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Sharon Olds - The Arrivals

I pull the bed slowly open, I
open the lips of the bed, get
the stack of fresh underpants
out of the suitcase—peach, white,
cherry, quince, pussy willow, I
choose a color and put them on,
I travel with the stack for the stack's caress,
dry and soft. I enter the soft
birth-lips of the bed, take off my
glasses, and the cabbage-roses on the curtain
blur to Keats's peonies, the
ochre willow holds a cloud
the way a skeleton holds flesh
and it passes, does not hold it.
The bed fits me like a walnut shell its
meat, my hands touch the upper corners,
the lower, my feet. It is so silent
I hear the choirs of wild silence, the
maenads of the atoms. Is this what it feels like
to have a mother? The sheets are heavy
cream, whipped. Ah, here is my mother,
or rather here she is not, so this is
paradise. But surely that
was paradise, when her Jell-O nipple was the
size of my own fist, in front of my
face—out of its humped runkles those
several springs of milk, so fierce
almost fearsome. What did I think
in that brain gridded for thought, its cups
loaded with languageless rennet? And at night,
when they timed me, four hours of screaming, not a
minute more, four, those quatrains of
icy yell, then the cold tap water
to get me over my shameless hunger,
what was it like to be there when that
hunger was driven into my structure at such
heat it alloyed that iron? Where have I
been while this person is leading my life
with her patience, will and order? In the garden;
on the bee and under the bee; in the
crown gathering cumulus and
flensing it from the boughs, weeping a
rehearsal for the rotting and casting off of our
flesh, the year we slowly throw it
off like clothing by the bed covers of our lover, and dive under.

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Poet: Sharon Olds
Poem: The Arrivals
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