My Poem Without Me in It

Sharon Olds

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My poem without me in it—would it be like

my room when I had returned to it

after my mother was done with me.

Under my bed, only the outer

space balls, of dust, only

the asteroids of hair, no bent-legs

spider drawstring purse, no fly, no

I. My poem without me in it, would it

be like her house before I was granted

the right to close my door—it had been one

hive, one queen five times my size, her

long stomach lolling like a tucker-bag.

My poem without me—like the mahogany

bookcase, with its spiral pillars,

without a book by a woman in it.

My poem without

a simile in it. My poem like my head, as a child, when I learned

how not to have

a thought in it,

in case it were a thought one would burn for.

My poem without this ordinary female

in it—like the body politic

of a teenage woman without her special

blood in it. This old girl's

poem without a girl in it.

I have been a child without a soul.

The poem is a vale of soul-making.

Sharon Olds, "My Poem Without Me in It" from Arias. Copyright © 2019 by Sharon Olds. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: Arias (Knopf, 2019)