poems

“Anyone Who Has Left Love” (by Sharon Olds)

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Anyone who has left love,
who has stepped out of the boat, onto
the water, learns what they had not known
or wanted to. Anyone
who turns their back on love, as if
it might not take too long for them to go
all the way around and come up behind it—
anyone who lets love go,
opens their hand while walking through
a crowd, as if getting, piece by piece,
rid of evidence, will lose,
along with evidence of the thing,
the thing itself. Anyone
who sets love down, and takes their eyes
away, anyone who travels far
when love is home, anyone
who homes alone when love is far,
will lose what cannot be found. Maybe they
thought love was the earth under
the road, or the road under the sole
of the shoe or the foot under the body but by now it is
back there. It was a bush like a fire,
and now—no more fragrance or light
will be inhaled, or seen, as when
you die you will not see the world again.
Even if you thought you had not
believed you were loved, something in you
knew that you were—and you stepped right off love’s roof.

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“Well anyway

rose-petals

the dead

are dead”

hushed but

busted wide

with want

that Jim

still begging

for one

last go

and Francie

so starved

she’s throwing

down fries

just minutes

before closing

those eyes

of hers

and the

dog’s ball

was buried

last fall

but what

a shedder

she was

that pup

this one

time gobbling

up chocolates

with franks

poor girl

nearly died

then but

didn’t so

look

the sun

it’s white

the wind

it’s up

the bits

of straw

skitter across

granite and

grass these

rose petals

dying, yes,

but still

so fragrant

nonetheless

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October

robin egg

I will tell you about the naked oak in our yard and about

my dead robin, June, who couldn’t fly south for winter

and about the Cooper’s hawk that swooped down to eat

the poor thing, pecking first at a dull eye, while close by

two cracked eggs, each the size of a large jelly bean,

lay oozing yolk and about the cold sky pulled thin and

plumed across my low horizon and about Hyena, with

his pail full of silver buckshot, who shouted from across

the avenue, “Wanna lick my lollipop, pancake tits?”

while behind him two fat boys cackled, with Br’er

Rabbit, the older by some years, in Daddy’s pink shirt

and about mother leaving for the City, her thin

lips painted plump, and about my gray lunch

congealing in a tin pan that sat on the top rack of a

cold oven and about the canned peaches she dumped

into a tea cup and placed on a shelf in her

refrigerator. But not yet and not here

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Colder stars

stars on a cold night

Where do we go from here,

when it is nightfall,

when soon the cold stars will spin,

the moon will die again,

and the marsh peeper

will call out to his coy lover,

who may or may not appear?

Must I beg for that last drink of you,

that spilling grace,

or for the touch of

a cool hand?

Longing can become a dark dog

awakening briefly to an emptied bowl.

If I leave here tonight unwhole,

will a smaller god follow me,

whining,

back home?

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Star stuff

torn screen

A thin, naked

branch scraping

her lacquered nails down

and up the bedroom

window like a pointless

backscratch reminds

me we are the same

star stuff the same

sorrow the same

sackcloth of bones

and wails the same

hunger and heat

we hide from

the one

who says,

“You know we love you. Right?”

 …

Alone in her bedroom a young mother shouts,

“Don’t pretend you can’t hear me!” and smirks,

those teeth, front-gapped,

those eyes, dark and empty—

on the walnut nightstand sits

a drained bottle of bourbon,

beneath it an oval

burn mark the size of a

child’s scabbed knee.

 …

 By the pond a peeper

announces the arrival of

spring, his biology

unhiding a loin-longing

he cannot escape.

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baby’s bones daddy’s dust

holy-road1

Try to hide sorrow in a dry poem

and all you’ll get is a line arrow

of razzle-dazzle pique

pointing down, down deep,

towards a brown road in

a flat state where the sky there

hangs half dull half billow

and no one gets up before noon

or goes out before the moon

rises over a straw-colored cat

stretched sleepless across

the lid of a metal can half filled

with balled-up paper and gristle scraps.

Baby tried not to cry,

her eyes still bulgy from a ten-day

binge on gin and tears

and sex with an uptown pimp

we’ll call Joe, who promised

a generous wad

of cash each week, a sapphire

ring, a Chevy Impala, a trip

to Acapulco, and back,

plus a condo with deck just outside Coral Gables

in exchange for a lie-down wherever and whenever he said

so. Seemed a better option, by miles,

than a tenement on the lower east side.

While her daddy diddled every big-breasted, boy-hipped secretary he

could get his hands on but married himself off to a little, brittle

chickadee from across the pond, who herself

had a taste for gin and also for Vegas craps

and kidney-shaped pools but not for the small dark girl

who followed her everywhere, nut-scampering and twitchy,

and dogged the silky retriever pup that ate soft sweaters,

then piddled in circles beneath the stairs.

Under a scorching sun they came from far flung

for daddy’s burning, the jackass penguins and their lah-de-dah crows,

but baby’s bones just got tumbled in,

with only a parched girl in black jeans, a lunatic aunt, and a few sparrows looking on.

Someone touches daddy’s coffin and sobs.

I throw a few rose petals into baby’s open grave.

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