Denise Jarrott

Elegy: Sappho of Lesbos

A note on the text

The following poems are an erasure of a journal I kept for two weeks in January and early February of 2014. Later that year, I burned the original journal entries, though kept a file of the erasure "poems" on my computer. In May of 2015, over a year later, I erased every word that did not contain an l, an o, a v, or an e. Later still, I rearranged the words, omitted some, and created 31 fragments to honor the found documents of Sappho's songs. This dismantling of text, language, and longing does nothing to destroy my work, but rather gives it a new shape, new life. It is in constant motion, constant evolution and devolution. Immediately after writing this note, I permanently deleted the file containing the erasure poems.

Fragments

I.
let rotating love

 

II.
let love not be
so constantly

 

III.
annihilate, wonder
after establishing look, not overcome

 

IV.
the body not severance

 

V.
tension
we
feel, nevertheless

 

VI.
so never remain

 

VII.
morning drive:
wonder rotates
novelty rotates
drive, face
pulled on

 

VIII.
never vow
Never feel
[longing
vertigo

 

9.   

leave desire
ruthless ,            shivering
looking to

 

10.   

"Love be
still.
Paradox:
ice
rotates
will
rotates
always
the
little overcome

 

11.   

blue encounters

 

12.   

novelty:
feels only vertigo
like every
limb toward conquest
the world would conquer,
nevertheless not die

 

13.   

slow country the
sweet coast the
blaze
all to time
all to space

 

14.   

the ruthless
erasures
retained plans
overcome conclusions
closure

 

15.   

solemnly you
encounter
the possible

 

16.   

glass conclusions, itself ablaze

 

17.   

unbearably you
all stop
one solemn little hotel.

 

18.   

your blue
double vow
the light window feels
utterly possible

 

19.   

April shower near
the "[longing" hotel
speak,
Love

 

20.   

Jules

double tenderness
nevertheless
Light rushes
to conceal the body, partially thrown

 

21.   

little Letters glow

 

22.   

bed,
You empty
possession:

 

23.   

meet
somewhere
Leave
Notes, meet

 

24.   

Eros reading:
"so poems
have
"]longing"?

 

25.   

Sappho inside the
Love
Song

 

26.   

the
kitchen
the
chair
the
Cézanne
the
table
the
wine
the
shower
the
hotel

 

27.   

leave
the
theaters
shivering:
possession
utterly
emptied

 

28.   

strange minutiae

 

29.   

The
erased
quote
the
end

 

30.   

Eros
be
sweet,
friend

 

31:   

Dream
fragment:
"The
Love
Jules,

The
same
name"

Ø (island)

Is a pond, bisected by the barely visible
man in a canoe. Is a mask made by a mute, or used
in some silent theater no one performs anymore.

Is a mirror, which splits to reveal a cupboard,
rusted and my face doubled on itself,
as if I could perform such impossible

pleasantries. I don't want to see it anymore. No
one speaks this language but for those for whom
death is local and bland as bread, sliced

and handed to me as I left the house. Tell
me again: will you arrive by land or sea? I suppose
I do not understand the nature of the place.

There

is no water here.

Π(house)

Held back, or some desks did not contain me. I dressed
plain the first day, wore black and pulled back my hair.
I did not want to leave the house. It was plenty dark
when I woke up. The door warped at the hinges, shrunk
in winter. The house had been here, matted in ivy before

and will be forever. I wanted to see more of this place,
but found that it was a shoulder rising up out of the void.
How plain it would have been, how pleasant, had we looked into
the mirror and seen nothing. Had we looked into the mouth
of the well and saw only darkness. The glass is darkening

in the Chinese mirror. The wind is shuttering me back
into the bed where I was born. I must leave this place.
If I must, emerge. Place your face
against the screen and push.