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Abstract Composition, Victor Hugo, circa 1848-1851
Abstract Composition by Victor Hugo. Photo credit: Victor Hugo / WikiArt

Magnificent Reincarnations

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Although Church Fathers ordered all Sappho’s works destroyed,

fragments of her poems have been found as shreds in mummy wrappings.

 

In the Main Reading Room

of the 42nd Street Public Library

between the reek of unwashed feet

and the too-dressed wick of floral oils

who never turns a page

I read the wrecks of lines

torn crosswise from papyrus scrolls

by mummy-men who scarified

what Sappho wrote of love

to save the time-worn flesh

whose avatars are what we read

are what we are.

***                   

About the author:  Gerald Jonas is a senior editor at WhoWhatWhy and a writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times, as well as other journals large and small.  


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