When the blossoms were wilting, I cut the stalk
and put it in a glass, before my trip-to have
waiting, for me, the damp withering
blooms to see, when I came back.
I thought of the female side of my gene-
alogy-the mothers, who have like to have
waiting, upstairs a daughter stripped
to be punished, and I realized I had been my mother’s
conduit to the satisfaction
of being, in her own time,
the beater. I think she did not know what she was
doing. And it is nice, isn’t it,
to have something waiting, the knowledge of which
will thrill you-how much drier will the blossoms
be, how everted each pistil-tip on its
coral stalk dusted with ocher
seed? My mother and I were a twosome, as her
mother and she had been, and her mother’s
mother . . .Mine used to perform a tune-
not while she was beating on me-
White coral bells, upon a silver stalk. It was
a pleasure, for me, to behead-head-head-head
the amaryllis, to slit its throat.
The last verse was Oh don’t you wish
that you could hear them ring?
That will happen only when
the fairies sing-or in our case,
when the dead mothers weep-my mother would weep, to read this.
from Odes (Knopf, 2016), © Sharon Olds 2016, used by permission of the author and the publisher