Sophie Collins

After Sappho

Late at night we gather to read the ancients.
Past the glass are scenes of a world on fire:
forests falling, hospitals overflowing.
Here, we escape it.

One by one, we whisper the songs of Sappho,
weave of words a tapestry formed from fragments
passed from mouth to mask-hidden mouth: tradition
newly translated.

One of us can summon the Greek from symbols.
One of us can sing the bewitching rhythm.
He could be the chickenman by the river,
stripped of his music.

Poets, Kingsbane argues, are poor musicians;
Shakespeare and his colleagues would beg to differ.
I’m not sure – but surely outliving Jesus
must count for something.

Thunder’s daughter asks me if I write poems,
asks as though the answer is safe for giving,
listens like she cares for the conversation,
hears what I tell her.

I write best alone in a blazing shower.
All my words are echoes of those who’ve raised me:
bloodline blessings, hand-me-down wisdom, lessons
for and in living.

After this, I’m flying the flag of poet.
Name myself and honour the teacher’s wishes.
Woolf and William, Emily, Amy, David:
words will outlive us.

Sophie Collins lives, works, and writes on unceded Arrernte land. These days she’s into modern magic: poetry, love stories, desert rivers, and cardiorespiratory physiology.