After Sappho

by Charles Gabel

I wake up to know that I am not in love. I wake up and the sun is not warm on my
face, but I will try to make it so in poems. I wake up and feel the little tattoo on my arm. Two lines of raised letters along the inside of my right bicep. A Sappho fragment in Greek:

               	ἅγι δῆ χἐλυ δῖα μοι λἐγε
               φωνἀεσσα δἑ γἰνεω

Anne Carson translates this fragment: yes! radiant lyre, speak to me/ become a voice. Carefully, I pronounce the Greek—agi de kelu...dia moi gineo... I try to hold Sappho in my voice.

I wake up and run my fingers across the scar of the lyre. I remember that I am not in love. I remember three years ago—G______ running her small fingers across the
newly inked cuts while big, teary snow rustled the morning.

I remember C_____ in Colorado in spring. The dawn was warm across us. Her head
on my chest, her arm across me, her fingers pulled across the same two little lines. She lifted her head and closed her lips on the scar to close me.

I wake up and remember that the sun is only warm in my poems.

                                                                  your mouth
                                                                  closed on my skin
                                                                  as a syllable
                                                                  a vowel closed
                                                                  in speech
                                                                  to close me—I
                                                                  want to speak
                                                                  this music’s
                                                                  hot pain

About the Author

Charles Gabel is a writer and educator living in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he works in a writing center and teaches composition at an open-access college. He completed an MFA at Boise State before working for several years at the Cincinnati Public Library. He is the poetry editor for Coast|noCoast (, and you can read other poems in Yalobusha Review, The Journal Petra, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Delta Review, and Dreginald.