Fiction Guest Writer // Madison McMahon

Do you know my name? You have seen me before. You should have at least heard of me. Still no? Well, why? 

Come on, think. You study the classics in school. There are treasures from the past unburied from the depths of time. Some of the treasures even have counterfeits for purchase in gift shops. There is no excuse for you not to know my name. 

I have lived for centuries now. My name has been translated into over five languages. It is a miracle I even survived the burning of the Library of Alexandria. 

There is a reason for that. 

I am revered. I am more valuable than the chariots of Lydians. I am more known than any soldier in Troy. I am gone, but I am immortalized. Sappho reinforced the importance of my remembrance. 

You know Sappho? 

Why do you not know me too? 

How can you claim to know the artist, but not the muse? An artist only possesses a blank canvas without something in which to paint. I gave her something. I gave her me. I gave you me. Yet I know nothing about you. Are you ungrateful for this offering? How can you still not know me! 

Anaktoria! Anactoria! Anactória! That is my name! Not was my name. It is! I am! I have imprints on this world just as you do now. I picked flowers and gave them to strangers, I bought

clothes that were prettier in the market, I tossed animals crumbs of food, I became so overwhelmed by music that I rolled my ankle in front of a crush, I cried over lost jewelry. Anything you have done, I’ve done too. Do you not feel that connection as I do? There is so little you understand. Why do you think Sappho wrote me in her lyrics? No, it is not a poem about love, you young fool. It is an act of love. She enshrines me in this poem. How do you think I can still reach you now? Speaking of love is as flimsy as the breath it is said upon. Breath can pant and dwindle. Acting upon love resounds through centuries. If you do not believe me, go. Go and touch your face. Trace the curvature of your nose, the swipe of your eyes, the asymmetry of your dimples. You are a composition of people who loved each other. You are a creation of action. 

You are a muse too. 

Do you understand my plight, then? Truth be told, you are not the first I have approached with a vacancy in their eyes at the sight of me. Does that happen to you too? Do you think Sappho ever felt that depletion of worth? All of those greats said to be loved is to be known. Where does the love go when we stop being known? 

Oh, no, fellow muse. Do not tremble. I feel the paintings you hold in your mind, the poems you whisper in your heart, and the burning art that has never ceased being rejected. You are not alone in your desire to create as a form of remembrance, not just of a feeling or scene but of you yourself. 

Do not tremble. Let us think. Let us be revolutionaries without their names signed at the bottom but faces in the frame. Let us snatch up the clay, the paint, the pen and think. We may not be the ones who sculpt the clay, but we are the ones who make it warm. The paint vibrant. The pen imaginative.

The feeling from art, I suppose, is not always found in names. 

Your name does not have to be engraved in the action to be an echo of it. 

And how gone can I be if my brush strokes are still visible? 

I know my name is long and prickly, and it will get tangled in the many others you will hear, read, and say. Honestly, this whole dialogue could slip between the crevices of your mind. I too have had conversations with others that leaked right out of my ears in minutes, hours, or years. Yet, their sentiments still pulsate through me. If we are so similar, then maybe my sentiments will be for you. And then, someday, you will reject the notion that your beauty is inferior because you remembered a feeling—though you can’t quite place its exact origin  here. Maybe, somewhere, you will see for the first time that you and your great-aunt have the same posture when you laugh. And through embracing your body, you will inspire your grocer to wear that top they were nervous about. And because your observation touched your great-aunt, she will let her smile lines beam as freely with her husband as when they first started dating. And the grocer’s confidence will inspire her to join a knitting club. And the husband will reveal the joke book he has been working on to his friends. And now the knitting club has enough members to weave plenty of scarves for the homeless. And the friend who attends the husband’s standup show will leave the house for the first time since his partner died. 

And your name will not be signed anywhere, but we will still be one of the artists of it all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *