Stories from Sappho

Hannah Rahimi

like the hyacinth in the mountains that shepherd men

with their feet trample down and on the ground the purple flower

They don’t warn you about the dangers of oblivion. They should tell you: Stay away from the men who don’t really see you or else you will end up like the hyacinth in the mountains that shepherd men with their feet trample down, and on the ground the purple flower is a smudge like a larger version of the mosquito on the window that the just-bitten boy with the palm of his hand has crushed, and on the glass the mosquito is a smear, in places dark with mangled limbs, in places bright with blood that isn’t even its own.

glossy doorknobs

One should always be suspicious of people who live in shiny houses. I’m talking about the kind of houses that have pianos without any fingerprints on the keys, or glossy doorknobs and candlesticks that appear only to have been handled by ghosts. I mean it! It’s really all part of the same thing: fear of fingerprints = fear of bodily traces = fear of bodily fluids = (obviously) major fear of sex.

never disturb a stone

1. “It’s very old-meets-new,” says the architect. “See? Nothing garish. Glass everywhere, but we’ll keep the original stone foundation and parts of the interior walls. Provençal farmhouse meets Van der Rohe.”

“The neighbours will despise us,” says Mark. “It’s bad enough we’re American.”

“Mark,” says Sheila. “Would you please stop caring what everyone thinks? This is our dream house.”

2. “No Monsieur,” says the baker to Mark. “We have no more pain au chocolat. These? They are reserved. And how is the construction progressing?”

3. Sheila gasps. “It’s exquisite,” she says. “See?” says the architect. “Worth the wait?

Old-meets-new. Never disturb a stone if you don’t have to, is my modus operandi.”

4. Mark thinks, When we have a kid we’ll have to put stickers on the glass so that he/she doesn’t try to run from the living room into the wheat field.

5. A bird dies trying to fly from the wheat field into the living room.

6. If you lie down on the original stone foundation you can feel like you are lying in a Provençal farmhouse. Mark thinks, If I were a mouse on this floor I would think I lived in a Provençal farmhouse.

7. “No Monsieur, we have no more baguette. And how is life in the glass house?”

8. “We need to get curtains,” says Mark to Sheila.

9. A snail has glued itself to the glass above their bed. They watch it, and then, while they sleep, it watches them.

10. “We need to get the windows washed,” he says.

11. Every morning seven crows line up outside the bathroom window and tap their beaks against the glass. If we were going to have a kid, thinks Mark, we would have to get rid of those crows.

12. In the middle of the night Sheila finds Mark asleep on the kitchen floor.

13. “Here, Monsieur. Fresh chaussons aux pommes. You look tired this morning.”

14. “I thought you wanted this,” says Sheila.

NB: The bold fragments that generate these stories are from the poetry of Sappho. “Like the hyacinth” is translated by Anne Carson, while “glossy doorknobs” and “never disturb a stone” are Rahimi's own approximations based on translations by Barnard, Campbell, Carson and Powell.

Hannah Rahimi grew up in Toronto and currently lives in Montreal, where she completed an MA at Concordia University. In the fall she will be moving to Lafayette, Indiana to pursue an MFA at Purdue University.