A Mormon on the Isle of Lesbos

In the Fall of 2001, just weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center, I befriended a young woman, ten years my junior, in a lesbian chat room. She informed me that she came from a strict Mormon upbringing, was currently enrolled at BYU, and wasn’t out to anyone. We quickly became friends and I took on the role of lesbian mentor, albeit from afar. The whole experience inspired me to write poetry about that time, and I’ve recently rediscovered it while packing to move. I believe there were more, but I was only able to find three. Upon rereading them, I believe them to be some of my best work. I do think there is more to tell within the story I created within these poems, and maybe someday I will. The three poems are below.

The Newcomer

A newcomer has come to our little Isle

she seems unsure at times

as if she took a wrong turn somewhere

or meant to stay on dry land—see Athens, perhaps

I make it a point to welcome her

tell her she needn’t write poetry in order to stay

she needn’t do anything, but the longer she stays

she will likely become someone’s inspiration

I think she will be well received here

the ladies will like her and Sapph will

look on her with pleasure

I have prepared a room for her—it is my old room

it is full of books and paintings and paper on which to write

she will find her voice here

as so many of us have

and will learn to cultivate it

and bring out her best

I am to be her servant

she needs anything she need only to ask

tired from her journey, I have drawn her a bath

and will soothe her weary travelers’ muscles

and hope she will look upon me with favor

Sapph gently scolds me for trying to corrupt the young

I remind her that it is a practice

I learned at her side—she laughs at me

and tells me I have learned too much

“Yes, but what I learn has become art”

She smiles gently at me, I am once again her pupil

“To experience is to live and to live is to love…

and to love is to create art”

then she gives me a gentle push

in the newcomer’s direction

and once face to face with her—I falter

Shy, herself, she smiles at me

I remember my voice and offer a welcome

she lowers her eyes and accepts,

not yet knowing the proper response—

which is to merely say thank you

she follows me as I lead her to her room

hanging back, I think she’s afraid of me

I assure her I mean her no harm

and only have her pleasure in mind

and will take my leave if it be that which pleases her

understanding the rules at last, she says, “Please stay.”

The Newcomer’s Servant

I have been the newcomer’s servant

for many months now

she is an undemanding mistress

and still shy about asking me for things

though time and again I have told her

that her simplest wish is my pleasure to fulfill

Sapph says to give her time

that she will become accustomed to me soon

and not still blush and downcast her eyes

when I bow before her and kiss her hand

“She will recognize love soon enough

and lift her eyes to gaze upon it

and the rouge on her cheeks will soften

into a hue of complacency.”

I want to question her on how she can be so sure

but one does not question Sapph

oh, it is not that she doesn’t care for it—

quite the contrary, to enter into a battle of wits

with the tenth muse is to enter into

an argument that can go on for days

she doesn’t need to be proven right

but she will debate and discuss

until you are proven wrong

Then, our Sapph will laugh, though not unkindly

and proceed to write a poem

about you in which she refers to you as her lover

because we all are, after a fashion

and she does love us all

only now and then, she loves one of us a little more

I am selfishly glad that everyone else

is preoccupied with their own inspiration

and have left the newcomer and I in peace

to my knowledge she hasn’t written any poetry

nor has she requested an easel

but I have noticed her watching me

Whether it’s to see how to act here

or with a lover’s eye, I can only guess

she rarely makes a request of me

but when I feel her eyes upon me

I can’t help but wonder what she wants of me

but I can only hope she soon finds her voice

The Newcomer’s Voice

Things have settled into a routine

Fall is upon us and the wind has begun

to rustle the hems of our gowns

and to cover many a brow with strands

of a stray curl here and there

I have seen this happen many a time

to my mistress—I have seen her

blowing the curl away with

a distracted breath—not knowing

that now I am watching her

Sapph has seen my frustration

and each time she walks past

with her hands clasped behind her

she always gives a knowing smile and

a nod of encouragement or puts a hand

on my arm and whispers in my ear

“Faint heart, fair lady—fair chance”

But Sapph doesn’t realize

that all of my bravado

upon the newcomer’s arrival wasn’t real

Sapph doesn’t realize that despite my years here

I still tremble at a lady’s presence,

and that the young newcomer,

who has, on occasion, touched my hand

makes me tremble most of all

The newcomer has seemed to grow comfortable here

she no longer looks down when she addresses me

and has been known to ask my opinion

about which books she should read

and then discusses them with me after

“Why aren’t any of your books here?

I know you’ve written many—where are they?”

I tell her that I gave them all to Sapph

that when I wrote them she was the only

one who understood them—because they were written for her

“So Sapph is your lover?”

This thought makes me smile

the newcomer misunderstands

“Sapph is your lover too—she is lover to us all

as she is sister and mother and teacher”

“And what are you?”

“For, I am your servant.”

“Will you always be?”

“Unless you dismiss me.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Then I will remain as I am.”

“And if I wish to change your duties?”

“I will do as you wish.”

“And if I wish you to come to me?”

“It has already been spoken and I am already there.”

I did get the chance to meet the newcomer a few years later. By then, she had been out for a while and was looking forward to graduating so that she could live more openly. During those early days, I only saw her twice, and no, there is no love story there to tell. As life often does, it went on for both of us, in different directions. It would be nearly fifteen years before I caught up with her again through the power of Facebook. She’s currently living her best life, with Dr. in front of her name, a woman on her arm, with a house and a dog. I am grateful for whatever time and whatever role I was able to play for her. And, if nothing else, knowing her helped me produce some of my best writing and I have a few good stories to tell, none of which I’ll put here.

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