CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive 
Sappho's Sparrows 
Meredith Stricker 

 
 
      SAPPHO'S SPARROWS 
     
     
       a series of messages, 
       exchanges & encounters 
       
       
        "beautiful swift sparrows 
        whirring fast beating wings" 

        "from the dark earth through the mid-air" 

                         Sappho, fragment 1 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sappho, though the technology has changed 
 
I am walking straight toward you, listening. 
Dry grass and American words are all I have 
to reach you. And this small clay figure of a boy 
whose belly is warm with dust, the thumbprint 
warm on the boy who makes us lie down 
and we lie down so that even flies love 
our skin & a woman speaks dark in each ear. 
While in this bright air, a man is hammering 
against marble that flares everything white 
in the sound of cicadas & wind. The invisible 
is not hiding. Appearance is not hollow 
clothing. Not a shell. The doves are your doves. 
Not emblems. Not hidden. They are close as 
the water's clear salt and where my heart dives no less. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

inhabited by your absence  
 

          "only one complete poem survives Sappho's nine books of lyrics"  
 
 

plowed field just at sunset 
 

stones, black sea urchins, sand 
 

the wash of salt 
 

candles, soap, white cup 
from the trellised marketplace 
 

bells, counting aloud 
 

everywhere your words have been torn away 
 

scant shelter of thistles, thin rain, shadow puppets, the moon 
yellow over blue Asia Minor 
 

each fragment a lacuna of perception shadows the unseen 
 

clear glass of water, 
the sound of waves 
 

just as transparent as olive groves 
drawing light into their leaves & fruit 
 

there are so many places to find you 
 

in the endless 
 

white spaces you have left us 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

a telegram from S 
hastily    translated 
 

  

BELIEVE THIS 

LUCENT MOUTH FLOWERING 
 

SHRINES -- EVERYTHING SEEN 

(no exclusion) 
 

a later footnote appeared on green paper 
wrapped around a stone near the porch steps 
 

EROS -- "TRANSFORMATIONAL ACTIVITY" -- THE POEM 
 

A LONG FALL INTO 
INTELLIGENCE  

in love with 
 

  

WHITE SEA CLIFF EDGE, 
PATH THROUGH CYPRESS, WHERE WE'RE HEADED  
 

eyes open  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

maps to the cliff edge  

. . . . . . . .what is visible. . . . . . . . . .  
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
carries us inside. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
. . . . . . . [what is visible]. . . . . . . .takes us close 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . as the moon . . . . . .  
increases. . . . . . . . what is visible increases 
. . . . . . . . recovers. . . . . . . . . [is shining] 
. . . . . . . . & clear, cicadas. . . . . . . .the actual 
grows larger. . . . . . . . takes us far. . . . . . . 
[is not hiding]. . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . .Ochre wax. . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . . [white] . . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . . washed rock. . . . . . . . 
oregano. . . . . . . .a gate. . . . . . . . .[Young mother] 
. . . . . . . . blue swallow. . . . . . . . .It is not a trick. . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . .this gravel path. . . . . . . . 
laurel leaves. . . . . . . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . . . . . climbing roses 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
we are. . . . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . . not 
turned away. . . 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

the quality of mercy  

holds out her hand. . . . . . I go walking in the dark 
. . . . . . . . . . .porcelain face in the grass. . . . . . . . . . . . 
worn, milky blue, a charm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . . . . . . Her face is sepia and gentle. . . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . . . . . . come to me beyond all roses and praise 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
My heart is a grammar lesson lark 
 
who sings as the grain beats green on our legs, a field 
 
that flame does not burn, it must be light, it must be secret 
 
our walking there. . . . . . hollows in the turf. . . . . . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . white stones in a line. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
the machines can't mow water down . . . . . . . . . . . . 
 
she raises the light in her hand 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
 
. . . . . . . . . . . . across the night field 
 
all that is lost. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

the orchard  

                'as the sweet-apple reddens on the bough-top'   
                                       -- Sappho, fragment 105  

mutsu, keepsake, russet  
irregular, fertile treasury  
of names in the mouth  

eating the imagined,  

we lie in  
late fall grasses  
deep green moving  

inside  

caves of happiness  

the creek shines nearby  
for coyotes, foxes & deer  
invisible in this wild  

garden, temporary  
peace between the cultivated  

& what lives outside our naming  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

dear reader  

You wanted to see a picture of me. 

Here's one way. 

 

and 2 seconds later: 

 

yours,  

S 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

shopping list  
 

            `. . .robe. . . saffron. . . purple robe . . . cloak 
               . . . garlands . . .'   -- Sappho, fragment 92  

 
purple & russet silk 
gold flame pattern 
birdwing throat 
scent of sunflower pollen  
myrrh & pale jasmine  
iridescent water weave  
grass green rose dust  
falls loosely over shoulders  
plum leaf: haze, light 
spilling water bowl, a morning  
of skin skimming freshly woven  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

to speak in smells, as one animal to another 
 
 

                                                       I.  
 
 

ravens calling at sunrise                                     how poplar stems smell, slightly              & sunset                                          bitter where they join red & green  
                                                                               sun on granite   
                          the heat inside  

   
                                                                                 what matters most  
 

dirt close to the shovel, grease on axle bearings, red cloth smeared with                            pine pollen & resin, fresh morning air:  
                                                  a catch at the throat  

 

         very cold & bright                           locked aluminum casing, titanium  
                                  wire, sparks across electrodes  
 
refrigerated egg, an idea held                                                           tight & clear in the mind  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
an idea held  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
II.  
                                                              Orion grows brighter,          smell of inches & leaves, the dust     of armchairs & books, copper  
                                                                                a way out & into  
anything hammered                                                  mended & torn again   

   

   first sun in weeks                                        falling & falling inside yourself 
                                           how wonderful:           bright flicker of quartz  

                                                               & numerous birds 
 

                                          at the heart:          filament & arc, seam of  skin  

                                                           the catch, the locket,  

         the edge:                   net full of water  

                       & equally empty  

 
what to give up & what to hold onto:  
 

the interior of hair, the way he parts his hair to prove it's not a pelt, the respectable man with his arms frantically upraised:  "I am not an animal", he cries,  all evidence to the contrary, "I am not an animal".  Betrayed by breath & bone, every pore, every follicle reveals, every smell, every scrap of body betrays & saves us                                 moving where?   

that paradise of upheaval,   
                                                                the exact place
                                                                you find yourself  
 

now    
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
net full of water  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
III.  
 

                                        what you used to think was weak   

             smell of newly opened iris & lilacs   & now find is alive and incredibly strong  
 
   oak leaves under fresh snow,  

     the story moving backward   

                                                            sliding into thaw   

                                                    rust & metal shavings  
 

     excess of melting, joyous  

                                                ripe mulberries overhang  

         summer lake, floating  

                                                                    like a swan, a freefall  

                                             return to the world  
 

                   read this book of rainwater  

                                   book made entirely of smells & silence  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

"blue: the sea, the sky, the unknown"  

 
 
 

a stone to pound open green  
almond husks -- white inside  

the seed inside the seed  

finding the moon reflected in waves  
 
 

                     \   

      

another mystery:  the deep blue 
sea made of clear water  

how our eyes create love 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

lumen: light, eye, opening  

"and the whole place shadowed by roses"  
                                    -- Sappho, fragment 2  
 

shadow cast by the moving shade 
of plane trees 

voluntary blindness, acquired patiently  
with great & hopeless effort  

                                         a place so deep  
light can only enter as an  
idea                        plummeting more deeply into  
 

this unclothed                abundance  
                    "empty space or  

missing part":                             hollowed  :  lumened  

luein   < luein >   a loosening  

   

lyre of × × × × × × × × unbound light