Celibacy at Twenty by Sharon Olds

Funny how much I’ve changed. I used to love this. Now I only like it.

Celibacy at Twenty
Sharon Olds

After I broke up with someone,
or someone with me, days would go by,
nights, weeks, soon it would be months since I had
touched anyone. i would move as little
as possible, the air seemed to press on my skin, my
breasts like something broken open, un-
capped and not covered, the buds floated in the
center at the front, if I turned a corner too
fast I would almost come. Swollen,
walking like someone carrying something
filled to the brim, the lip of the liquid
rocking, taut, at the edge, at the top–
and at times, in the shower, no matter how quickly
I washed I’d be over the top in seconds,
and then the loneliness, which had felt enormous,
would be begin to grow, easily, rapidly,
triple, sextuple, dodecatuple,
the palm fronds and camellia buds bent
double under a campus sky of iron.
Later, when the next first kiss would come,
it would shock me, the size and power of happiness,
and yet it was familiar–lips aching and
pulling, hands and feet going numb, I’d be
trying not to moan, streaming slowly
across the arc of the sky– it was always
a return, the face in the dashlight closer
and closer, like the approaching earth,
until it is all you can see. Each time,
I wanted to be coming home
to stay. But every time I went
from months of hunger to those first kisses,
soon there were the last kisses, and I
felt I stood outside of life, held
back– but no one was holding me, I was
waiting, very near the human,
my violence uncommitted, I was
saving it. Once I stripped and
entered the pit I did not want ever to come up out of it.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Captain Awkward

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