Submit Your Poems
Get Your Premium Membership

See and share Beautiful Nature Photos and amazing photos of interesting places

Best Famous Sharon Olds Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Sharon Olds poems. This is a select list of the best famous Sharon Olds poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Sharon Olds poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Sharon Olds poems.

Search for the best famous Sharon Olds poems, articles about Sharon Olds poems, poetry blogs, or anything else Sharon Olds poem related using the PoetrySoup search engine at the top of the page.

See also: Best Member Poems

Go Back

by Sharon Olds |

The Borders

 To say that she came into me,
from another world, is not true.
Nothing comes into the universe and nothing leaves it.
My mother—I mean my daughter did not enter me.
She began to exist inside me—she appeared within me.
And my mother did not enter me.
When she lay down, to pray, on me, she was always ferociously courteous, fastidious with Puritan fastidiousness, but the barrier of my skin failed, the barrier of my body fell, the barrier of my spirit.
She aroused and magnetized my skin, I wanted ardently to please her, I would say to her what she wanted to hear, as if I were hers.
I served her willingly, and then became very much like her, fiercely out for myself.
When my daughter was in me, I felt I had a soul in me.
But it was born with her.
But when she cried, one night, such pure crying, I said I will take care of you, I will put you first.
I will not ever have a daughter the way she had me, I will not ever swim in you the way my mother swam in me and I felt myself swum in.
I will never know anyone again the way I knew my mother, the gates of the human fallen.

by Sharon Olds |

Sex Without Love

 How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other's bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away.
How do they come to the come to the come to the God come to the still waters, and not love the one who came there with them, light rising slowly as steam off their joined skin? These are the true religious, the purists, the pros, the ones who will not accept a false Messiah, love the priest instead of the God.
They do not mistake the lover for their own pleasure, they are like great runners: they know they are alone with the road surface, the cold, the wind, the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio- vascular health--just factors, like the partner in the bed, and not the truth, which is the single body alone in the universe against its own best time.

by Sharon Olds |

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.

by Sharon Olds |

The Arrivals

 I pull the bed slowly open, I
open the lips of the bed, get
the stack of fresh underpants
out of the suitcase—peach, white,
cherry, quince, pussy willow, I
choose a color and put them on,
I travel with the stack for the stack's caress,
dry and soft.
I enter the soft birth-lips of the bed, take off my glasses, and the cabbage-roses on the curtain blur to Keats's peonies, the ochre willow holds a cloud the way a skeleton holds flesh and it passes, does not hold it.
The bed fits me like a walnut shell its meat, my hands touch the upper corners, the lower, my feet.
It is so silent I hear the choirs of wild silence, the maenads of the atoms.
Is this what it feels like to have a mother? The sheets are heavy cream, whipped.
Ah, here is my mother, or rather here she is not, so this is paradise.
But surely that was paradise, when her Jell-O nipple was the size of my own fist, in front of my face—out of its humped runkles those several springs of milk, so fierce almost fearsome.
What did I think in that brain gridded for thought, its cups loaded with languageless rennet? And at night, when they timed me, four hours of screaming, not a minute more, four, those quatrains of icy yell, then the cold tap water to get me over my shameless hunger, what was it like to be there when that hunger was driven into my structure at such heat it alloyed that iron? Where have I been while this person is leading my life with her patience, will and order? In the garden; on the bee and under the bee; in the crown gathering cumulus and flensing it from the boughs, weeping a rehearsal for the rotting and casting off of our flesh, the year we slowly throw it off like clothing by the bed covers of our lover, and dive under.

by Sharon Olds |


 I have heard about the civilized, 
the marriages run on talk, elegant and honest, rational.
But you and I are savages.
You come in with a bag, hold it out to me in silence.
I know Moo Shu Pork when I smell it and understand the message: I have pleased you greatly last night.
We sit quietly, side by side, to eat, the long pancakes dangling and spilling, fragrant sauce dripping out, and glance at each other askance, wordless, the corners of our eyes clear as spear points laid along the sill to show a friend sits with a friend here.

by Sharon Olds |

The Clasp

 She was four, he was one, it was raining, we had colds,
we had been in the apartment two weeks straight,
I grabbed her to keep her from shoving him over on his
face, again, and when I had her wrist
in my grasp I compressed it, fiercely, for a couple
of seconds, to make an impression on her,
to hurt her, our beloved firstborn, I even almost
savored the stinging sensation of the squeezing,
the expression, into her, of my anger,
"Never, never, again," the righteous
chant accompanying the clasp.
It happened very fast-grab, crush, crush, crush, release-and at the first extra force, she swung her head, as if checking who this was, and looked at me, and saw me-yes, this was her mom, her mom was doing this.
Her dark, deeply open eyes took me in, she knew me, in the shock of the moment she learned me.
This was her mother, one of the two whom she most loved, the two who loved her most, near the source of love was this.

by Sharon Olds |

The Space Heater

 On the then-below-zero day, it was on,
near the patients' chair, the old heater
kept by the analyst's couch, at the end,
like the infant's headstone that was added near the foot
of my father's grave.
And it was hot, with the almost laughing satire of a fire's heat, the little coils like hairs in Hell.
And it was making a group of sick noises- I wanted the doctor to turn it off but I couldn't seem to ask, so I just stared, but it did not budge.
The doctor turned his heavy, soft palm outward, toward me, inviting me to speak, I said, "If you're cold-are you cold? But if it's on for me.
" He held his palm out toward me, I tried to ask, but I only muttered, but he said, "Of course," as if I had asked, and he stood up and approached the heater, and then stood on one foot, and threw himself toward the wall with one hand, and with the other hand reached down, behind the couch, to pull the plug out.
I looked away, I had not known he would have to bend like that.
And I was so moved, that he would act undignified, to help me, that I cried, not trying to stop, but as if the moans made sentences which bore some human message.
If he would cast himself toward the outlet for me, as if bending with me in my old shame and horror, then I would rest on his art-and the heater purred, like a creature or the familiar of a creature, or the child of a familiar, the father of a child, the spirit of a father, the healing of a spirit, the vision of healing, the heat of vision, the power of heat, the pleasure of power.

by Sharon Olds |


 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.

by Sharon Olds |

The Mortal One

 Three months after he lies dead, that
long yellow narrow body,
not like Christ but like one of his saints,
the naked ones in the paintings whose bodies are
done in gilt, all knees and raw ribs,
the ones who died of nettles, bile, the
one who died roasted over a slow fire—
three months later I take the pot of
tulip bulbs out of the closet
and set it on the table and take off the foil hood.
The shoots stand up like young green pencils, and there in the room is the comfortable smell of rot, the bulb that did not make it, marked with ridges like an elephant's notched foot, I walk down the hall as if I were moving through the long stem of the tulip toward the closed sheath.
In the kitchen I throw a palmful of peppercorns into the saucepan as if I would grow a black tree from the soup, I throw out the rotten chicken part, glad again that we burned my father before one single bloom of mold could grow up out of him, maybe it had begun in his bowels but we burned his bowels the way you burn the long blue scarf of the dead, and all their clothing, cleansing with fire.
How fast time goes now that I'm happy, now that I know how to think of his dead body every day without shock, almost without grief, to take it into each part of the day the way a loom parts the vertical threads, half to the left half to the right like the Red Sea and you throw the shuttle through with the warp-thread attached to the feet, that small gold figure of my father— how often I saw him in paintings and did not know him, the tiny naked dead one in the corner, the mortal one.

by Sharon Olds |

The Pact

 We played dolls in that house where Father staggered with the
Thanksgiving knife, where Mother wept at noon into her one ounce of
cottage cheese, praying for the strength not to
kill herself.
We kneeled over the rubber bodies, gave them baths carefully, scrubbed their little orange hands, wrapped them up tight, said goodnight, never spoke of the woman like a gaping wound weeping on the stairs, the man like a stuck buffalo, baffled, stunned, dragging arrows in his side.
As if we had made a pact of silence and safety, we kneeled and dressed those tiny torsos with their elegant belly-buttons and minuscule holes high on the buttock to pee through and all that darkness in their open mouths, so that I have not been able to forgive you for giving your daughter away, letting her go at eight as if you took Molly Ann or Tiny Tears and held her head under the water in the bathinette until no bubbles rose, or threw her dark rosy body on the fire that burned in that house where you and I barely survived, sister, where we swore to be protectors.