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20: Mary Jo Bang

Queer Poem-a-Day is a program from the Adult Services Department at the Library and may include adult language.

Mary Jo in the Time of Sappho

by Mary Jo Bang

Whatever dilemma S is experiencing,
it’s going to take more to resolve it
than a day at the seashore, the geography
of which can be intuited from the blue
glistening behind her. It won’t be helped
by the marble Darwin standing guard
at the end of a marble bench, looking out
on the flora and fauna. This because
Darwin has nothing to say: it’s too soon,
he hasn’t even been born yet.
But S has. You can see the isle of Lesbos
in the distance. That said, who would
ever look past her? Her eyes are those
of a big-eyed cat not previously identified
but in the face of which a woman
would stand there thinking, “My mind
is just barely resting on the knife edge
of a fresh perception, which is also called
heaven.” And then she’d think, “Yes,
she’s right. Everything has to be dared.”

The Time of Sappho, John William Godward, 1904

Copyright © 2024 by Mary Jo Bang.

About the Author

Mary Jo BangMary Jo Bang is the author of nine books of poems—including A Film in Which I Play Everyone, which was nominated for a Lammy Award, A Doll for Throwing, and Elegy, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has published translations of Dante’s Inferno, illustrated by Henrik Drescher, and Purgatorio. Her translation of Paradiso is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2025. She is also the translator of Colonies of Paradise: Poems by Matthias Göritz and co-translator, with Yuki Tanaka, of A Kiss for the Absolute: Selected Poems of Shuzo Takiguchi, forthcoming in 2024 from the Princeton University Press Lockert Poetry in Translation Series. She teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

Queer Poem a Day graphic

Queer Poem a Day

Queer Poem-a-Day is directed by poet and professor Lisa Hiton and Dylan Zavagno, Adult Services Coordinator at the Deerfield Public Library. Music for this fourth year of our series is from the second movement of the “Geistinger Sonata,” Piano Sonata No. 2 in C Sharp Minor by Ethel Smyth, performed by pianist Daniel Baer. Queer Poem-a-Day is supported by generous donations from the Friends of the Deerfield Public Library and the Deerfield Fine Arts Commission.

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