the gold cell


Sharon Olds
June 16, 1997 8:55PM (UTC)

"I GO BACK TO MAY 1937"

I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,

I see my father strolling out

under the ochre sandstone arch, the

red tiles glinting like bent

plates of blood behind his head, I

see my mother with a few light books at her hip

standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks with the

wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its

sword-tips black in the May air,

they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,

they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are

innocent, they would never hurt anybody.

I want to go up to them and say Stop,

don't do it -- she's the wrong woman,

he's the wrong man, you are going to do things

you cannot imagine you would ever do,

you are going to do bad things to children,

you are going to suffer in ways you never heard of,

you are going to want to die. I want to go

up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,

her hungry pretty blank face turning to me,

her pitiful beautiful untouched body,

his arrogant handsome blind face turning to me,

his pitiful beautiful untouched body,

but don't do it. I want to live. I

take them up like the male and female

paper dolls and bang them together

at the hips like chips of flint as if to

strike sparks from them, I say

Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

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Excerpted with permission of the writer from "The Gold Cell," ) 1987 by Sharon Olds.


Sharon Olds

Among Sharon Olds' other collections of poetry are "Satan Says," "The Dead and the Living," "The Father" and her latest book, "The Wellspring." She teaches poetry workshops in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and helps run the N.Y.U. workshop program at Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island in New York.

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