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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.


Sharon Olds

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