A Fresh Vision

One of the new vintage hankies is so
delicate—linen lawn
printed with blowsy ocher flowers, in them
many black anthers—anemones—and with
lining-of-the-body’s-openings bright
pinks, and with lilies of the valley, turquoise
inside—and I am taken back
to who I was, what I came as,
who they made, a fairly sturdy
child with what they thought of as over-
active senses. I loved to touch things
soft, and to stroke them. I loved a light
wind on my face, and, once I could tiptoe,
I tiptoed. Luckily they did not hate me—
they enjoyed me, in their way, and though I was
peculiar, abnormally sensitive, and they
teased me for it, to some extent
they let me be—not morally,
morally it was their duty to punish me—
but they let me show them some of the extremes
of human feeling. They liked it that I
believed in faeries, and tried to tiptoe
up to the blossoms the tiny witty
irascible ones might be hiding behind.
O Christ, Shary, you’re saying you were
loved. You charmed them into putting
up with an ecstatic. And your sense of attachment
was also highly developed—you loved them
intensely, extravagantly. And this morning
I blew my nose on this web-fine,
translucent meadow, and saw you—myself,
unique and strange. In the passion of your
perceptions, you taught me something about
value—the tender value of blossoms,
of visions, of skin—through you I learned
the beauty of our home, its finite worth.
Now I will mourn myself, when I die.
But how will I fight, when I have died,
    for the life of the earth?

Sharon Olds is the author of thirteen books of poetry, most recently Balladz, a finalist for the National Book Award; Arias, short-listed for the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize; Odes; and Stag’s Leap, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize.