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Diagnosis by Sharon Olds

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“Diagnosis”

By the time I was six months old, she knew something
was wrong with me. I got looks on my face
she had not seen on any child
in the family, or the extended family,
or the neighborhood. My mother took me in
to the pediatrician with the kind hands,
a doctor with a name like a suit size for a wheel:
Hub Long. My mom did not tell him
what she thought in truth, that I was Possessed.
It was just these strange looks on my face—
he held me, and conversed with me,
chatting as one does with a baby, and my mother
said, She’s doing it now! Look!
She’s doing it now! and the doctor said,
What your daughter has
is called a sense
of humor. Ohhh, she said, and took me
back to the house where that sense would be tested
and found to be incurable.

“Diagnosis” by Sharon Olds, from One Secret Thing. © Random House, Inc., 2009.

The Funeral by Norman Dubie

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“The Funeral”
It felt like the zero in brook ice.
She was my youngest aunt, the summer before
We had stood naked
While she stiffened and giggled, letting the minnows
Nibble at her toes. I was almost four—
That evening she took me
To the springhouse where on the scoured planks
There were rows of butter in small bricks, a mold
Like ermine on the cheese,
And cut onions to rinse the air
Of the black, sickly-sweet meats of rotting pecans.

She said butter was colored with marigolds
Plucked down by the marsh
With its tall grass and miner’s-candles.
We once carried the offal’s pail beyond the barn
To where the fox could be caught in meditation.
Her bed linen smelled of camphor. We went

In late March for her burial. I heard the men talk.
I saw the minnows nibble at her toe.
And Uncle Peter, in a low voice, said
The cancer ate her like horse piss eats deep snow.

I Go Back to May 1937 By Sharon Olds

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I Go Back to May 1937 By Sharon Olds

I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books at her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks,
the wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips aglow in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don’t do it—she’s the wrong woman,
he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot imagine you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty face turning to me,
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don’t do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

Sharon Olds, “I Go Back to May 1937” from Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002.

 

Calling My Sister

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Call her what?  No I want to call just to let her know I think of her.  I had a dream that she died the other night and in the dream I couldn’t believe it.  I couldn’t absorb the fact I would never be able to argue with her again.

The problem is she’s mean, paranoid, and intelligent.  She knows just what to say to push my buttons.  She is always trying to tear other people down.  I don’t like her.  I have to go to bed for a day after talking to her.

I know that many terrible things have happened in her life, but it’s hard to take her abuse.   I would write a letter but she won’t give anyone in the family her address because she says we’re all against her.  She hasn’t found any medication to help the paranoia.  I don’t even know if she’s trying.   You know what?  I can’t handle her these days.  My kidparts can’t take it.

I’ll call my other sister D to find out how she’s doing.   She shows up at D’s house uninvited and unannounced to cook.  Usually late at night.  When D’s not home.  D works late.  Her children let my sister in the house.   I didn’t say it made any sense.  Thanks for listening.

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