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Poem to the reader.

Since. I was thirteen, I have wondered who I am. I'd look in the bathroom mirror, stare at that homely handsome face--was I nice? was I evil?--then squeeze the sebum out of my pores, slow thick cold sebum. Under my skin, female flesh now lay in packs, hip-flasks of fat. Out of my mouth came a soil-like smell. Maybe I was actually dead, maybe I was my father on the couch passed out risen up and walking. When I would touch a boy, I would feel like an archangel crushed to another archangel, between the curve of the dash and the hard orbit of the seat, wings fiercely shut, we would fly. I would look in the mirror afterwards, my eyes shining. And when the head appeared, and the child went one way and my body another, it wasn't good or evil, it was just the animal, the real. I sang when I tended the children, day and night went back inside the universe of the marriage bed, I felt virtuous, stuffed to the spirit-tips with touch. And then the children grew up, I was weaned from that constant tending. I am nothing without a body in my arms, I am a craving spirit, the way the dead stream along the walls of houses and affix themselves to the glowing windows. This morning--the rain not dropping yet but fizzing, gently boiling in the air-- I felt some word might be in, soon, on who I am. And what if I am not loving? What if all that buttoning and unbuttoning and suckling and sucking were the hunger of the dead. Sure I would die for them, gladly give even my sight, my hair to fire to save them, but isn't that easy for the dead, haven't I always really longed to give an arm for them, to see the severed arms exchanged on the table. Sex so obvious, the cunt wanting to swallow, swallow, fiercely sing all day all night bright come and his pleasure just exciting, the great lover just an evil fucker feeding on his pleasure, as if I could not make love, when none had made me. Her milk she craved to give me to get her nipple sucked, and the grave man was finally only barely able to stay in the suction path of my beaming. Maybe some judge's word is in. Maybe when I entered the spoon into the mouth, then lifted the handle as I pulled, so the sphere of manna stayed in, I was taking, maybe when I stroke his ass, sated, press my face into the cool nippleless breast of his buttock, I am taking. The pubic hair on this sheet, in the path of the lamp this morning, rears up, its shadow's tip clipped to either end, its twin running in place an illusory river--in torque, arched, reddish, the poor animal I hair, mated to its shadow, is a soul in hell, a poet bent over the paper. I lift my head and look for you, to give you this. But what if my giving is taking, if I set the lips of this poem to your breast. But what if you like that? If we're all taker craving that gaze. So I set the mouth of my iris to the mouth of your iris here for this soul kiss.
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Author:Olds, Sharon
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:May 1, 1993
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