Friday, August 18, 2017

Dustin Pickering writes

An Ascetic Complaint

“Neglected children, we were born to weep, /

and the reason lies in the lap of the gods.”

           -Giacomo Leopardi, “Sappho’s Last Song” from Canti

You draw amethyst from my eyes with an emerald blade.

You disdain my heart’s strength to nurture its fears, and fill me with envy.

Even the flowers will catch my tears,

but your hand will not leave your mouth.

I am motionless water in her womb;

then, a child awash in compromise who will learn to walk.

Your blind affection blows the kisses from my mouth

into a bouquet of sightless discipline.

When I am tired of the long day’s journey,

I will search the road to Heaven with a cane.

However the truth may come, it doesn’t come easily.

Related image

Sappho and Alcaeus -- Lawrence Alma-Tadema


  1. Dustin writes, "Ascetic complaint is a figure of speech. Earth and physical reality are transformed into an ascetic who complains to God about the way he is treated. As ascetic, his tortured self is his whole identity and connection with the highest reality. That explains the geology of the poem. Also green and purple look exceedingly impressive together. I express in the poem that physical existence is torment because the ultimate truth cannot be reached. Sensual enjoyment becomes the high pursuit. The ascetic complains of this too. Why should he deny himself for something he cannot reach? I offer that all living existence suffers of this malady to some degree."

  2. Giacomo Taldegardo Francesco di Sales Saverio Pietro Leopardi was a 19th-century Italian philosopher, poet, essayist, and philologist. He reimagined Saffo (Psappho) in his own image as a great and generous spirit, an exceptional mind, and a sublime character trapped in a miserable, deformed body. The real “Sappho” as a 6th-century BCE lyric poet from Lesbos. She may have composed 10,000 lines of poetry, but only about 650 survive. She seems to have been exiled to Sicily ca. 600 BCE. Despite the Hellenist accounts of her lesbianism, in classical Athenian comedy she was always caricatured as a promiscuous heterosexual. According to Menander, she killed herself by jumping off the Leucadian cliffs out love for Phaon, a ferryman. Her older contemporary Alkaios (Alcaeus of Mytilene) was an alleged lover of Sappho, with whom he may have exchanged poems. Like her, he was forced into exile, a situation he used to travel widely, perhaps even to Egypt. His older brother, Antimenidas, may have served as a mercenary with Nebuchadnezzar II of Assyria and probably took part in the conquest of Askelon.


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