A knock at the door reawakens Professor Spencer from her reveries over the ancient Greek poet, Sappho. In this lush & poetic fragment of flash fiction, Kate Ellis celebrates the heated passions of women for women in literature and throughout history.
I feel my blood against my blood: my pain/pains thee, and lips bruise lips, and vein stings vein—
The trick is to write about Sappho without wanting to fuck her.
That I could drink thy veins as wine, and eat/thy breasts like honey—
It’s not a trick I’ve mastered, yet.
Her body is fragments of text, lapping softly over and over across the distance of centuries. My fingers ache, reaching for her. Each word written over hers is sweet violence, every pen-scratch a caress with the promise of a wound blossoming below the surface.
I read somewhere that Swinburne’s sadomasochism started with his translations of Sappho. Did mine begin here, or somewhere else? Around me seems too sterile, somehow. The scuffed desk, the books with their arid spines piled floor to ceiling. Dusty leaves of torpid houseplants. The loose lined sheets spilling from the binders on the shelf above me do nothing to stir me; the erotic fascination is clearly not with the material fact of paper. But Sappho –
I imagine crawling between the leaves of her, running the tips of my inky fingers over her frayed edges. Tracing parchment fibres with my tongue. Searching frantically for traces of honey.
“Professor Spencer? Ana?”
I’m sweating at my desk when the knock comes. I breathe, in, out, becoming master of myself, taking a gulp of cold coffee to quell the rebellion in my blood.
The feature image is of Simeon Solomon’s ‘Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene’, 1864, courtesy of Tate. For more information about Solomon or this work, click here.