mercifulserpent: (Default)
I Could Not Tell
- Sharon Olds

I could not tell I had jumped off that bus,
that bus in motion, with my child in my arms,
because I did not know it. I believed my own story:
I had fallen, or the bus had started up
when I had one foot in the air.

I would not remember the tightening of my jaw,
the irk that I’d missed my stop, the step out
into the air, the clear child
gazing about her in the air as I plunged
to one knee on the street, scraped it, twisted it,
the bus skidding to a stop, the driver
jumping out, my daughter laughing
Do it again.

I have never done it
again, I have been very careful.
I have kept an eye on that nice young mother
who lightly leapt
off the moving vehicle
onto the stopped street, her life
in her hands, her life’s life in her hands.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
"My Son the Man" by Sharon Olds

Suddenly his shoulders get a lot wider,
the way Houdini would expand his body
while people were putting him in chains. It seems
no time since I would help him put on his sleeper,
guide his calves into the shadowy interior,
zip him up and toss him up and
catch his weight. I cannot imagine him
no longer a child, and I know I must get ready,
get over my fear of men now my son
is going to be one. This was not
what I had in mind when he pressed up through me like a
sealed trunk through the ice of the Hudson,
snapped the padlock, unsnaked the chains,
appeared in my arms. Now he looks at me
the way Houdini studied a box
to learn the way out, then smiled and let himself be manacled.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
Beyond Harm

A week after my father died
suddenly I understood
his fondness for me was safe – nothing
could touch it. In that last year,
his face would sometimes brighten when I would
enter the room, and his wife said
that once, when he was half asleep,
he smiled when she said my name. He respected
my spunk – when they tied me to the chair, that time
they were tying up someone he respected, and when
he did not speak, for weeks, I was one of the
beings to whom he was not speaking,
someone with a place in his life. The last
week he even said it, once,
by mistake. I walked into his room
‘How are you’ and he said ‘I love you
too.’ From then on, I had
that word to lose. Right up to the last
moment, I could make some mistake, offend him,
and with one of his old mouths of disgust he could
re-skew my life. I did not think of it much,
I was helping to take care of him,
wiping his face and watching him.
But then, a while after he died,
I suddenly thought, with amazement, he will always
love me now, and I laughed – he was dead, dead!

~by Sharon Olds
mercifulserpent: (Default)
The End by Sharon Olds
We decided to have the abortion, became
killers together. The period that came
changed nothing. They were dead, that young couple
who had been for life.
As we talked of it in bed, the crash
was not a surprise. We went to the window,
looked at the crushed cars and the gleaming
curved shears of glass as if we had
done it. Cops pulled the bodies out
Bloody as births from the small, smoking
aperture of the door, laid them
on the hill, covered them with blankets that soaked
through. Blood
began to pour
down my legs into my slippers. I stood
where I was until they shot the bound
form into the black hole
of the ambulance and stood the other one
up, a bandage covering its head,
stained where the eyes had been.
The next morning I had to kneel
an hour on that floor, to clean up my blood,
rubbing with wet cloths at those glittering
translucent spots, as one has to soak
a long time to deglaze the pan
when the feast is over.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
The Promise | Sharon Olds
With the second drink, at the restaurant,
holding hands on the bar table,
we are at it again, renewing our promise
to kill each other. You are drinking gin,
night-blue juniper berry
dissolving in your body, I am drinking Fume,
chewing its fragrant dirty and smoke, we are
taking on earth, we are part soil already,
and wherever we are, we are also in our
bed, fitted, naked, closely
along each other, half passed out,
after love, drifting back
and forth across the border of consciousness,
our bodies buoyant, clasped. Your hand
tightens on the table. You're a little afraid
I'll chicken out. What you do not want
is to lie in a hospital bed for a year
after a stroke, without being able
to think or die, you do not want
to be tied to a chair like your prim grandmother,
cursing. The room is dim around us,
ivory globes, pink curtains
bound at the waist-and outside,
a weightless, luminous, lifted-up
summer twilight. I tell you you do not
know me if you think I will not
kill you. Think how we have floated together
eye to eye, nipple to nipple,
sex to sex, the halves of a creature
drifting up to the lip of matter
and over it-you know me from the bright, blood-
flecked delivery room, if a lion
had you in its jaws I would attack it, if the ropes
binding your soul are your own wrists, I will cut them.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
Sharon Olds, "The Planned Child"
I hated the fact that they had planned me, she had taken
a cardboard out of his shirt from the laundry
as if sliding the backbone up out of his body,
and made a chart of the month and put
her temperature on it, rising and falling,
to know the day to make me - I would have
liked to have been conceived in heat,
in haste, by mistake, in love, in sex,
not on cardboard, the little x on the
rising line that did not fall again.

But when a friend was pouring wine
and said that I seem to have been a child who had been wanted,
I took the wine against my lips
as if my mouth were moving along
that valved wall in my mother's body, she was
bearing down, and then breathing from the mask, and then
bearing down, pressing me out into
the world that was not enough for her without me in it,
not the moon, the sun, Orion
cartwheeling across the dark, not
the earth, the sea - none of it
was enough, for her, without me.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
Sharon Olds - "The Death of Marilyn Monroe"

The ambulance men touched her cold

body, lifted it, heavy as iron,

onto the stretcher, tried to close the

mouth, closed the eyes, tied the

arms to the sides, moved a caught

strand of hair, as if it mattered,

saw the shape of her breasts, flattened by

gravity, under the sheet

carried her, as if it were she,

down the steps.



These men were never the same. They went out

afterwards, as they always did,

for a drink or two, but they could not meet

each other's eyes.



Their lives took

a turn--one had nightmares, strange

pains, impotence, depression. One did not

like his work, his wife looked

different, his kids. Even death

seemed different to him--a place where she

would be waiting,



and one found himself standing at night

in the doorway to a room of sleep, listening to a

woman breathing, just an ordinary

woman

breathing.
mercifulserpent: (Default)

Sharon Olds: Outside the Operating Room of the Sex-Change Doctor

Outside the operating room of the sex-change doctor, a tray
of penises.
There is no blood. This is not Vietnam, Chile, Buchenwald.
They were surgically removed under anaesthetic. They Lie there
neatly, each with a small space around it.
The anaesthetic is wearing off now. The chopped-off sexes lie
on the silver tray.
One says I am a weapon thrown down. Let there be no more
killing.

Another says I am a thumb lost in the threshing machine.
Bright straw fills the air. I will never have to work again.

The third says I am a caul removed from his eyes. Now he
can see.

The fourth says I want to be painted by Gericault, a still life
with a bust of Apollo, a drape of purple velvet, and a vine of ivy
leaves.

The Fifth says I was a dirty little dog, I knew he'd have me
put to sleep.

The sixth says I am safe. Now no one can hurt me.
Only one is unhappy. He lies there weeping in terrible grief,
crying out Father, Father!

The Gold Cell 1989

mercifulserpent: (Default)


The Promise

With the second drink, at the restaurant,
holding hands on the bare table,
we are at it again, renewing our promise
to kill each other. You are drinking gin,
night-blue juniper berry
dissolving in your body, I am drinking Fume,
chewing its fragrant dirt and smoke, we are
taking on earth, we are part soil already,
and wherever we are, we are also in our
bed, fitted, naked, closely
along each other, half passed out
after love, drifting back
and forth across the border of consciousness,
our bodies buoyant, clasped. Your hand
tightens on the table. You're a little afraid
I'll chicken out. What you do not want
is to lie in a hospital bed for a year
after a stroke, without being able
to think or die, you do not want
to be tied to a chair like a prim grandmother,
cursing. The room is dim around us,
ivory globes, pink curtains,
bound at the waist - and outside,
a weightless, luminous, lifted-up
summer twilight. I tell you you do not
know me if you think I will not
kill you. Think how we have floated together
eye to eye, nipple to nipple,
sex to sex, the halves of a creature
drifting up to the lip of matter
and over it - you know me from the bright, blood-
flecked delivery room, if a lion
had you in its jaws I would attack it, if the ropes
binding your soul are your own wrists, I will cut them.

mercifulserpent: (Default)
'I go back to May 1937

I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head,
I see my mother with a few light books at her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks with the
wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips black in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don't do it - she's the wrong woman,
he's the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot imagine you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you never heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty blank face turning to me,
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome blind face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don't do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips like chips of flint as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

-- Sharon Olds

**yes, this IS a repost... but "i go back" remains one of my favorite poems in the world. :)**

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