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  • Legs Ode, and: April Smoke, and: Ode to the Clitoris, and: Repentant Thief
  • Sharon Olds (bio)

Legs Ode

After they opened my flank up,and chopped down the femur, and into its marrow-holedrove the leg of the metal joint,and closed the book of my flesh, and sewed itshut, they said Don't cross your legs, you coulddislocate the new hip—and if you do, you will know it, that leg will befour or five inches longerthan the other, and the pain will make childbirth seemlike nothing. So, for six months,I did not make that first braidof the caduceus, I gave up the deployment,the flash of the seated entrechat, Idid not throw one leg overthe other leg's line, in thrilling enjambment.I had not known how vain I wasof my gams, until I had to still them—nosemaphoric waving, noRockette Rockette-flanked. But at lastI could not resist, and like a happy sadistuncoiling her lustrous bullwhip, and flicking itout, I unleashed my soft weapons,again, as if their length was a giftof extra time on earth. And as the livedough of my loaves, my raw baguettes, rolledout and snapped back, as my fish leapt anddove into the water again, as my trainedLipizzaners curvetted, I felt likesomeone whom a regime has notallowed to pray now folding her hands,fervent unfolding and folding. Whatis self-esteem? The last timemy mother beat me, she could not beat me, [End Page 7] because she could not catch me—I ranfrom her, and when she cornered me, Ilooked down, and saw the topof her head, as if the prayers of all thoseyears had been answered, I'd been lifted up,and up, above her, on the stilts of my newadolescent legs, I would neverwrap them around her waist againand my arms around her sides, sobbingto be taken back, when she'd broken my spirit oncemore, pulled its pestle out of themortar of my life. Whooosh! I whirlmy living sword, she can never go back to that eden.

April Smoke

When I'm sitting on the sun-warmed floor of the porch,after the winter of a hundred and twentyinches, a dome of snow in the gardenstill, the smoke from the chimney is slowlyblowing down over the roof and inbelow the eave. And the smoke is particulate,and I wonder if each speck of itis from a particular place on a log,from one degree of an arc of grain,one month of one year, one afternoon,and I wonder if each tiny fleckof the smoke of my motherwas made of a particular place on her,so that, if I had been there, that morning,to the east, in the path of the prevailing wind, [End Page 8] precisely where the dark dust of herformal material being was flowing,could I have steppedinto itand breathed in deep, and taken inthe last physical memoryof her tongue, say, or her womb—nother hand, not her eye, but a partof her which I could feel that I had lovedwith little demur—her aorta, her littlewadded hanky of a dimpled sweetbread,the place in her brain they were careful, when theyremoved the tumor, not to touch, thelocation of the passionate pleasureshe felt when hearing music. That I cansee myself, seven yearsafter her departure,stepping into a cloud, notof furies but of local ingredients,neutral, in their way, as the tinted portions of a map,makes me wonder, for a moment, ifI miss my mother,if you can be said to miss someoneyou would never want—for more than a minute,or an hour, or an afternoon, or a briefseason you know would come to an end—back. [End Page 9]

Ode to the Clitoris

Little eagerness;flower-girl basket of soft thornand petal, near the entry of the satincolumn of the inner aisle;scout...


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