My Version of Sappho #31

A friend of mine who’s doing a course on poetry and translation, recently wrote a version of Sappho’s Fragment #31. She challenged me to do the same. The idea was to  not  be literal but try to keep to the spirit of it – and in one’s own voice. – or at least that’s how I decided to respond.

There’s a whole slew of translations/ versions on-line. Here’s an interesting blog post  about Sappho 31 – which is apparently famous – so now I know 🙂 . And lots of translations/versions here.

But here’s my effort (I’ve been reading lots of Emily Dickinson lately – hence the generous use dashes):

 #31

Who is he, that man, to sit there
closest to you on the sofa all evening
as if with god-given rights
to be the one

feeling your breath on his cheek
when you speak. Oh – huskily you laugh
and my heart cramps – pain

in my belly – cheeks on fire –
I look at you and my throat chokes
with its red desire – hands
shake, tingle –

go numb – jaws lock. I will faint
if you look at me. Some giant’s
gas mower roars – tears at my green leaves,
downs me,

leaves me wilting, in the blaze
of your careless glance. If you do – glance
even once at my dumb paleness.
I can’t move –

can’t talk. This
is death…

<ee>

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