People love it when you say that they are good and true and beautiful. They love it even if they don’t believe it.
I wonder how you’d take Sappho of Lesbos. I’m sure you’ll find bits and pieces of yourself in the extraordinary woman who disregarded barriers to live her life as she pleased and as she intended. She was a reckless and fanatical youth. A rebel who knew no fear. Yet, when it came to the people she loved, especially her daughter Cleis, she was soft and pliant and supplicant, even almost apologetic for her own desires.
Birth is a battle to the death between two clinging souls. We come apart so we may come together. If women knew what birth cost, they’d forswear love forever.
Erica Jong used freshly unearthed fragments of Sappho’s poems and songs to create “Sappho’s Leap”. Here she imagines not only a famed songbird but also a female Odysseus. She has her own share of shipwrecks, Gorgons, Amazons, Philosophers, and Centaurs. And like the virile Odysseus, Sappho also has her own share of lovers—boys and girls, men and women:
I have loved men and I have loved women and I can say that men are more transparent to love. Men are ruled only by their pricks, which are simple and blunt—but the moon rules women. And the moon is a body that gives back borrowed light. Bodily lovemaking with women is tender and sweet, but the minds of women are tricky as moonlight. Men do not scheme in love as women do.
It’s not known how Sappho really died. But it is widely believed that, as an old woman, she fell—hard—for a young ferryman. Phaon had the most powerful drugs—the drugs of youth and beauty. He knew his power and he honed it. Sappho’s love supposedly went unrequited and she couldn’t take it. Hence, her fabled leap.
A boy of twenty never tires. The phallus empties and fills again. The phallus stands up, lies down, and stands up again before you know it.
Erica Jong disagrees. Sappho is much too sensible to forfeit her life for lust. Sappho did jump off the Leucadian cliffs, but not for a mere gigolo. She leapt to be with her true loves—the poet Alcaeus, the fabler Aesop, the amazon Praxinoa, and her mother and father.