July 1st, 2010
Song the Breasts Sing to the Late-in-Life Boyfriend
by Sharon Olds
When you touch them, their skin feels like the surface
of a soap bubble, tensile and shimmering,
the oils of many colors moving
in swirls, like the Coriolis winds of the globe.
When you hold them, it feels as if, within each,
there’s a solar system, majestic, lawful,
playful. When you hold one in your grip, a moment –
gently, but not sentimentally, and
shake it, there starts to snow a flurry
in my chest and belly, and lower belly,
where the flakes settle and sparkle. And when you
touch their centers, the tips of my ears grow
points, when your fingers nip their centers in the
bud, the blood flowers of engorgement
blossom. I like that you like that one of the
stem-stubs will sometimes draw inside, into
its hill, like an ostrich bloom which blooms,
lover of the dark, down into the ground.
When you hold them I feel like plunder adored
which adores being plundered. The mouths of your hands
honor the food of my flesh in its season,
and if it were reasonable to thank you
for doing what you like, I would thank you within reason,
but as it is not, I thank you beyond reason.
I love this poem for its meditative sensuous detail; its long, lingering caress; but I particularly love it for its last three lines. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this — about what it means to thank someone when giver has as much (or more!) to gain as recipient — and I’ve never met a poem that so elegantly, succinctly explored this funny little puzzle of human communication. I love a poem that can do this, that can skillfully occupy territories both abstract and tangible, and gain new power from the synthesis of both.
Found over at www.poetrylondon.co.uk
Browse Sharon Olds’ Poetry books at Powell’s