Didn’t Sappho say her guts clutched up like this? Reflection

Didn’t Sappho say her guts clutched up like this? (Marylin Hacker)

“Didn’t Sappho say her guts clutched up like this?
Before a face suddenly numinous,
her eyes watered, knees melted. Did she lactate
again, milk brought down by a girl’s kiss?
It’s documented torrents are unloosed
by such events as recently produced
not the wish, but the need, to consume, in us,
one pint of Maalox, one of Kaopectate.
My eyes and groin are permanently swollen,
I’m alternatingly brilliant and witless
—and sleepless: bed is just a swamp to roll in.
Although I’d cream my jeans touching your breast,
sweetheart, it isn’t lust; it’s all the rest
of what I want with you that scares me shitless.”

In the poem, “Didn’t Sappho say her guts clutched up like this?” by Marylin Hacker, Hacker portrays how her love life is very similar to that of Sappho, who experienced a number of intense emotions for expressing her love towards a woman. To convey the emotions that Hacker tries to suppress, she uses allusion, tradition and rhyme. In the poem, rich with allusions, Hacker connects her life and emotions to Sappho’s and suggests that her love for a woman had similar consequences to that of the Greek poet. Hacker demonstrates her emotions in the line, “by the events as recently as produced” (6) which provides a dual reference to Sappho’s life and her own. This is done as she hints to the audience that the word “events” suggests the meeting of a woman or leaving her. The idea of meeting a woman and falling in love and a woman leaving and experiencing heartbreak is a common theme in Sappho’s poems, for example, the poem #94. Sappho describes her heartbreak as her female lover leaves her for another. However, she uses positive and feminine words to portray the lingering beauty of the situation, unlike Hacker who uses negative and harsh words to express herself, like “guts clutched”(1) and “torrents are unloosed”(5). Similarly, there are references to political correctness which are represented by tradition (the global issue of culture, identity, and community). By using tradition to portray the idea of political correctness, Hacker depicts how her character is politically incorrect as she articulates her love for a person of the same gender, a type of emotion which isn’t openly practised or accepted in society. In the line, “not the wish, but the need” (7) she illuminates how the love that she is expressing openly within her society is a necessity and not a desire or want, it is something that she feels to be as tormenting as a normal love. To her character, unfortunately, falling in love, heartbreak and yearning are synonymous. This is also shown in the line “Did she lactate again, milk brought down by a girl’s kiss?” (3-4). The tone of the line is very sarcastic as she expresses her dissatisfaction and the sense of self-deprecation when she belittles herself as she is let “down” by the fact that she and her lover are unable to have a future together as the line refers to “milk” and lactate”, suggesting family and children. So, not only are they restrained socially, but also physically (as to produce, both male and female are required). This leads to the character’s self-criticism and self-derision which is caused by the guilt of being compelled by her own nature to behave in a politically incorrect manner.  To further portray the unfulfillment that follows lesbian love, the poet uses rhyme. The inherent contrast in the words, “unloosed” (5) and “produced” (6) depicts the sad outcome of their love. While the word “produced” comes with connotations of having a future and children, the connotation of the word “unloosed” achieves different nuances of meaning which run through the body of the poem. “Unloosed” refers to the sense of the assumed immorality of gay love. It also makes a reference towards the emotions and sexual arousal that run out of control which is symbolized with the satirical reference to diarrhea which is released throughout the poem. The poet Hacker, portrays the difficulties of having a relationship with the same gender. She also portrays that although gay love can be divine and just as true as normal romance, the judgment of society casts a dirty shadow on gay relationships, an event that both Sappho and the character here have experienced. 

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