Sharon Olds

Our discussion about Sharon Olds this week made me even more interested in her poems, especially the confessional aspect of them. It seems like each of her poems tells us a little more about her life and each time we are finding out something new about her. I found another short piece by her called “The Pact” that reveals more about what her life was like growing up. This one talks about her sister and what they went through living in their father’s house. It sounds like they had to stick together in order to deal with their parents. The image Olds creates of her parents is different than in “I Go Back to May 1937.” In that poem, they are young and happy, while in “The Pact” they seem defeated and helpless.

The Pact

 We played dolls in that house where Father staggered with the
Thanksgiving knife, where Mother wept at noon into her one ounce of
cottage cheese, praying for the strength not to
kill herself. We kneeled over the
rubber bodies, gave them baths
carefully, scrubbed their little
orange hands, wrapped them up tight,
said goodnight, never spoke of the
woman like a gaping wound
weeping on the stairs, the man like a stuck
buffalo, baffled, stunned, dragging
arrows in his side. As if we had made a
pact of silence and safety, we kneeled and
dressed those tiny torsos with their elegant
belly-buttons and minuscule holes
high on the buttock to pee through and all that
darkness in their open mouths, so that I
have not been able to forgive you for giving your
daughter away, letting her go at
eight as if you took Molly Ann or
Tiny Tears and held her head
under the water in the bathinette
until no bubbles rose, or threw her
dark rosy body on the fire that
burned in that house where you and I
barely survived, sister, where we
swore to be protectors.
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1 Response to Sharon Olds

  1. Evan Johnson says:

    Wow this poem is confusing. At first I have a clear idea of what is going on then near the end it all becomes a huge jumble. I would try to sort it out but Olds has never been one of my favorite poets as I don’t really like The deep sorrowful depressing kinds of images. Wait, I do like that. I love seeing sweet sweet sorrow in books and on Tv. Maybe I just don’t like Olds because her sorrow is to real? Does that make me a shallow person?

    What I think I get out of this is that she is saying that she is like a doll that her father killed or threw away to mean that he just gave up on the family like he just decided to stop playing house and that she had to be silent about her mothers depression and never speak to her father to “Survive”. The imagery of the doll is hollow so that bods well for the narrators mental state. This is a strange poem as in others she shows her father in a somewhat better light. I wish she would just say what her relationship is like with her father but then again maybe she doesn’t even know that.

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