Olds, Sharon: The Personal Yet Political Poet
Sharon Olds is an American woman contemporary poet who writes “intensely personal, emotionally scathing poetry which graphically depicts family life as well as global political events,” as the Poetry Foundation says. Here’s a poem of hers in this vein.
In the back of the charm-box, in a sack, the baby
canines and incisors are mostly chaff,
by now, split kernels and acicular down, no
whole utensils left: half
an adz; half a shovel, in its broken
handle a marrow well of the will
to dig and bite. And the enamel hems
are sharp as shell-tools, and the colors go from
salt, to bone, to pee on snow, to
sun on pond-ice embedded with twigs
and chipped-off skate-blade. One cuspid
is like the tail of an ivory chough
on my grandmother’s what-not in a gravure on my mother’s
bureau in my father’s house in my head,
I think it’s our daughter’s, but the dime Hermes
mingled the deciduals of our girl and boy, safe-
keeping them together with the note that says
Dear Toth Farry, Plees Giv Me
A Bag of Moany. I pore over the shards,
a skeleton-lover—but who could throw out
these short pints of osseus breastmilk,
or the wisdom, with its charnel underside,
and its dome, smooth and experienced,
ground in anger, rinsed in silver
when the mouth waters. From above, its knurls
are a cusp-ring of mountain tops
around an amber crevasse, where in high
summer the summit wildflowers open
for a day—Crown Buttercup, Alpine Flames,
Shooting-Star, Rosy Fairy Lantern,
Cream Sacs, Sugar Scoop.
I found the title intriguing, and it did not disappoint. I imagined it as what a child would say, who has lost a tooth. I was close, as Olds expands on this in the poem to show it is the spelling a child uses.
Her description of the tooth is compelling. I’ll never look at teeth the same way again. I enjoyed her comparison of them to mountain tops. The villain sugar is softened by its transformation in a wildflower. She has an extensive vocabulary, and I Googled many words in this poem! I like how she makes the reader stretch her muscles.
This post is a part of #BlogchatterA2Z 2023.