Amaryllis Ode

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

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