Ode of Withered Cleavage

An excerpt from Odes by Sharon Olds.

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When I saw it for the first time,

I was baffled that anyone would walk out her door

showing that—the vines, the snakes,

the ripples, the nest of nestlings' necks!

And to think that on an ancestor

of that—if withered cleavage is

a descendant of fresh, young breasts—

I had spent some early hours of my life,

learning to adore the curves of the creamy

moon. My mother's desire to be touched,

late in her life, was so intense I could

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almost hear it, like a keening from the hundred little

purselets of each nipple, each like a

rose-red eraser come alive and starvacious.

And now my own declivity is

arroyoing, and if I live long enough

my chest over my breastbone may look like

an internal organ, a heart trailing its

arteries and veins. I want to praise

what goes one way, what never recovers.

I want to live to an age when I look

hardly human, I want to love them

equally, birth and its daughter and

mother, death.

Excerpted from ODES by Sharon Olds. Copyright © 2016 by Sharon Olds. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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