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Telling My Mother


Outside her window, a cypress, under
the weight of the Pacific wind,
was bending luxuriously. To tell
my mother that my husband is leaving me ...
I took her on a walk, taking her fleshless
hand like a passerine's claw, I bought her
a doughnut and a hairnet, I fed her. On the gnarled
magnolia, in the fog, the blossoms and buds were like
all the moons in one night—full,
gibbous, crescent. I'd practiced the speech,
bringing her up toward the truth slowly,
preparing her. And the moment I told her,
she looked at me in shock and dismay.
But when will I ever see him again?!
she cried out. I held hands with her,
and steadied us, joking. Above her spruce, through the
coastal mist, for a moment, a small,
dry, sandy, glistering star. Then I
felt in my whole body, for a second,
that I have not loved enough—I could almost
see my husband's long shape,
wraithing up. I did not know him,
I did not work not to lose him, and I lost him,
and I've told my mother. And it's clear from her harrowed
sorrowing cheeks and childhood mountain-lake
eyes that she loves me. So the men are gone,
and I'm back with Mom. I always feared this would happen,
I thought it would be a pure horror,
but it's just home, Mom's house
and garden, earth, olive and willow,
beech, orchid, and the paperweight
dusted with opal, inside it the arms of a
nebula raking its heavens with a soft screaming.


Sharon Olds

Stag's Leap
Alfred A. Knopf


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