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The Talk by Sharon Olds

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1.
I’ve done that. Dive into someone’s arms. Or body perhaps. Or perhaps the space where I thought a body should be, falling into nothing, not being held, in the end. And yet falling still. I’ve cried out more than once, this being human! as if by giving voice to the ridiculous ordeal of being known I will have dissolved into another body that is not mine.

2.
Body that is not mine: how I wish sometimes I am an animal burrowing underneath the earth, where nothing else will touch me, where it will be safe.

3.
Where will it be safe, I’ve asked this a thousand times. Where can I be human, I’ve asked this a thousand times. Sometimes all I want to be is a person and be loved.

4.
To be loved: I sit here in the quiet. I am waiting. I know later someone will come.

The Talk
Sharon Olds

In the sunless wooden room at noon
the mother had a talk with her daughter.
The rudeness could not go on, the meanness
to her little brother, the selfishness.
The eight-year-old sat on the bed
in the corner of the room, her irises distilled as
the last drops of something, her firm
face melting, reddening,
silver flashes in her eyes like distant
bodies of water glimpsed through woods.
She took it and took it and broke, crying out
I hate being a person! diving
into the mother
as if
into
a deep pond—and she cannot swim,
the child cannot swim.

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This poem appeared in Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002 by Sharon Olds, published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Shared here with profound gratitude.

Read more works by Sharon OldsFind books by this poet • Or view my library 

Explore poems in pursuit of: growing uprelationshipsbeing human • Or browse the index

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