Poem for the Breasts

Like other identical twins, they can be

better told apart in adulthood.

One is fast to wrinkle her brow,

her brain, her quick intelligence. The other

dreams inside a constellation,

freckles of Orion. They were born when I was thirteen,

they rose up, half out of my chest,

now they’re forty, wise, generous.

I am inside them-in a way, under them,

or I carry them, I’d been alive so many years without them.

I can’t say I am them, though their feelings are almost

my feelings, as with someone one loves. They seem,

to me, like a gift that I have to give.

That boys were said to worship their category of

being, almost starve for it,

did not escape me, and some young men

loved them the way one would want, oneself, to be loved.

All year they have been calling to my departed husband,

singing to him, like a pair of soaking

sirens on a scaled rock.

They can’t believe he’s left them, it’s not in their

vocabulary, they being made

of promise-they’re like literally kept vows.

Sometimes, now, I hold them a moment,

one in each hand, twin widows,

heavy with grief. They were a gift to me,

and then they were ours, like thirsty nurslings

of excitement and plenty. And now it’s the same

season again, the very week

he moved out. Didn’t he whisper to them,

Wait here for me one year? No.

He said, God be with you, God

by with you, God-by, for the rest

of this life and for the long nothing. And they do not

know language, they are waiting for him, my

Christ they are dumb, they do not even

know they are mortal-sweet, I guess,

refreshing to live with, beings without

the knowledge of death, creatures of ignorant suffering.

from Stag’s Leap (Knopf, 2012), © Sharon Olds 2012, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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