Natasha Sajé

On Beauty and To the Phaistos Disc
January 24, 2019 Sajé Natasha

on beauty

I have a tree outside my house. I don’t know what kind—in spring, it blooms, gorgeous. Pink flowers clustered together, as big as the head of a warthog.

Anne Frank looked upon the horse chestnut outside her window and wrote, on whose branches little raindrops shine appearing like silver. That was winter and she could make something out of nothing.

In the summer there’s fruit on my tree, green globes with short spikes like a medieval weapon. They fall to the ground and break open. Inside: shiny red nuts—hard and unblemished. I could string them for jewelry.

The monkey promises the cat a share of chestnuts if she’ll pull them from the fire. She does, and burns her paws, and the wicked clever monkey eats them all. Tirer les marrons du feu: to benefit from someone else’s work.

My tree’s a horse chestnut. If only I had the true kind, edible. I’d water that tree in a drought. I’d pick the nuts as soon as they fell. I wouldn’t want weevils to get them first. I’d score and roast them, simmer them in sugar syrup to make them swell and last.

An old chestnut. I don’t mind hearing a story again and again. As long as I love you, of course.

Aesculus hippocastanum, because the fruit was thought to cure horses of lung ailments. If only I had a horse. I could cut this tree down, but the wood’s too soft. What it’s good for?

pasarse de castaño oscuro = to go too far

Under my feet and tires, the sound of papery yellowed leaves. Shall I take a picture for you?



to the Phaistos disc
1700 B.C.E. Crete

if someone then had passed on your words
to a human being asking that person to tell another younger
and that practice had continued for 4000 years

the sense might have come to us
along with the letters

now known to spell
honor and glory to the mother goddess

finally you are read
a spiral of insight printed on two sides
of six round inches of clay

finally you are read but still not understood

you are still not understood
because we’ve been under the rule of men
for so long we can’t imagine another way

years ago in the Heraklion museum I must have seen you
mostly I remember being sick
shivering in April on an attic cot
owned by a woman who gathered tourists at the port
who drove me and three others past
the cold sea to her small white house

and because I didn’t want to share a room
with a strange man
how would he have read that
I remember my regret at being female and fearful
of a stranger even one who had more money than I
even one interested in antiquities
even one with whom in a different circumstance
I might have had a friendship or an affair

although understanding can dissipate like smoke signals
my imprinting unlike yours
was understood

Natasha Sajé is the author of three books of poems, most recently Vivarium (Tupelo, 2014); a poetry handbook (Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory, Michigan, 2014); and a forthcoming book of personal essays. She teaches at Westminster College in Salt Lake City and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program.