57 Sappho: Lemon

This poem is inspired by our discussion of Anne Carson’s, ‘If Not, Winter’. Specifically, I wanted to write a poem that highlighted Sappho’s depictions of both grief and longing.



By: Valerie Jackman



Almost like the memories of me

are just a dull taste on her tongue.

Like imagining a lemon

and being able to taste it

just for a moment or so.

That is all I am to her now,

a moment.

A moment in time, on the tongue,

so unrecognizable that the mere existence of our memories begins to jeopardize

her Becoming.

She loves me, she loves me not

as who she wants to be now.

She loves me as the person she has shed.


I know I could still keep her warm,

but even I now, too, begin to witness our colors fade.

The dullness of forgotten love,

an enveloping haze: grey.


The urge to breathe slowly on her neck,

now only a window

to which I attempt to wipe clean of the fog of my breath,

unable to understand how a breath so true could be what is now only a distraction.

I cannot see through the glass.

No matter how many breaths I take,

I know she must be there to wipe it clean.

To see her clearly on the other side is now and will forever be

a mere fantasy,

within which I choose to orbit.


She once told me that her liking of birds

was rooted in the fact that

with each time you recognize a bird, it feels the same as recognizing a human.

She insisted that this was ‘backed by science’.

But now,

I lay on the pillows of grass

only a few steps away from where we said our final goodbye.

And I can’t help but stop writing

each time a bird flutters above me.

Some diving into the field of trees lining the reservoir,

some floating above those who choose

to rest in a glide.

But all I can recognize is you,

flying further and further away from me.

Finally free.




And I will never forget the lemon tree

you planted for me.

The leaves are dry and fragile now,

even the slightest touch would make them fall

onto a dry,


bed of soil.

I still dream of you

and me, picking lemons from our garden,

and reminiscing on our first lemon tree.

I imagine you laughing at how little I knew ‘back then’.

Us laughing at how we never could have imagined what our love would one day blossom into.


But each morning,

without fail,

I wake now without you.

I see our fallen leaves,


of a year’s worth of water,

and I can’t help but choose my dream.

To choose the world where we didn’t let go,

where we grew together.

But I wake,

day after day,

with only the dull bitterness of an imagined lemon

on my tongue.

One we never witnessed flower.


Gender & Sexuality in Ancient Greece Copyright © by Jody Valentine. All Rights Reserved.

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