After Closing Up My Mother’s House

Sharon Olds

Last thing, at dusk, I leaned outthe hotel window, like a seal sticking halfwayout of the concave comber it is riding.To the west, the slopes of land offshore,violet mist, like isles of the blestseen by a child of genteel flogging,and the water looked horizontal, a shiningscale balanced. First thingin the morning, I leaned to the waist out into thecold dawn, and rotated easttoward the rim of coastal mountain toothedwith sequoia and pine. And a crow cried outin heavy vigor as he beat alongthe face of the hotel, and when he came to mehe shied, going up on his hind legslike a rearing stallion. All was in place—the fitted box of the planet, the tieredsewing-table town. And when the van rushed me down toward thetideflats, the sun came overthe ridge to the east, its traditional direction,as the parent, most of the time, diesbefore the child. We passed the roomwhere she had breathed her last breath intomy mouth, I could not save it, I do notknow where it is—not in space, but held, by the weight of ournatal stone, within our homemadeatmosphere. And we passed the cottagewith the cobalt window,and I muttered what her children had shouted here, BlueWindow! Blue Window! Along the runway,wind poured through the coat of horsetailfur, and terns, in their skirts, flutteredabove the thumbnail and crochet-hook snails,and we knock-swashed up, excreting fumesof carbon fern and marrow—and inthe seat pocket, in front of me, werecrimped, furled buds, stemsbushy with fresh thorns,and her last flagon of perfume, its glassdove alighting to seize it, or lifting it up.

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Photo:
Antonio Olmos

Sharon Olds was born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford University and Columbia University. The winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize for her 2012 collection, Stag’s Leap, she is the author of eleven previous books of poetry and the winner of many other honors, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Dead and the Living. Olds teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and helped to found the NYU outreach programs, among them the writing workshop for residents of Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island, and for the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. She lives in New York City.

“Olds has the goods in this eclectic collection of new verse . . . With its expansive range and warm honesty, this book shows us why the Pulitzer Prize winner is still among the most beloved poets alive.”
—Tomi Obaro, BuzzFeed

Arias is rich with its own music . . . Olds offers gripping, vivid songs that urgently capture the preciousness of what there remains on Earth to defend, and all that has been lost . . . In [these] complex, nourishing poems, the stakes are clear: if we are on Earth, we ought to be singing.”
—Maya Popa, Publishers Weekly

“[Olds] bring[s] the immensity of the world’s hurt to an intimate human level, not to simplify it but to both concentrate it and to find its odd joys. Arias offers hard-earned comfort well worth the effort.”
—Barbara Egel, Booklist

“In Arias, Olds puts her honest, clear verse to work mostly outside of the body, and looks instead at the body politic, at the social body we have created or destroyed together.”
—Anjanette Delgaro, New York Journal of Books

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