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By now, my mother has been pulled to the top

of many small waves, carried in the curve that curls

over, onto itself, and unknots,

again, into the liquid plain,

as her ions had first been gathered from appearances

and concepts. And her dividend,

her irreducible, like violet

down, thrown to the seals, starfish,

wolf spiders on the edge-of-Pacific

floor, I like to follow her

from matter into matter, my little quester,

as if she went to sea in a pea-green

boat. Every separate bit,

every crystal shard, seems to

be here — her nature unknowable, dense,

dispersed, her atomization a miracle,

the earth without her a miracle

as if I had arrived on my own

with nothing to owe, nothing to grieve,

nothing to fear, it would happen with me

as it would, not one molecule

lost or sent to the School Principal

or held in a dried-orange-pomander strongbox

stuck with the iron-matron maces

of the cloves. My mother is a native of this place,

she is made of the rosy plates of the shell

of one who in the silt of a trench plays

music on its own arm, draws

chords, and then the single note —

rosin, jade, blood, catgut,

siren-gut, hair, hair,

hair — I miss her, I lack my mother, such

peace there is on earth now every

tooth of her head is safe, ground down

to filaments of rock-crab fractals

and claw facets, the whole color wheel

burst and released. Oh Mom. Come sit

with me at this stone table at the bottom

of the Bay, here is a barnacle of

egg custard, here is your tiny

spoon with your initials, sup with me

at dawn on your first day — we are all

the dead, I am not apart from you,

for long, except for breath, except for


Her Birthday as Ashes in Seawater

Sharon Olds

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