φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν
ἔμμεν’ ὤνηρ, ὄττις ἐνάντιός τοι
ἰσδάνει καὶ πλάσιον ἆδυ φονεί-
καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν, τό μ’ ἦ μὰν
καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόαισεν·
ὠς γὰρ ἔς σ’ ἴδω βρόχε’, ὤς με φώναί-
σ’ οὐδ’ ἒν ἔτ’ εἴκει,
ἀλλά κὰμ μὲν γλῶσσα †ἔαγε†, λέπτον
δ’ αὔτικα χρῷ πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμηκεν,
ὀππάτεσσι δ’ οὐδ’ ἒν ὄρημμ’, ἐπιρρόμ-
βεισι δ’ ἄκουαι,
κὰδ’ δέ ἴδρως κακχέεται, τρόμος δὲ
παῖσαν ἄγρει, χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίας
ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ’ ὀλίγω ‘πιδεύης
φαίνομ’ ἔμ’ αὔτᾳ.
ἀλλὰ πὰν τόλματον, ἐπεὶ †καὶ πένητα† . . .
Translated from the Greek by Sean Lyon
I’m in the corner when this godlike man
appears right next to you and near, so close
with his sweet-toned clear words that float in space
between you two that now the air is thin
and running thinner: he just breathes, you breathe
along with him, you’re mocking my despair
with laughs to his desire, and you, from there
at center stage, have sent my heart, no oath
for its return, to some exciting place
where speech has ceased, though here my eyes resume
their steady watch on you, my silent frame
shakes and is seized by your cold fire and grace
that crawls around my skin and licks the part
of me that sinks into a void, I’m lost
as you and he conspire with tongues of frost,
what little air was left is gone, my heart
and I are lost to the touch, cold sweat, I’m led
out trembling in my hollow wishes, choked.
The cries of greener grass have been revoked,
you’re merciless. I’m pale and poor and dead.
SAPPHO was a lyric poet who lived on the island of Lesbos in seventh-century B.C. She was one of nine poets, and the only woman, included in the canon at the Library of Alexandria. Of her full body of work, two hundred fifty fragments are catalogued today.
SEAN LYON is a native Texan living in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. He writes fiction and poetry, and teaches English and math to young students. He has a story published online at Cleaver Magazine and poems printed in the The Main Street Rag and 491.