21st Century Literature discussion

Stag's Leap: Poems
This topic is about Stag's Leap
87 views
2013 Book Discussions > Stag's Leap - Poetry by Sharon Olds (June 2013)

Comments Showing 1-50 of 86 (86 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments This out-of-the-ordinary collection, about the end of a marriage, goes beyond the confessional. Sharon Olds, who has always had a gift for describing intimacy, has, in a sense, had these poems thrown at her by life and allowed them to take root: they are stunning – the best of a formidable career. Deserted after decades of marriage, she describes a love for her husband that refuses to die to order. They are the most unusual love poems: fortified by years, by sexual passion of valedictory intensity and by vows she does not, at first, know how to unmake. They can be read as an ongoing narrative – a calendar of pain.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments WHILE HE TOLD ME

While he told me, I looked from small thing
to small thing in our room, the face
of the bedside clock, the sepia postcard
of a woman bending down to a lily.
Later, when we took off our clothes, I saw
his deep navel, and the cindery lichen
silk, between the male breasts, and from
outside the shower curtain’s terrible membrane
I called out something like flirting to him
and he smiled. Before I turned out the light
he touched my face, then turned away,
then the dark. Then every scene I thought of
I visited accompanied by a death-spirit,
everything was chilled with it,
each time I woke I lay in dreading
bliss to feel and hear him sigh and
snore. Near sunrise, behind overcast, he got
up to go in and read on the couch,
as he often did,
and in a while I followed him,
as I often had,
and snoozed on him, while he read, and he laid
an arm across my back. When I opened
my eyes I saw two tulips stretched
away form each other extreme in the old
vase with the grotto carved out of a hill
and a person kneeling in it, praying. Around
the neck of the vase, its narrow sky,
were petioles, leaf-scars, pollen ashes,
pollen dust, as if I saw where he had been
living, my imagined shepherd in impermanent paradise.


https://www.aprweb.org/poem/while-he-...


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments The first poem, While He Told Me, situates itself in the room where she hears her marriage is over. She sees: "the bedside clock, the sepia postcard/ of a woman bending down to a lily." No annunciation this – all renunciation. She goes on to describe her husband with possessive care: "the cindery lichen skin between the male breasts." But it is the tenses that do the agonising work:

… he got

up to go in and read on the couch

as he often did

and in a while I followed him

as I often had.


The "as I often had" delivers the pain of it: the present no longer habitable.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/...


Thing Two (thingtwo) Sophia wrote: "Deserted after decades of marriage, she describes a love for her husband that refuses to die to order. They are the most unusual love poems: fortified by years, by sexual passion of valedictory intensity and by vows she does not, at first, know how to unmake. They can be read as an ongoing narrative – a calendar of pain."

Wow. I'm a bit afraid to tackle this! I'm not sure I want to delve in to her pain.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments It's not easy reading. But it's very well written.


Tiffany Wow! I'm really looking forward to this one. I feel like a lot of the recent contemporary poetry I've read has been completely devoid of emotion. Hopefully this one will be a refreshing change! I have it on hold on the library, but it might take some time before it arrives.


message 7: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) I could really feel the emotion in the poem as well. I thought your commentary was very helpful, Sophia. Thanks!


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments I hope you continue to enjoy these poems. This is some of the best confessional poetry there is. Whilst it is never devoid of emotion it's also never sentimental (quite the reverse, in my opinion) and always controlled. Olds is renowned for being very honest, but this work feels mature. Incidentally she waited ten years to publish these poems out of consideration for her former husband.

And now she's older (and wiser?) she's going back over earlier work to remove direct references to her children.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Unspeakable

Now I come to look at love
in a new way, now that I know I’m not
standing in its light. I want to ask my
almost-no-longer husband what it’s like to not
love, but he does not want to talk about it,
he wants a stillness at the end of it.
And sometimes I feel as if, already,
I am not here – to stand in his thirty-year
sight, and not in love’s sight,
I feel an invisibility
like a neutron in a cloud chamber buried in a mile-long
accelerator, where what cannot
be seen is inferred by what the visible
does. After the alarm goes off,
I stroke him, my hand feels like a singer
who sings along with him, as if it is
his flesh that’s singing, in its full range,
tenor of the higher vertebrae,
baritone, bass, contrabass.
I want to say to him, now, What
was it like, to love me – when you looked at me,
what did you see? When he loved me, I looked
out at the world as if from inside
a profound dwelling, like a burrow, or a well, I’d gaze
up, at noon, and see Orion
shining – when I thought he loved me, when I thought
we were joined not just for breath’s time,
but for the long continuance,
the hard candies of femur and stone,
the fastnesses. He shows no anger,
I show no anger but in flashes of humour,
all is courtesy and horror. And after
the first minute, when I say, Is this about
her, and he says, No, it’s about
you, we do not speak of her.


http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/39...


message 10: by Sophia (last edited Jun 03, 2013 02:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments This is what Sharon Olds has to say about the experience of writing these poems.

"I think that whenever we give our pen some free will, we may surprise ourselves. All that wanting to seem normal in regular life, all that fitting in falls away in the face of one's own strange self on the page. From the day my husband told me he was leaving, I was writing—a lot. I wanted to make something of my altered life, to break into song, to cry out on paper. Reminding myself that no one else would ever see what I wrote—with my ballpoint pen in my wide-ruled spiral notebook—helped me be less censored and less afraid. Later, I could decide to show or not, because whether anyone ever read it was not the most important thing.

Writing or making anything—a poem, a bird feeder, a chocolate cake—has self-respect in it. You're working. You're trying. You're not lying down on the ground, having given up. And one thing I love about writing is that we can speak to the absent, the dead, the estranged and the longed-for—all the people we're separated from. We can see them again, understand them more, even say goodbye."

http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Ho...


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Material Ode

O tulle, O taffeta, O grosgrain—
I call upon you now, girls,
of fabrics and the woman I sing. My husband
had said he was probably going to leave me—not for sure, but
likely, maybe—and no, it did not
have to do with her. O satin, O
sateen, O velvet, O fucking velveeta—
the day of the doctors' dress-up dance,
the annual folderol, the lace,
the net, he said it would be hard for her
to see me there, dancing with him,
would I mind not going. And since I'd been
for thirty years enarming him,
I enarmed him further—Arma, Virumque,
sackcloth, ashen embroidery! As he
put on his tux, I saw his slight
smirk into the mirror, as he did his bow tie,
but after thirty years, you have some
affection for each other's little faults,
and it suited me to cherish the belief
no meanness could happen between us. Fifty-
Fifty we had made the marriage,
Fifty-fifty its demise. And when he came
home and shed his skin, Reader,
I slept with him, thinking it meant
he was back, his body was speaking for him,
and as it spoke, its familiar sang
from the floor, the old-boy tie. O silk,
O slub, O cocoon stolen. It is something
our species does, isn't it,
we take what we can. Or else there'd be grubs
who kept people, in rooms, to produce
placentas for the larvaes' use, there would be
a cow who would draw from our womb our unborn
offspring, to make of them shoes for a calf.
O bunny-pajamas of children! Love
where loved. O babies' flannel sleeper
with a slice of cherry pie on it.
Love only where loved! O newborn suit
with a smiling worm over the heart, it is
forbidden to love where we are not loved.


http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Ho...


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments 'Material Ode’ draws on the miniature epic manner of some of her most salient, early, Whitman-inspired poems, with their tongue-in-cheek magniloquence - Erik Martiny

http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/lib/t...


message 13: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) Oh gosh, I hate that man.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments I know what you mean. But read what Sharon Olds says.

"This one took a long time. What helped pull me back up from the devastation of the loss—the shock and horror of suddenly not seeing my husband or living with him anymore—was to see my part in the long success and eventual failure of the marriage. We'd had a lot of good years; then our lives slowly changed, our characters changed, and we were not so well suited to each other anymore. He just realized it long before me. As I began to be able to see some of what happened (not all) from his point of view—his wish to be with someone more like himself, someone not a writer—then I didn't feel like a victim but more like an equal. As one of the poems in Stag's Leap says:

50/50 we made the marriage
50/50 its demise

Seeing yourself as responsible for the quality of your relationships, as a prime mover in your life, I think is a bold, amazing step. How freeing, to know we too can act, and that our own choices have helped bring about the joy as well as sorrow in our own lives."

- Sharon Olds

http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Ho...


message 15: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) Well, that helps a little. But even though through reflection she came to realize her responsibility for the failure of the marriage, his actions at the onset of the break-up seem very cold and unfeeling.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments This is from her perspective of course.. We have no idea what the circumstances were. Plus this is an artist making 'art', which means she may be an unreliable narrator (!)


message 17: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) Sophia wrote: "This is from her perspective of course.. We have no idea what the circumstances were. Plus this is an artist making 'art', which means she may be an unreliable narrator (!)"

Granted. I will revise (or rather extend) my original statement. I hate that man as he is portrayed in the poem from the perspective of this arguably unreliable narrator :)


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments *smiles*


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Telling My Mother

Outside her window, a cypress, under
the weight of the Pacific wind,
was bending luxuriously. To tell
my mother that my husband is leaving me ...
I took her on a walk, taking her fleshless
hand like a passerine's claw, I bought her
a doughnut and a hairnet, I fed her. On the gnarled
magnolia, in the fog, the blossoms and buds were like
all the moons in one night—full,
gibbous, crescent. I'd practiced the speech,
bringing her up toward the truth slowly,
preparing her. And the moment I told her,
she looked at me in shock and dismay.
But when will I ever see him again?!
she cried out. I held hands with her,
and steadied us, joking. Above her spruce, through the
coastal mist, for a moment, a small,
dry, sandy, glistering star. Then I
felt in my whole body, for a second,
that I have not loved enough—I could almost
see my husband's long shape,
wraithing up. I did not know him,
I did not work not to lose him, and I lost him,
and I've told my mother. And it's clear from her harrowed
sorrowing cheeks and childhood mountain-lake
eyes that she loves me. So the men are gone,
and I'm back with Mom. I always feared this would happen,
I thought it would be a pure horror,
but it's just home, Mom's house
and garden, earth, olive and willow,
beech, orchid, and the paperweight
dusted with opal, inside it the arms of a
nebula raking its heavens with a soft screaming.


http://poems.com/poem.php?date=15597


message 20: by Sophia (last edited Jun 06, 2013 01:15AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments "It is interesting how much of an ordinary enough life can be a poem and have its own kind of beauty and be useful to other people. I guess I am someone who likes to push to the edge of what it is OK to have in a poem. That is my mischievous side, to teeter on the edge of good taste, on what is permissible." - Sharon Olds

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyl...


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Silence, with Two Texts

When we lived together, the silence in the home
was denser than the silence would be
after he left. Before, the silence
had been like a large commotion of industry
at a distance, like the downroar of mining. When he went,
I studied my once-husband’s silence like an almost
holy thing, the call of a newborn born
mute. Text: “Though its presence is detected
by the absence of what it negates, silence
possesses a power which presages fear
for those in its midst. Unseen, unheard,
unfathomable, silence dis-
concerts because it conceals.” Text:
“The waters compassed me about, even to
the soul: the depth closed me round
about, the weeds were wrapped about
my head.” I lived alongside him, in his hush
and reserve, sometimes I teased him, calling his
abstracted mask his Alligator Look,
seeking how to love him as
he was, under the law that he could not
speak—and when I shrieked against the law
he shrinked down into its absolute,
he rose from its departure gate.
And he seemed almost like a hero, to me,
living, as I was, under the law
that I could not see the one I loved
but only consort with him as a being
fixed as an element, almost
ideal, no envy or meanness. In the last
weeks, by day we moved through the tearing
apart, along its length, of the union,
and by night silence lay down with blindness,
and sang, and saw.


http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/stag'...


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Though some readers have suggested that the poems are too soft on the figure of the husband -- that there's not enough judgment or anger -- Olds herself is content with the balance she struck.

"I had to tune each poem, and tune the book, to get the balance of its qualities feeling right to me -- the idealizing, the anger, the self-pity," she said. "I didn't have ideas I wanted to illustrate; I hoped each poem could find its own way from its beginning to end -- that I could 'stay out of its way.' I guess I'm pretty happy with the balance of the book ... But of course it's going to be a different book in each reader's hands!"

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04...


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Gramercy

The last time we slept together—
and then I can’t remember when
it was, I used to be a clock
of sleeping together, and now it drifts,
in me, somewhere, the knowledge, in one of those
washes on maps of deserts, those spacious
wastes—the last time, he paused,
at some rest stop, some interval
between the unrollings, he put his palm
on my back, between the shoulder blades.
It was as if he were suing for peace,
asking if this could be over—maybe not
just this time, but over. He was solid
within me, suing for peace. And I
subsided, but then my bright tail
lolloped again, and I whispered, Just one
more?, and his indulgent grunt
seemed, to me, to have pleasure, and even
affection, in it—and my life, as it
was incorporated in flesh, was burst with the
sweet smashes again. And then
we lay and looked at each other—or I looked
at him, into his eyes. Maybe that
was the last time—not knowing
it was last, not solemn, yet that signal given,
that hand laid down on my back, not a gauntlet
but a formal petition for reprieve, a sign for Grant Mercy.


http://poetrydispatch.wordpress.com/2...


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments "This is NOT a self-help book of poems about dealing with abandonment but more like a journey, a meditation on rising to another level … love after love … which few approach, given the burden of memory." — Norbert Blei


Thing Two (thingtwo) Sophia wrote: "Material Ode

O tulle, O taffeta, O grosgrain—
I call upon you now, girls,
of fabrics and the woman I sing. My husband
had said he was probably going to leave me—not for sure, but
likely, maybe—an..."


How could he?!?! Oh, my. I hate that man, too!


Thing Two (thingtwo) Sophia wrote: "This is from her perspective of course.. We have no idea what the circumstances were. Plus this is an artist making 'art', which means she may be an unreliable narrator (!)"

True. True.


Thing Two (thingtwo) Left-Wife Goose

Hoddley, Poddley, Puddles and Fogs,
Cats are to Marry the Poodle Dogs;
Cats in Blue Jackets and Dogs in Red Hats,
What Will Become of the Mice and Rats?
Had a trust fund, had a thief in,
Had a husband, could not keep him.
Fiddle-Dee-Dee, Fiddle-Dee-Dee,
The Fly Has Left the Humble-Bee.
They Went to the Court, and Unmarried Was She:
The Fly Has Left the Humble-Bee.
Had a sow twin, had a reap twin,
Had a husband, could not keep him.
In Marble Halls as White as Milk,
Lined with a Skin as Soft as Silk,
Within a Fountain Crystal-Clear,
A Golden Apple Doth Appear.
No Doors There Are to This Stronghold
Yet Robbers Break In and Steal the Gold.
Had an egg cow, had a cream hen,
Had a husband, could not keep him.
Formed Long Ago, Yet Made Today,
Employed While Others Sleep;
What Few Would Like to Give Away,
Nor Any Wish to Keep.
Had a nap man, had a neap man,
Had a flood man, could not keep him.
Ickle, Ockle, Blue Bockle,
Fishes in the Sea.
If You Want a Left Wife,
Please Choose Me.
Had a safe of 4X sheepskin,
Had a brook brother, could not keep him.
Inter, Mitzy, Titzy, Tool,
Ira, Dura, Dominee,
Oker, Poker, Dominocker,
Out Goes Me.
Had a lamb, slung in keepskin,
Had some ewe-milk, in it seethed him.
There Was an Old Woman Called Nothing-at-All,
Who Lived in a Dwelling Exceedingly Small;
A Man Stretched His Mouth to the Utmost Extent,
And Down at One Gulp House and Old Woman Went.
Had a rich pen, had a cheap pen,
Had a husband, could not keep him.
Put him in this inken shell,
And here you keep him very well.


http://www.gulfcoastmag.org/index.php...

Gut wrenching!


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments And a clever use of nursery rhymes. This is from the section of the collection, 'Winter', when Olds is over the initial shock and - post-divorce - is utterly alone, facing down what her life has come to...


Thing Two (thingtwo) Sophia wrote: "And a clever use of nursery rhymes. This is from the section of the collection, 'Winter', when Olds is over the initial shock and - post-divorce - is utterly alone, facing down what her life has co..."

Interesting. I was reading it seasonally -- as in "this is what happened to me in winter" -- but winter as a season of her recovery makes sense, too.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments And a season of waiting - even if everything looks and feels dead to the world there will be life after death.

For the most part these poems are about her looking hard at where she finds herself. Which is what we must all do if the new growth of spring, which will come, is to thrive.


message 31: by Thing Two (last edited Jun 12, 2013 08:11AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Thing Two (thingtwo) Wow. I just read her "Not Quiet Enough". I wish I could find it online to repost it, but I did come across this discussion of it:

In Not Quiet Enough, when speculating about the divisive effect of the sounds of her passion, she then wonders whether ‘maybe / it was not my chirps, not the sounding / flesh of those sheets, floor, chairs, back / porches, a hayloft, woods, but this telling / of them – did his spirit turn against the spirit which / tolled our private, wild bell / from the public rooftop, I who had no other gift to give the world but to hold what I / thought was love’s mirror up to us – / ah now, no puff of mist on it’.

http://johnfield.org/2013/01/14/the-l...

Is this a human trait -- or is it female? -- to seek to understand, find blame within ourselves, to "explain" our relationship failures.

Ouch. This one hurt.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Women, in particular, do blame themselves - for everything. But for this? I guess when you're fretting in the wee small hours the most bizarre thoughts occur...

Dread and sorrow reaching, in time, into
every reach, there comes the hour
I wonder if my husband left me
because I was not quiet enough
in our bed ...



message 33: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) Sophia wrote: "Women, in particular, do blame themselves - for everything. But for this? I guess when you're fretting in the wee small hours the most bizarre thoughts occur...

Dread and sorrow reaching, in time..."


I believe it is more of a female trait to ruminate over relationship failures and seek to understand what when wrong, how am I to blame, how was I lacking, etc. Especially true, I think, if there is spousal infidelity involved, although it's not clear if that was the case with Olds.

I thought "Left Wife Goose" was a total heart breaker.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Sharon Old's husband left her for another woman.


message 35: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) Well, that was strongly implied now that I think about it.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments If memory serves me right I think she explicitly says as much... When I find the reference I'll get back to you!


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments SEA-LEVEL ELEGY

Once a year, for a minute, I let myself
go back, to the summer rental, the stairs
down into the earth, I let myself descend them
and turn, and pass the washing machine, and go
into the bedroom, one wall the solid
pane the warbler flew into skull-first,
the opposite wall the deep, bright
seagoing mirror. Even now,
I see us, long horizontals
in the green pool of the wall, speckled
by the silt of the old plate glass, spotted
like other animals. Above us are the pine
planks, planed, and sawn aslant,
and marked with the boot-sole ridges of the builders’
Timberlands. And there, behind the pillows, are the
alcoves in which the owners kept lasts
of shoes, like wooden feet, Petrarchan
ankle slippers, out from the toe
the last-tip sprouting — how many times, as if
risen from inside the earth, where I’d seemed to have
ocean-fathoms-flown, with him,
scarcely recognizing, my gaze would
travel over the hermetic shapes of the
dummies shoemakers had shod. And I had clothed him
with my body and been clothed with his, again,
again, unquestioned, not fully seen,
not wanting to fully see. And now,
the image of him has gone inside
the raw closet, the naked bulb’s
blazing golden pear beside his
August-island shaggy head.
That’s it. Once, each summer, I howl,
and draw myself back, out of there, where
beauty and joy, where ignorance, where
touch and the ideal, where unwilled yet willful
blindness — once a year, I have mercy,
I let myself go down where I have lived, and then,
hand over hand, I pull myself back up.


http://triquarterly.org/poetry/sea-le...


message 38: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) Have mercy! This was painful. The imagery of going down and the pain of remembering a happy, innocent time before the bad things happen - very well communicated, I think. One gets the idea that if she let herself go back/down to this memory for more than a minute, once a year, she would never recover.


Thing Two (thingtwo) I just finished this and I'm not sure I want to put it down. Her words gnaw at me.


message 40: by Candace (last edited Jun 15, 2013 02:36PM) (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) Sophia wrote: "If memory serves me right I think she explicitly says as much... When I find the reference I'll get back to you!"

Yes, he did after 26 years of marriage. I read it somewhere in the pulitzer award information.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Thank you.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Thing Two wrote: "I just finished this and I'm not sure I want to put it down. Her words gnaw at me. "

That's the strength of Sharon Olds' writing. She talks here about why she writes confessional poetry and elaborates: "poetry is the place where you can say the unsayable" http://www.thepoetrytrust.org/poetry-...

Is she right?


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments DonnaR wrote: "The imagery of going down and the pain of remembering a happy, innocent time before the bad things happen - very well communicated, I think. One gets the idea that if she let herself go back/down to this memory for more than a minute, once a year, she would never recover."

That's EXACTLY how it is when you're in the throes of grieving and this is what makes her so good. We feel the pain. It's all too real.


message 44: by Sophia (last edited Jun 17, 2013 02:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Attempted Banquet

Lugging of shellfish in coolers, boiling,
and bouillabaissing—summer luncheon
we had tried to give, canceling twice
when the parasite had come back to my gut,
then trying again, recurrent hope
of serving up the creatures of the shallow
deep. We joked about putting it off, but
underneath the joking, grim
and hidden, he wanted to leave me, and he was
working toward it and against it, maybe worried
he could not do it, longing for it
and fearing it, and not speaking of it, bent
over the shucked crustaceans and the finny
wanderers from the tide pools, their feelers which
had writhed their last in the home language.
It touches with a sharp, shelling touch,
still, to remember his joyless labor
in the heat, we sweated side by side three
times like a spell or a curse, until,
on Labor Day, the salmon at last
undulated out the kitchen door in its
half-slip of thin cucumber scales
on its fluted platter to the table laid with a
linen cloth under the old
trees of life. And almost no one
actually got there, at the last minute there were
sprains and flus and in-laws and flats
so the few of us there moved through the heavy
air like kids at an empty school on a holiday,
and the wasted food was like some kind of
carnage. We lived on it a week, as we’d been
living, without my seeing it,
on the broken habit of what was not lasting
love. When I remember him
at the stove, the sight pierces me
with tenderness, he was suffering, then,
as I would soon. When I see that day,
at moments I see it almost without guilt,
or with a pure, shared guilt,
or a shared cause, without fault, and there is
nothing to be done for it,
it can only be known and borne, it cannot be
turned into anything fruitful or sweet,
but just be faced, as what it was,
just be eaten, portion of flesh and salt.


http://structureandstyle.tumblr.com/p...


message 45: by Sophia (last edited Jun 17, 2013 02:07AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Cheating as carnage? That's what this blogger found in the poem:

Memory “touches with a sharp, telling touch.” And I suppose I’d describe what’s left over, long after my parents divorced, as “carnage.” That’s the word Sharon Olds uses to describe a leftover banquet, which works as an extended metaphor for the end of her marriage: “and the wasted food was like some kind of / carnage. We lived on it a week, as we’d been / living, without seeing it, / on the broken habit of what was not lasting / love.

http://structureandstyle.tumblr.com/p...


message 46: by Donna (last edited Jun 18, 2013 05:48AM) (new)

Donna (drspoon) In this one, for the first time, Olds has generated in me some small sympathy for her husband. I wonder if any of the missing guests stayed away because they were aware of the infidelity- so often the wife (or husband, as the case may be) is the last to know.


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Indeed. And how awful to have been the subject of so many vivid poems, for years and years!


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments The Haircut

A year after he left I thought of the day he’d been
sick and I’d cut my then-husband’s hair
to cheer him up. First I combed it,
sensing, with its teeth, the follicles
of his scalp. His hair was stiff from fever, close-
laid and flat, each plane a worn
conveyor belt come out of his head,
and his skull was flattish in back, with a hollow
in the center. I loved to eat-eat-eat
with the scissors, to chew sheaf. He was
so tall it was like tree husbandry,
childish joy of tiptoe. On his shoulders,
the little bundles would accumulate,
like a medieval painting’s kindling
dropped when a meteor passed over. He was so
handsome it was kind of adorable when he
looked horrible. His face that hour was
gaunt, the runnels of his cheeks concave, his
lower eyelids and the sacks below them
ogre-swollen, but within the rims
were the deep-sea swimmers of his eyes, the sounders,
by which I read the depth of his character, not
knowing how else but by beauty to read it,
and he closed them, he bowed, I did his nape
and patted up pinion from the floor. Before sleep,
I stroked his satiny hair, the viral
sweat creaming out at its edge, I petted his
coat and he took a handful of my hair in his
fist and gripped it. Don’t be sick,
I said, Okay, he said, and love
seemed to rest, on us, in a place
where, for that hour, it felt death could not
reach, and someone was singing, in my hearing, without
words, that no one can live without reaching
death, but I could have lived without having
loved almost without reserve, and for a
moment, then, I thought I lived forever with him.


http://additionsays.tumblr.com/post/1...


Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments "Olds’ affinity for precision and concision permeates her poetry. In 'The Haircut, Olds remembers her husband once when he was sick, telling us, “He was so / handsome it was kind of adorable when he / looked horrible. Simultaneously heart-warming and heart wrenching" http://www.davidsonian.com/book-revie...

To have loved like this; and lost... It renders me speechless. Such tenderness.


Thing Two (thingtwo) Sophia wrote: ""To have loved like this; and lost ... It renders me speechless. Such tenderness ... "

The cynic in me wonders if we're reading what she wasn't able to express to him. Obviously there was a disconnect in their marriage. Perhaps he grew tired of reading about her tenderness for him without actually experiencing it.


« previous 1
back to top