“Cut Clove” by Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds


Theirs was a cut clove of garlic, under
a glass tumbler, there were spoons tarnished opal
in a cup, there was a nesting bowl
in a nesting bowl in a nesting bowl
on the sill when I understood it could be
they would have to remove my womb, I bent over,
wanting to cry out It’s my best friend,
it’s like having a real lady purse
of your own, of yourself, with a hanky inside,
and a meadow on the hanky, and a pair of gloves,
rose-colored, on the picnic cloth. It’s like being
where you came from, as if you are your origin,
the basket of life, the withies, the osier
reed weave, where your little best beloveds
lay and took heart, took on the weights
and measures. I love the pear shape,
and the upside-downness, the honor of bringing
forth the living so new they can almost
not be said to be dying yet.
And the two who rested, without fear or elation,
against this endometrium,
over the myometrium, held
around by the serosa … In the latter days
the unclosed top of the precious head
pressed down, on the inner os, and on the
outer os, and the feet played up against
the fundus, and I could feel, in myself,
of myself, the tale of love’s flesh.
Soon enough, the whole small
city of my being will demolish—what if now
one dwelling, the central dwelling,
the holy dwelling, goes. Like a fiber
suitcase, in a mown field, it stands,
maybe in its last days, its worn clasps gleaming.

from Rattle #17, Summer 2002


Sharon Olds: “Well, I figured, a plumber is a plumber. You don’t have to be a great plumber to call yourself a plumber, if you are a plumber each day. But what the word poet meant to me when I was a kid, those faces in the little portholes of the Oscar Williams anthology that I carried around with me—those creatures, those beings, were so special, they are so special, they are kind of like angels in some way, whose power of speech extended over time, who were helping us long after they had gone, and delighting us. So I didn’t feel comfortable using that word for myself. But then I figured, that’s what I do, that’s what I do, so that’s what I’m going to call myself.”

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