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The woods decay, the woods decay and fall...Libus, sitting near Alcaeus, quoted his favorite, huddlingin his robe, his face averted:Alone, in sea-circled Delos, while round on beach and cove, before the piping sea wind the dark blue storm waves drove...109
Voices from the Past“Why do you break off?” I asked.He did not answer but said:“They knew, those ancients, how to supplicate thelowliest...theypreferredthevirginal...snowypeaks...whispering groves...the hunting cry...”Warming my feet on a warming stone, I said I preferredthe golden hymn and repeated fragments...Long are their ways of living, honey in their bread, and in their dances their footsteps twirl, twirling light...(Fragment of talk:“We can’t marry, unless we have a child...you’ll be twenty-three soon...it must be like that...my house is a house ofwomen...”I thought of those words as I passed Phaon’s house,beyond the wharf, isolated. As I passed, waves climbed itsbase, licking at boulders. Its walls are thicker than most,cracked and mottled. I used to be afraid of that house as agirl and as I passed these thoughts brought back some ofthat apprehension. I glanced at the seaward balcony,tottering on wasted beams, painted years ago. Seagullssquatted on the flat roof, as they have day in and day out.There are five rooms underneath those tiles and his motherand uncle lived and died there, a harsh struggle in rooms ofsimple furnishings, coils of rope, nets, brass fittings andbronze anchors.Phaon lives there with two men, their servants and ahanger-on. Kleis visits occasionally. A parrot, some say nearlytwo hundred years old, gabbles sayings and fills the sea-sopped silences.110
Sappho’s JournalYES, HISHOUSETROUBLESME—ITSDARKNESS, ITSEVOCATIONOFPOVERTYANDMYOWNEXILE.(While I was ill, Libus cared for me, the mastery of hishands relieving pain. By my bed, talking soothing talk, hebrought gradual relief, just as two years ago. His hands aremore than hands, it seems. Magical masseur, he explores yetnever gropes: his fingers, padded at the tips, press, release,wait. Our friendship, with all its confidences, in spite ofdifferences, weathers the years and is stronger at such atime, under his mastery. As he obliterates pain, he blinksabsently or smiles his pale smile, withdrawn yet assuring. Helearned his art from a young Alexandrian, a man he metwhile studying in Athens, who spoke many desert languages.“I’d like to see him again. I’ve learned something throughmy own experiments; we would share. Of course, he’s a greatman.” And when I asked Libus about my illness, he said: “Too much work, too much rich food, too much concern.You haven’t been using common sense.”I didn’t care for this and said:“I know from what Alcaeus says, you help him more thananyone. You can help me.”“I’m not able to help him all the time.”“You mean his drinking?”He shrugged.