Poem of the Week--Sharon Olds

By Administrator Fri, January 5, 2007
Poet, Sharon Olds
Poet, Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds began publishing in 1980, winning the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1983 for The Dead & the Living. Other works by Olds include Strike Sparks: Selected Poems (2004, Knopf), The Unswept Room (2002), Blood, Tin, Straw (1999), The Gold Cell (1997), The Wellspring (1995), and The Father (1992). She was the New York State Poet from 1998 to 2000. She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006.


Take the I Out


But I love the I, steel I-beam

that my father sold. They poured the pig iron

into the mold, and it fed out slowly,

a bending jelly in the bath, and it hardened,

Bessemer, blister, crucible, alloy, and he

marketed it, and bought bourbon, and Cream

of Wheat, its curl of butter right

in the middle of its forehead, he paid for our dresses

with his metal sweat, sweet in the morning

and sour in the evening. I love the I,

frail between its flitches, its hard ground

and hard sky, it soars between them

like the soul that rushes, back and forth,

between the mother and father. What if they had loved each other,

how would it have felt to be the strut

joining the floor and roof of the truss?

I have seen, on his shirt-cardboard, years

in her desk, the night they made me, the penciled

slope of her temperature rising, and on

the peak of the hill, first soldier to reach

the crest, the Roman numeral I--

I, I, I, I,

girders of identity, head on,

embedded in the poem. I love the I

for its premise of existence--our I--when I was

born, part gelid, I lay with you

on the cooling table, we were all there, a

forest of felled iron. The I is a pine,

resinous, flammable root to crown,

which throws its cones as far as it can in a fire.

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