Jesse Mavro Diamond’s latest poetry manuscript AMERICAN QUEERS will be published by Cervena Barva Press later in 2022. Her previous book of poems, Swimming The Hellespont is available on Amazon. Recently, Jesse Mavro Diamond has appeared reading at open mics in The United States, Ireland and Amsterdam.
Her father was Chiron, the learned Centaur.
In Sappho’s arbor she smiled at me,
leaned over and whispered, Meet me at dusk,
I will call us a dreamboat.
As the sun sank to lay with his lover,
while we rowed to the deep of the Strait,
Chiron’s daughter told me the story of Helle
who drowned swimming across
with her brother to escape a cruel stepparent.
In Sapphic verse, the exact phrasing
impossible to translate in our crude tongue,
she sang Leander’s story
whose love for Hero, a priestess sworn
to the goddess, angered Aphrodite.
In that religion—as in many—devotion to godhead
can not be challenged by human love.
Enraged, Aphrodite swayed Zeus to drum
a storm whose winds blew out Hero’s light
in her watch tower. Leander, like Helle,
lost his ocean battle.
When his body washed ashore
Hero tied herself to the corpse and dragging him,
dropped with his weight to their grave bed.
Ending her song,
Chiron’s daughter took my hand, asking,
Are you brave? We jumped overboard
and the love I dreamed of was born.
Returning to shore,
my love told me Chiron’s mother was a Cloud;
She taught me her grandmother’s art:
transmutation, flesh to water to air.
Two thousand years later,
I practice finding her in the grove
by the river Charles. I become my breath,
dissolve muscle, blood, bone,
Although my body is bound to fall,
condense to rain, reappear as teardrops
when I open my eyes, these lines
are the very sinews
that bind us as women, as lovers,
weeping across light years of forgetfulness.
Disguised as Arion, I travel back
27 centuries. I bind my breasts
and sail to Sicily, where I easily win
the singing contest.
Returning home, robbed by pirates
on the Corinthian ship, forced
to jump overboard, I am saved
by a female dolphin.
To arpeggio of wind and wave,
my thighs wrapped about her dorsal fin,
my arms mated to the silk
of her luminous neck
I sing her the secret of my gender:
The cithara hid my empty groin,
my womb is an open wound,
waiting for the salvage
of my true love’s hand. I confide
that I am doubly despised: despised
for my womb, despised
for my womb’s desire.
Certain I cannot last the depths
of night and sea, I bury my face
in the moony muscle of her back
and weep myself unconscious.
I awake, bare chest chafed by the sands
of Taenarum, as if Poseidon himself
had flung me, a sour morsel
from his silver trident.
I lay upon the Cape Mattapan beach
listening to the echoing horn
of my savior’s voice, sweet mammal,
Cherish your breasts, she crooned,
for fruit sweet as this is Aphrodite’s gift;
Beware the jealousies of men:
you are well loved
by all three Graces. Look no further
than your own tongue when dragons
with human heads flick flames
of envy in your face.
Your lyrics are your sword:
behead them with your song.
In the bunks at Dachau I lay, skeleton
to skeleton with my love, a Catholic girl,
pregnant by a rape and still
her faith was not broken.
I saw in her eyes six-pointed stars.
If we are separated, she said, find me
by the light of those stars.
That day they took her
and I fell into a fever
my body’s bone: dry kindling, flaming,
my lungs, dust-filled cavities, my breath rattling
in its branched cage.
I dreamed she was alive, we were healthy,
sitting in a Budapest cafe, drinking cabernet
from long-stemmed violet glasses.
The world had not yet shifted
it was a safe place for tender things.
My love wore a cherry beret,
complimenting her deep green eyes.
Reaching across the table
she took my hand, held it lightly as salt,
her fingers, ribbons of cloud.
She told me there is not one world
But many. When this one ends
and we have lost each other, rebuild
your image of me; use dream memories,
scenes that are but crumbs.
Follow the crumbs,
bend low, gather them, eat!
They will lead you out of the woods
to the banks of the river. There,
lying in bull rushes
you will discover the life my life
gave birth to. Lift the infant high,
walk into the water, hold our child
close to your chest as you cross
that bloody water. I am Here, waiting for you,
living on this far bank in the New World.
Swimming The Hellespont
This fearful life is not made for the coward.
The smallest minds roll into the greatest wind
attacking the light in Hero’s tower.
That wind rarely ceases
as I swim with you, my brother,
as I swim towards you, my sister.
As I swim against the bully tide,
if I should be Helle or Leander,
if I should drown, do not follow
Hero’s example, do not tie yourself
to my body, do not drag yourself
to lie with me
in that bed of lavender reef.
Lay down with my shadow in the arbor,
stretch your legs and sigh, as I did once,
dreaming of that boat I took
with Chiron’s daughter, of her arms
about my neck in the deep water.
Rise and walk away
into a new lover’s arms.
If you become that prisoner in Dachau
if the fire erupts and the fever consumes
you, drop these phrases
crumbs at your feet.
Bend low, gather them—Eat!
Step by step, reach the Great River,
discover the cherub born of your love.
You are the dolphin, the babe is Arion,
strap her to your dorsal fin,
bear your precious cargo to the other side.
Through this narrow strait
Breathe, step, breathe.
Stride on, swim on, love on.
You know how to find us;
close your eyes and see us:
Flesh, water, air,
we await you Here, with open arms,
living in the New World.
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Poetry in this post: © Jesse Mavro Diamond
Published with the permission of Jesse Mavro Diamond