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.

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Written by Sharon Olds | Create an image from this poem

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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 After we flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
delicately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my 
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas 
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my 
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your 
sun rising swiftly from the right my 
sun rising swiftly from the left your 
moon rising slowly form the left my 
moon rising slowly form the right until 
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together, 
all our cities twin cities, 
all our states united, one 
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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A Week Later

 A week later, I said to a friend: I don't
think I could ever write about it.
Maybe in a year I could write something.
There is something in me maybe someday to be written; now it is folded, and folded, and folded, like a note in school.
And in my dream someone was playing jacks, and in the air there was a huge, thrown, tilted jack on fire.
And when I woke up, I found myself counting the days since I had last seen my husband-only two years, and some weeks, and hours.
We had signed the papers and come down to the ground floor of the Chrysler Building, the intact beauty of its lobby around us like a king's tomb, on the ceiling the little painted plane, in the mural, flying.
And it entered my strictured heart, this morning, slightly, shyly as if warily, untamed, a greater sense of the sweetness and plenty of his ongoing life, unknown to me, unseen by me, unheard, untouched-but known, seen, heard, touched.
And it came to me, for moments at a time, moment after moment, to be glad for him that he is with the one he feels was meant for him.
And I thought of my mother, minutes from her death, eighty-five years from her birth, the almost warbler bones of her shoulder under my hand, the eggshell skull, as she lay in some peace in the clean sheets, and I could tell her the best of my poor, partial love, I could sing her out with it, I saw the luck and luxury of that hour.
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 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.
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One Year

 When I got to his marker, I sat on it,
like sitting on the edge of someone's bed 
and I rubbed the smooth, speckled granite.
I took some tears from my jaw and neck and started to wash a corner of his stone.
Then a black and amber ant ran out onto the granite, and off it, and another ant hauled a dead ant onto the stone, leaving it, and not coming back.
Ants ran down into the grooves of his name and dates, down into the oval track of the first name's O, middle name's O, the short O of his last name, and down into the hyphen between his birth and death--little trough of his life.
Soft bugs appeared on my shoes, like grains of pollen, I let them move on me, I rinsed a dark fleck of mica, and down inside the engraved letters the first dots of lichen were appearing like stars in early evening.
I saw the speedwell on the ground with its horns, the coiled ferns, copper-beech blossoms, each petal like that disc of matter which swayed, on the last day, on his tongue.
Tamarack, Western hemlock, manzanita, water birch with its scored bark, I put my arms around a trunk and squeezed it, then I lay down on my father's grave.
The sun shone down on me, the powerful ants walked on me.
When I woke, my cheek was crumbly, yellowish with a mustard plaster of earth.
Only at the last minute did I think of his body actually under me, the can of bone, ash, soft as a goosedown pillow that bursts in bed with the lovers.
When I kissed his stone it was not enough, when I licked it my tongue went dry a moment, I ate his dust, I tasted my dirt host.
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 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.
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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.
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 Then dirt scared me, because of the dirt
he had put on her face.
And her training bra scared me—the newspapers, morning and evening, kept saying it, training bra, as if the cups of it had been calling the breasts up—he buried her in it, perhaps he had never bothered to take it off.
They found her underpants in a garbage can.
And I feared the word eczema, like my acne and like the X in the paper which marked her body, as if he had killed her for not being flawless.
I feared his name, Burton Abbott, the first name that was a last name, as if he were not someone specific.
It was nothing one could learn from his face.
His face was dull and ordinary, it took away what I’d thought I could count on about evil.
He looked thin and lonely, it was horrifying, he looked almost humble.
I felt awe that dirt was so impersonal, and pity for the training bra, pity and terror of eczema.
And I could not sit on my mother’s electric blanket anymore, I began to have a fear of electricity— the good people, the parents, were going to fry him to death.
This was what his parents had been telling us: Burton Abbott, Burton Abbott, death to the person, death to the home planet.
The worst thing was to think of her, of what it had been to be her, alive, to be walked, alive, into that cabin, to look into those eyes, and see the human
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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.
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The Daughter Goes To Camp

 In the taxi alone, home from the airport,
I could not believe you were gone.
My palm kept creeping over the smooth plastic to find your strong meaty little hand and squeeze it, find your narrow thigh in the noble ribbing of the corduroy, straight and regular as anything in nature, to find the slack cool cheek of a child in the heat of a summer morning— nothing, nothing, waves of bawling hitting me in hot flashes like some change of life, some boiling wave rising in me toward your body, toward where it should have been on the seat, your brow curved like a cereal bowl, your eyes dark with massed crystals like the magnified scales of a butterfly's wing, the delicate feelers of your limp hair, floods of blood rising in my face as I tried to reassemble the hot gritty molecules in the car, to make you appear like a holograph on the back seat, pull you out of nothing as I once did—but you were really gone, the cab glossy as a slit caul out of which you had slipped, the air glittering electric with escape as it does in the room at a birth.
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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.