Τετάρτη, 14 Σεπτεμβρίου 2011

SHARON OLDS














Japanese-American Farmhouse, California, 1942

Everything has been taken that anyone
thought worth taking. The stairs are tilted,
scattered with sycamore leaves curled
like ammonites in inland rock.
Wood shows through the paint on the frame
and the door is open--an empty room,
sunlight on the floor. All that is left
on the porch is the hollow cylinder
of an Albert's Quick Oats cardboard box
and a sewing machine. Its extraterrestrial
head is bowed, its scrolled neck
glistens. I was born, that day, near there,
in wartime, of ignorant people.


CRAB
When I eat crab, slide the rosy
rubbery claw across my tongue
I think of my mother. She'd drive down
to the edge of the Bay, tiny woman in a
huge car, she'd ask the crab-man to
crack it for her. She'd stand and wait as the
pliers broke those chalky homes, wild-
red and knobby, those cartilage wrists, the
thin orange roof of the back.
I'd come home, and find her at the table
crisply unhousing the parts, laying the
fierce shell on one side, the
soft body on the other. She gave us
lots, because we loved it so much,
so there was always enough, a mound of crab like a
cross between breast-milk and meat. The back
even had the shape of a perfect
ruined breast, upright flakes
white as the flesh of a chrysanthemum, but the
best part was the claw, she'd slide it
out so slowly the tip was unbroken,
scarlet bulb of the feeler—it was such a
kick to easily eat that weapon,
wreck its delicate hooked pulp between
palate and tongue. She loved to feed us
and all she gave us was fresh, she was willing to
grasp shell, membrane, stem, to go
close to dirt and salt to feed us,
the way she had gone near our father himself
to give us life. I look back and
see us dripping at the table, feeding, her
row of pink eaters, the platter of flawless
limp claws, I look back further and
see her in the kitchen, shelling flesh, her
small hands curled—she is like a
fish-hawk, wild, tearing the meat
deftly, living out her life of fear and desire.

The Sash
The first ones were attached to my dress
at the waist, one on either side,
right at the point where hands could clasp you and
pick you up, as if you were a hot
squeeze bottle of tree syrup, and the
sashes that emerged like axil buds from the
angles of the waist were used to play horses, that
racing across the cement while someone
held your reins and you could feel your flesh
itself in your body wildly streaming.
You would come home, a torn-off sash
dangling from either hand, a snake-charmer—
each time, she sewed them back on with
thicker thread, until the seams of
sash and dress bulged like little
knots of gristle at your waist as you walked, you could
feel them like thumbs pressing into your body.
The next sash was the one Thee, Hannah!
borrowed from her be-ribboned friend
and hid in a drawer and got salve on it,
salve on a sash, like bacon grease on a snake,
God's lard on the ribbon a Quaker girl
should not want, Satan's jism on
silk delicate as the skin of a young girl's genital.
When Hannah gave up satin her father
told her she was beautiful
just as God made her. But all sashes
lead to the sash, very sash of
very sash, begotten, not made, that my
aunt sent from Switzerland—
cobalt ripple of Swiss cotton with
clean boys and girls dancing on it.
I don't know why my mother chose it to
tie me to the chair with, her eye just
fell on it, but the whole day I
felt those blue children dance
around my wrists. Later someone
told me they had found out
the universe is a kind of strip that
twists around and joins itself, and I believe it,
sometimes I can feel it, the way we are
pouring slowly toward a curve and around it
through something dark and soft, and we are bound to
each other.

The Unborn
Sometimes I can almost see, around our heads,
Like gnats around a streetlight in summer,
The children we could have,
The glimmer of them.

Sometimes I feel them waiting, dozing
In some antechamber - servants, half-
Listening for the bell.

Sometimes I see them lying like love letters
In the Dead Letter Office

And sometimes, like tonight, by some black
Second sight I can feel just one of them
Standing on the edge of a cliff by the sea
In the dark, stretching its arms out
Desperately to me.

The Victims  
When Mother divorced you, we were glad. She took it and
took it in silence, all those years and then
kicked you out, suddenly, and her
kids loved it. Then you were fired, and we
grinned inside, the way people grinned when
Nixon's helicopter lifted off the South
Lawn for the last time. We were tickled
to think of your office taken away,
your secretaries taken away,
your lunches with three double bourbons,
your pencils, your reams of paper. Would they take your
suits back, too, those dark
carcasses hung in your closet, and the black
noses of your shoes with their large pores?
She had taught us to take it, to hate you and take it
until we pricked with her for your
annihilation, Father. Now I
pass the bums in doorways, the white
slugs of their bodies gleaming through slits in their
suits of compressed silt, the stained
flippers of their hands, the underwater
fire of their eyes, ships gone down with the
lanterns lit, and I wonder who took it and
took it from them in silence until they had
given it all away and had nothing
left but this.