“Sappho’s Bracelets” by Diane Wakoski

Diane Wakoski


So angry at the Corvette sun
and its draining over the Pacific surf,
the kelp bed hovering like frigate birds beyond
the rocks, no conqueror gazing over
the bronze shield of water,
and certainly the boy
driving a fast car with the windows rolled up:
so angry she couldn’t hear.

Yet California takes its price
and puts us all in slave bracelets.
A whole jangle of them, starfish hoops
of silver, cobalt, crimson
glissando-ing up and down the tidepool wrist
throwing dice or waving
You can forget sea roses

because she wasn’t angry about flowers,
and her flushed face that I saw
looking through my bracelets
was about foolhardy
expense, how he threw away his life
for a woman’s ankle,
her soft bare foot walking
his beach at dawn.

In fact, she didn’t even hear
the liquid tinkle of bracelets on my arm,
didn’t know that I touched something
I should never have; didn’t know
I would be driving away so fast on the Coast Highway
and then into canyons, and down into the heart
of America. For, none of us knows
what little image will

lure someone away from the ocean.
He never left, but she did
her face still flushed with the impossibility
of so many extravagances. Now the table
is set, though no one dines.
My bracelets writhe, crash down my wrist
to engulf my hand. Metal cool
as dawn. Even that much anger
can disappear.
But no one outlives
old age, or these images as sensuous as a bare foot on
sand, the rime of a previous surf line,
a feather,
a kelp pod,
someone who could be him but isn’t,
standing in the morning fog.

from Rattle #13, Summer 2000


Diane Wakoski: “My poems are my secret garden, where I can be a girl wandering in a Southern California orange grove, a sorceress sailing between islands with the Argonauts, or a woman in a ’70s bar, waiting for the Motorcycle Betrayer to put his hand on her shoulder. The garden is confined, but not limited. I never get tired of sitting in this garden, knowing that only those who have the key can unlock the gate and join me inside.” (web)

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