In these days when my brain has been so Sappho-addled, I attended one of my husband's office parties.
Let me say up front that his office mates are brilliant and interesting people--but they are not (in general) the wonderfully strange, obsessed nerdy types with whom I usually associate. When I get together with my own colleagues, we rarely mention anything that the average 21st-century American would ever think to talk about. If someone speaks 21st-century to us, a lot of us have no clue what he or she is saying. I'm pretty lost when people start talking about what was on television last night--much less what new techno gadget to acquire, or what the newest lingo is.
(It is ironic that I am confessing my luddite status on a blog, is it not?)
One case of this current-culture blindness on my part is my ignorance of the whole Silly Bandz craze. You know those shaped rubber bands kids stack up on their wrists these days? (No? Just trust me. I only learned when someone offered my son one.)
But back to this office party full of normal people:
One of my husband's coworkers, the mother of two daughters, held up her wrists and showed us her newest acquisitions, found in a local gas station on the way to the party...
And I thought immediately what I know you must be thinking right now:
this is exactly what happened to Sappho's words! It is the hidden echos, our own efforts to stretch those words into something meaningful to us now, that gives her poetry such power. It is the twisted stacking of mutilated words, made into something delicate but strong. It is the crystal color of her words, so flexible that they can be shaped to our own modern minds and bodies, yet still holding the powerful snap of their original meaning.
(And as I gradually realized that all these nice people were wondering politely what the hell I was talking about, I immediately thought you all of you, all my new BFFs who understand such thoughts and obsessions...)