“You don’t always have to be so brave, you know.”
“Oh but I do, actually.”

True Love
Sharon Olds

In the middle of the night, when we get up
after making love, we look at each other in
complete friendship, we know so fully
what the other has been doing. Bound to each other
like mountaineers coming down from a mountain,
bound with the tie of the delivery-room,
we wander down the hall to the bathroom, I can
hardly walk, I hobble through the granular
shadowless air, I know where you are
with my eyes closed, we are bound to each other
with huge invisible threads, our sexes
muted, exhausted, crushed, the whole
body a sex—surely this
is the most blessed time of my life,
our children asleep in their beds, each fate
like a vein of abiding mineral
not discovered yet. I sit
on the toilet in the night, you are somewhere in the room,
I open the window and snow has fallen in a
steep drift, against the pane, I
look up, into it,
a wall of cold crystals, silent
and glistening, I quietly call to you
and you come and hold my hand and I say
I cannot see beyond it. I cannot see beyond it.

From Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002 by Sharon Olds, published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

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.

Ah, but I found this little gem today which has been hiding in my shelf for years.

Once
Sharon Olds

I saw my father naked, once, I
opened the blue bathroom door
which he always locked — if it opened, it was empty —
and there, surrounded by the glistening turquoise
tile, sitting on the toilet, was my father,
all of him, and all of him
was skin. In an instant my gaze ran
in a single, swerving, unimpeded
swoop, up: toe, ankle,
knee, hip, rib, nape,
shoulder, elbow, wrist, knuckle,
my father. He looked so unprotected,
so seamless, and shy, like a girl on a toilet,
and even though I knew he was sitting
to shit, there was no shame in that
but even a human peace. He looked up,
I said Sorry, backed out, shut the door
but I’d seen him, my father a shorn lamb,
my father a cloud in the blue sky
of the blue bathroom, my eye had driven
up the hairpin mountain road of the
naked male, I had turned a corner
and found his flank ungarded — gentle
bulge of the hip-joint, border of the pelvic cradle.

From Blood, Tin, Straw by Sharon Olds, published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.

Today is going to be a hard day. Almost a year ago I lost my grandfather. Today I haven’t got my own father back yet. Not quite. He hasn’t fully moved on. I haven’t fully moved on. How will we get through today?

My Father’s Diary
Sharon Olds

I get into bed with it, and spring
the scarab legs of its locks. Inside,
the stacked, shy wealth of his print—
he could not write in script, so the pages
are sturdy with the beamwork of printedness,
WENT TO LOOK AT A CAR, DAD
IN A GOOD MOOD AT DINNER, WENT
TO TRY OUT SOME NEW TENNIS RACQUETS,
LUNCH WITH MOM, life of ease—
except when he spun his father’s DeSoto on the
ice, and a young tree whirled up to the
hood, throwing up her arms—until
LOIS. PLAYED TENNIS, WITH LOIS,
LUNCH WITH MOM AND LOIS, LOIS
LIKED THE CAR, DRIVING WITH LOIS,
LONG DRIVE WITH LOIS. And then,
LOIS! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! SHE IS SO
GOOD, SO SWEET, SO GENEROUS, I HAVE
NEVER, WHAT HAVE I EVER DONE
TO DESERVE SUCH A GIRL? Between the dark
legs of the capitals, moonlight, soft
tines of the printed letter gentled
apart, nectar drawn from serif, the
self of the grown boy pouring
out, the heart’s charge, the fresh
man kneeling in pine-needle weave,
worshipping her. It was my father
good, it was my father grateful,
it was my father dead, who had left me
these small structures of his young brain—
he wanted me to know him, he wanted
someone to know him.

From Blood, Tin, Straw by Sharon Olds, published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.

Thinking of buying a book by Olds. Browsing the library now to see which one to get.

Sex Without Love
Sharon Olds

How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
Gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other’s bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth, whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio
vascular health–just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.

From Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002 by Sharon Olds, published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.