The Enchantment

By Sharon Olds

When I say, to my mother, What was a good
thing about me as a child?, my mother’s
face seems to unfurl from the center,
hibiscus in fast motion, the anthers
and flounces spring out with joy. Oh you were
enchanting, she breathes. What do you mean
crazy? No sense of reality?
No-no, she laughs, with many little notes
half a scale, plus grace notes-I don’t
know how to say it, you were just. . .
enchanting. Possessed? I ask. Brain-damaged?
No . . . she smiles. There was something about you
the way you looked at things. I think I get it:
that stunned look on my face, in photos,
that dumbstruck look, gaze of someone
who doesn’t understand anything.
But a week later, I decide it was a look
of wonder, it was bemused pleasure.
Days later, I see it-that light
on my mother’s face-she loved me. And today
I hear her, she did not say enchanted.
The woman in whose thrall I am
is in my thrall, I came into being
within her silks and masses, and after we are
gone would she caper here, my first
love, would she do me the honor of continued ensorcelling?

 


Poem for the Breasts

By Sharon Olds

Like other identical twins, they can be
better told apart in adulthood.
One is fast to wrinkle her brow,
her brain, her quick intelligence. The other
dreams inside a constellation,
freckles of Orion. They were born when I was thirteen,
they rose up, half out of my chest,
now they’re forty, wise, generous.
I am inside them — in a way, under them,
or I carry them, I’d been alive so many years without them.
I can’t say I am them, though their feelings are almost
my feelings, as with someone one loves. They seem,
to me, like a gift that I have to give.
That boys were said to worship their category of
being, almost starve for it,
did not escape me, and some young men
loved them the way one would want, oneself, to be loved.
All year they have been calling to my departed husband,
singing to him, like a pair of soaking
sirens on a scaled rock.
They can’t believe he’s left them, it’s not in their
vocabulary, they being made
of promise — they’re like literally kept vows.
Sometimes, now, I hold them a moment,
one in each hand, twin widows,
heavy with grief. They were a gift to me,
and then they were ours, like thirsty nurslings
of excitement and plenty. And now it’s the same
season again, the very week
he moved out. Didn’t he whisper to them,
Wait here for me one year? no.
He said, God be with you, God
be with you, God-bye, for the rest
of this life and for the long nothing. And they do not
know language, they are waiting for him, my
Christ they are dumb, they do not even
know they are mortal — sweet, I guess,
refreshing to live with, beings without
the knowledge of death, creatures of ignorant suffering.

Flor Garduño, Los Limones, Mexico, 1998

Flor Garduño, Los Limones, Mexico, 1998


Primitive

By Sharon Olds

I have heard about the civilized,
the marriages run on talk, elegant and honest, rational. But you and I are
savages. You come in with a bag,
hold it out to me in silence.
I know Moo Shu Pork when I smell it
and understand the message: I have
pleased you greatly last night. We sit
quietly, side by side, to eat,
the long pancakes dangling and spilling,
fragrant sauce dripping out,
and glance at each other askance, wordless,
the corners of our eyes clear as spear points
laid along the sill to show
a friend sits with a friend here.