Sappho on the Rocks


Your speech
tongue in cheek, like descriptions of cocktails
in this bar full of handsome strangers
who won’t meet my eye

by your own voice, you speak
dangling pick-up lines like the glossy jewelry
we Hellenes use to con barbarians
into opening their cities to us

At my throat, like an arrowhead—
a venomous shot of Muse
quivering, thrilling to consume

Eros, I say, knows no bounds
doubts not
whether to draw—of the bowstring
when to loose—an arrow

Reaching for Sappho’s knee
you describe a chariot
yoked with sparrows

and it dawns on me:
this is Hades, Alcaeus

You smooth out my gown, place
your hand
over my mouth

On my face, like an animal—
a full beard, a bald spot under
my laurel crown


Oksana Maksymchuk is the author of poetry collections Xenia and Lovy in the Ukrainian. Her English-language poems have appeared in AGNI, The Irish Times, The Paris Review, The Poetry Review, and other journals. Her debut English-language poetry collection, Still City, is forthcoming with Carcanet Press in 2024.

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Sappho on the Rocks

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