida

then having to face

his final rejection

six months before he died

he told you the straight friend

how he turned to Buddhism

learning to cast off

the self and the

inconsequent body

but then

the longing beat up in him

his untouched flesh

choking him

in the extremity of his loneliness

in Philadelphia the pills he'd hoarded

and taken

left him rotting for ten days

in the heat of his apartment

which after the service you cleaned

sorting his things out

in that stench

crying and cursing

summer belonged

to the lives of the loved

if not, winter your portion

ii

no more than the bird

with piercing voice

is the hammer

of this woman's outrage, likewise

the soft-mouthed kiss that a man

offers me

it is always less

although it does not seem so

the proffer of these human things

against what is out there

within and despite our intervention

the blood souring

the turned cancerous cell

the burst heart

no more than

the bird with piercing voice

although it seems so

iii

You burn me? …