Shards of Love

Sharon Olds, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, takes us through the windows of her broken marriage.

by Meghan O'Rourke Published Summer 2013
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Illustration by Cliff Alejandro

While He Told Me

While he told me, I looked from small thing
to small thing, in our room, the face
of the bedside clock, the sepia postcard
of a woman bending down to a lily.
Later, when we took off our clothes, I saw
his deep navel, and the cindery lichen
skin between the male breasts, and from
outside the shower curtain’s terrible membrane
I called out something like flirting to him,
and he smiled. Before I turned out the light,
he touched my face, then turned away,
then the dark. Then every scene I thought of
I visited accompanied by a death-spirit,
everything was chilled with it,
each time I woke, I lay in dreading
bliss to feel and hear him sigh
and snore. Near sunrise, behind overcast, he got
up to go in and read on the couch,
as he often did,
and in a while I followed him,
as I often had,
and snoozed on him, while he read, and he laid
an arm across my back. When I opened
my eyes, I saw two tulips stretched
away from each other extreme in the old
vase with the grotto carved out of a hill
and a person in it, underground,
praying, my imagined shepherd in make-believe paradise.

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