Washington Square Review


Fragment 31



φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν

ἔμμεν’ ὤνηρ, ὄττις ἐνάντιός τοι

ἰσδάνει καὶ πλάσιον ἆδυ φονεί-

σας ὐπακούει


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† . . .



fragment 31

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The cries of greener grass have been revoked,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.