After we flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
delicately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly form the left my
moon rising slowly form the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sharon Olds's poem Topography

4 Comments

  1. M Kink says:

    Olds states “like maps laid
    face to face” therefore it is not a mistake that she says “sun rising swiftly from the right my
    sun rising swiftly from the left your
    moon rising slowly from the left my
    moon rising slowly from the right until
    all four bodies of the sky” because think about it this way. You have a 2 topography books opened to the USA you put the one on top of the other “laid
    face to face” you have New York on California. therefore you have 2 maps you have 2 sons, one coming from the left one coming from the right… both coming from east. 4 skies 2 day 2 night.. Astronomically correct.

  2. Nicole says:

    A woman as intelligent as Old’s almost certainly knows which direction the sun and moon come from. Could it be that she made a choice as opposed to a mistake? I’d put money on it. It’s people like the author of the first comment who view abstract images by Picasso as a choice and the abstract images of non-western art a matter of ignorance.

    Olds took a liberty in this poem, just as I will take a liberty in suggesting that you pull your head out of your pompous, misogynistic behind.

  3. Thomas Healy says:

    Mr. Rumley,
    Maybe you will never read this, but let it be known that people of your limited, academic-dulled imagination have no right to read poetry if this is what it produces in you. Please go back to your newpapers and half-edited textbooks and leave even the worst of poetry to those few who can appreciate such distortions.

    Yours sincerely,
    tm healy

  4. Patrick Rumley says:

    Though this is my favorite Sharon Olds poem, I laugh nearly every time I read “your / sun rising swiftly from the right my / sun rising swiftly from the left your / moon rising slowly from the left my / moon rising slowly from the right.” What I laugh at is how misguided Olds is in her astronomy. In her description of the moon rise she has it rising in the West, a common misconception, but wrong none the less. Let it be known that all heavenly bodies rise in the East and set in the West, this is due to the rotation of the Earth. Let it also be known that the sun and moon both rise with the same swiftness, this is also due to the rotation of the Earth. Though this is the case, let it be known that “Topography” is a beautiful poem despite, and perhaps because of, Olds misconception concerning astronomy.

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