Sharon Olds’ anagram–“hard on loss”–is apt when you consider some of the chief topics of her poetry. The homonym for said anagram is apt if you consider the title of a certain Sharon Olds poem we’ve read twice before. Well here’s a piece of hers that I heard on the radio this weekend, and is timely for anyone expecting a family reunion of sorts over Thanksgiving. Two memories presented here, tied neatly with a simply metaphor and a wonderful closing image. I guess if you hold a bee by the wings enough times, sooner or later you’re gonna get hurt.
Sharon Olds was born in 1942 and has won a handful of American literary prizes. Those still toiling away in obscurity will be heartened to learn that she published her first book of poems at age 37. For every reader who loves her poems, there is a reader who condemns them as self-indulgent and sensational. She lives in New York. -ed.
When she comes back, from college, I will see
the skin of her upper arms, cool,
matte, glossy. She will hug me, my old
soupy chest against her breasts,
I will smell her hair! She will sleep in this apartment,
her sleep like an untamed, good object,
like a soul in a body. She came into my life the
second great arrival, after him, fresh
from the other world—which lay, from within him,
within me. Those nights, I fed her to sleep,
week after week, the moon rising,
and setting, and waxing—whirling, over the months,
in a slow blur, around our planet.
Now she doesn’t need love like that, she has
had it. She will walk in glowing, we will talk,
and then, when she’s fast asleep, I’ll exult
to have her in that room again,
behind that door! As a child, I caught
bees, by the wings, and held them, some seconds,
looked into their wild faces,
listened to them sing, then tossed them back
into the air—I remember the moment the
arc of my toss swerved, and they entered
the corrected curve of their departure.