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Unspeakable by Sharon Olds

Last modified: 2/13/2013 3:54:26 PM
By Sharon Olds

Now I come to look at love

in a new way, now that I know I’m not

standing in its light. I want to ask my

almost-no-longer husband what it’s like to not

love, but he does not want to talk about it,

he wants a stillness at the end of it.

And sometimes I feel as if, already,

I am not here – to stand in his thirty-year

sight, and not in love’s sight,

I feel an invisibility

like a neutron in a cloud chamber buried in a mile-long

accelerator, where what cannot

be seen is inferred by what the visible

does. After the alarm goes off,

I stroke him, my hand feels like a singer

who sings along with him, as if it is

his flesh that’s singing, in its full range,

tenor of the higher vertebrae,

baritone, bass, contrabass.

I want to say to him, now, What

was it like, to love me – when you looked at me,

what did you see? When he loved me, I looked

out at the world as if from inside

a profound dwelling, like a burrow, or a well, I’d gaze

up, at noon, and see Orion

shining – when I thought he loved me, when I thought

we were joined not just for breath’s time,

but for the long continuance,

the hard candies of femur and stone,

the fastnesses. He shows no anger,

I show no anger but in flashes of humour,

all is courtesy and horror. And after

the first minute, when I say, Is this about

her, and he says, No, it’s about

you, we do not speak of her.


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