personal favorites / poetry collections… The Dead and the Living by Sharon Olds / poems & video

Sharon Olds

The Dead and the Living


“The Death of Marilyn Monroe”

The ambulance men touched her cold
body, lifted it, heavy as iron,
onto the stretcher, tried to close
the mouth, closed the eyes, tied the
arms to the side, moved a caught
strand of hair, as if it mattered,
saw the shape of her breasts, flattened by
gravity, under the sheet,
carried her, as if it were she,
down the steps.
These men were never the same. They went out
afterwards, as they always did,
for a drink or two, but they could not meet
each other’s eyes.

                            Their lives took
a turn-one had nightmares, strange
pains, impotence, depression. One did not
like his work, his wife looked
different, his kids. Even death
seemed different to him-a place where she
would be waiting,
and one found himself standing at night
in the doorway to a room of sleep, listening to a
woman breathing, just an ordinary



(for my parents)

I have never left. Your bodies are before me
at all times, in the dark I see
the stars of your teeth in their fixed patterns
wheeling over my bed, and the darkness
is your hair, the fragrance of your two heads
over my crib, your body-hairs
which I count as God counts the feathers of the sparrows,
one by one. And I never leave your sight,
I can look in the eyes of any stranger and
find you there, in the rich swimming
bottom-of-the-barrel brown, or in the
blue that reflects from the knife’s blade,
and I smell you always, the dead cigars and
Chanel in the mink, and I can hear you coming,
the slow stopped bear tread and the
quick fox, her nails on the ice,
and I dream the inner parts of your bodies, the
coils of your bowels like smoke, your hearts
opening like jaws, drops from your glands
clinging to my walls like pearls in the night.
You think I left—I was the child
who got away, thousands of miles,
but not a day goes past that I am not
turning someone into you.
Never having had you, I cannot let you go, I
turn now, in the fear of this moment,
into your soft stained paw
resting on her breast, into your breast trying to
creep away from under his palm—
your gooseflesh like the shells of a thousand tiny snails,
your palm like a streambed gone dry in summer.

Olds speaking on the autobiographical in writing (Academy of American Poets, Forum, 2008)


~ by samofthetenthousandthings on May 14, 2012.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: