They rose up half out of my chest
Now they are forty [fifty plus], wise, generous
I am inside them, in a way, under them
Or I carry them
I was alive so long without them
I can't say I envy them,
though their feelings are almost my feelings
As with someone one deeply loves...
They were a gift to me
And then they were ours
Like little nurslings of excitement and plenty..."
My beautiful daughter and I walk away from the Sharon Olds' reading Friday night, arm in arm, after saying goodbye to our plum friends. 'I am not a breast woman," Gill says. "Ah, you are a leg woman," I guess as I look up at her face and wonder once again how I created such long-legged children.
I wish I could find the whole poem about breasts because though it is about breasts, it is also about Olds husband's departure. When I first bought "The Unswept Room" and read about the split with her husband, I almost cried. How could he leave this extraordinary woman, I wondered. She had written about their couplings so beautifully so many times, more beautifully to me than any other author.
"If, someday, we had to look back
and tell the best hours of our lives,
this was one - moving my brow
and nose around, softly, in your armpit,
as if you were running a furred palm
over my face. The skin of my body
touching your body felt actively joyful,
sated yet sipping and eating. As you fell
asleep, your penis slowly caressed me,
as if you were licking me goodbye, and I lay
slack, weightless, my body floated
on fathomless happiness..."
I can't remember how I discovered Olds' poetry but I bought her books one by one as they first appeared on shelves. I love how the body is her reference point. She read at the Vancouver Writers and Readers Festival another year - I can't remember the date - and she read about sitting on a toilet watching her menstrual blood making beautiful patterns in the water. My head spun. I had never thought of menstruation as being beautiful. But forever after I did.
Friday was such a good evening. I would have liked to buy Olds' new book but the lineup was too long and I hate lineups and I tell myself that I will pick up the book this week before leaving for France.
(Another reason I love Olds is her politics. The young poet who introduced the author the other night mentioned her open letter to Laura Bush. It's worth reading.)