Detail of Sappho Leaping into the Sea, by Theodore Chasseriau, 1840.
Breathe, darling, breathe. I cannot
for the life of me patch the ocean.
Ghetto on the fraught sea, blinding.
Did they question the men also?
Or did they only question the women?
The lesbians are policing the lesbians.
Who are you? How do you define yourself?
I list weakly as the interrogators
peer through my telescope backwards.
I am all adrift in the spring fog, trembling.
Port to starboard, keel to mast, mainstay,
my sails a-shiver in the salt-stained waves,
I am unknown to myself, with only a word
my sisters found on Lésvos and gave me.
First published in The Gay & Lesbian Review.
Mary Meriam is the founder of Lavender Review, cofounder of Headmistress Press, editor of Irresistible Sonnets, and author of The Lillian Trilogy. Her poems have been published by The New York Times, the Poetry Foundation, Oxford University Press, National Public Radio, Penguin Random House, University Press of New England, Seal Press, and many literary journals.