When I left the city for the house in the woods,
slowly I got to know the room where I sat
on the bed all day and looked through its arabesque foot
at the fireplace under the beveled mantel
where the oval mirror was balanced vertical,
and sometimes a brass ball cast a bent
spear of sun
onto the glass which
bounced a brilliant fish-hook onto
the ceiling. Outside the window, the worn
plastic siloes of black oil seed
dangled like the bars of a score, the songbirds in a
darting frenzy around them.
Elsewhere, people sicken and die.
Elsewhere, people starve, and thirst,
and hide by dawn, and walk by evening,
and perish, and their parents perish.
I try to hide from knowing that.
I send money, I send for a cotton
dress, for the hot weather,
for the eating and drinking and writing, describing
the luxuries of my vantage point
in plenty and safety. I do not give
enough—and my taxes are spent, by the orange
cockatoo, in the White Man House,
on bailing out bankers. O.K., spend
the rest of the day sending money
to the hungry—pay back a tithe of what
generations of my family stole.
I am of a people of thieves,
and beaters of children. I was not beaten
because of my race, but because I belonged
to my mother, and I was a girl, and a child,
and obedient—I mean sane—I never
thought of saying no to her
until I was a head taller than my mother.
And I did not deserve to be beaten, but now
I see it—I have not ever, in my life,
been beaten outside my gender, or my family, or my color.
Copyright © 2022 by Sharon Olds, Balladz, Alfred A. Knopf