PQR: Poems, Quotes, Readings

The Older

by Sharon Olds

The older I get, the more I feel
almost beautiful -- not my face, plain
puritan face, but my body. And I will be
fifty, soon, my body getting
withery and scrawny, and I like its silvery
witheriness, the skin thinning,
surface of a lake crumped by wind, ruched
wraith, a wrinkle of smoke. Yet when
I look down, I can see, sometimes,
things that if a young woman saw she would
scream, as if at a horror movie,
turned to crone in an instant -- if I lean
far enough forward, I can see the fine
birth skin of my stomach pucker
and hang, in tiny peaks, like wet stucco.
And yet I can imagine being eighty, made
entirely, on the outside, of that,
and making love with the same animal
dignity, the tunnel remaining
the inside of a raspberry bract.
Suddenly, I look young to myself
next to that eighty-year-old, I look
like her child, my flesh in its loosening drape
showing the long angles of these strange
bones like cooking-utensil handles in heaven.
When I was younger, I looked, to myself,
sometimes, like a crude drawing of a female --
the breasts, the 1940s flare of the hips --
but this greyish, dented being is cozy as
a favorite piece of clothing, she is almost
lovable, now, to me. Of course, it is
his love I am seeing, the working of his thumb
over this lucky nickel -- five times
five years in his pocket. Maybe
even if I died, I would not look ugly
to him. Sometimes, now, I dance
like shirred smoke above a chimney.
Sometimes, now, I think I live
in the place where the solemn, wild drinking
of coming is done, I am not all day coming
but all day living in that place where it is done.

Olds, Sharon. "The Older." The Unswept Room. NY: Knopf, (c) 2002, p. 68-69.

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Last Update: January 12, 2003