readings/appearances books poetry about audio/ site map submit Tea Leaves: mothers & daughters links/contact readings/appearances

Variations on the Theme of Sapphics
originally published in the Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly
by Janet Mason

click here for other Sapphics
click here to learn about Sappho
click her to read poetry by Alexandra Grilikhes
(written for Alexandra Grilikhes, in memorian)

"Everything works and works beautifully and [Hitching To Nirvana] is more than just a read; it is an experience."
-- Amos Lassen (Schlepping through the Best Books and Movies)

Tea Leaves: a memoir of mothers and daughters by Janet Mason (Bella Books April 2012) is now available -- click here for more info

“There is something here for everyone who has ever loved someone else or plans to. I highly recommend “Tea Leaves” just because it is so real and so beautifully written.”–Reviews by Amos Lassen

check out Janet Mason's author blog

read Janet Mason's latest piece in The Huffington Post --Chick-fil-A: What Would Gandhi Do If He Were Gay?

The first nite...our lips touched...I remember
a bell-shaped silence ringing...the current hit
surface disregarding a thirty year span our
lips unlocked time.

Estuaries have flown blue between us, I
her student then she became minen remembering--
from the night giving off flames and the dark

After that, it was something to look forward to
parting, the hand on hand, my height bending
to her ... promises ... seeing each other
sooner than we would

There was a tower in the middle of all this
in the tower a wide bed where we faced each other
nearby on the counter, the plates sat
in a stack of forever.

Later, we would find the dirt road that led
back to the first female bones...Africa;
we would stand in the heat and wait for a broken
bus to take us there.

Meanwhile, the plates hovered behind us
and the tower that was nowhere to be found
was always there...on the very top floor, the bed
a light in the window.

Words trembled in her mouth and she became memory--
W.H. Auden (he was well advanced in years) and
Muriel Rukeyser (I liked her very much)--

simply put.

Always there were the Greeks...(after you read them
there is nothing else...)and the Trojans marching
through the hills of the Peleponnese on
the table between us.

Words trembled in her mouth and I heard the
warring cries, fiercely creating the world
that would precede us...the plates lifted
off the ledge, spinning.

She was telling me of her trip to Crete
(she entered the shrine of Knossis to find Greek
boys resting their boom box on the throne

where she worshipped

King Minos, the golden mask,) later I would
mail her a Minoan fresco, Agean blue, postmarked
Iraklio: where I scrawled, I am looking at images
myself everywhere.

Statues of a female past, larger than life
a woman is a tower, towering
a woman is a bed, beckoning
the splates spinnning, sing

That was the then I didn't expect to end
She might have said...
The Muses have made me happy
in my lifetime

And when I die
I shall never be forgotten
She might have said that ...(but)mortality...
remained unspoken.

Telling it slant, one of us would have said:

There is no place for grief,
In a house which serves the Muse;
Our own is no exception

Words trembled in our mouths...we hinted at
torture but kept the scars
the purpose of pain is to transform
returning again.




click here for other Sapphics
click here to learn about Sappho
click her to read poetry by Alexandra Grilikhes










Pain drips
through me
You burn me
as long as you wish
Words trembled...we traversed old ground...
early loves, the Italian woman twice my age;
the lover she traveled with, smoking at
the gates of the temple

....remember ...
....we did the same
... .... in our youth....


I woke to find myself in the bed, the tower
a window that opened to the dirt road
that would take us back...first the
stacked plates teetering.

[When I was young and in love,]
.... ..... .... I too wove garlands


We wore our scars like the tower,
in the same bed where we couldn't look at each other,

we followed ourselves to the beginning
the scars led the way.

There were gifts, the pebble from Lesvos,
my slim volume of poems, It's so Greek, she wrote
singing off, love, Alex, she was memory to me
recognizing a voice.

In the tower, I saw her as she was before, and
I clung to the bars of the dream and they were said,
And pain's derisive hand had given me rest
From the night giving...

Pain was meant to transform but as the end
came (and it is coming) it pulled time's
needle tight through the center of
her life, living.

There is no way out but through, no flash,
no brilliance to end it all; perhaps it is true
of all timeless people that age is delayed
until death exacts it.

The last time we spoke, I couldn't ask...
how she was, I knew from others the answer:
fine. Fine~ as in finished, I couldn't
begin to hear it.

I was falling apart then in ways I had never...
her voice was a hand reaching out to
shelter me, the static on the phone, half notes,
in Greek refrain.


I tell you;
... .... in time to come,
someone will remember us.

Her last message, you take care of yourself
was a call to memory, the realization
that all we have is the self, without that
the rest is nothing.

As I walked by, the tower became a house,
the house a bedroom window wide open
to frozen winds burning away with
the rest of her life.

Who knew it would come to this?

Icy winds gusted into the tower, and the
bed spun...spun...round...round....
life took itself away...away...the plates

came crashing down.

Everything trembled in the night giving off
flames, and the dark/renewing...the words
ceased and our lips as they touched, spoke
in remembering.


amusejanetmason logo