NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 3 - Fall 2018 - Page 32

poetry By Sharon Olds Easter Morning, 1955 Where I Die The refuse bag, caught in a tree down there, high in a bare locust, like the skin of a figure, the flay — is wild, in the gusts, this morning, impaled on the branches like butcher-bird prey on thorns, it has fringes like a pelt, a coat in a strong wind. A ghost is a coat, with a no one wearing it. Sometimes the ghost of the human is dressed in a white sheet, at night, bringing his bowels to where they will be gratified. Or a ghost is a person fleeing the human. Twisting, shuddering, rippling as if whipped into frenzy, writhing in the lay-wasting of a thrashing, of being threshed like a field, harrowed — the split sack, for an hour, is crazed in motion like a being chained over a fire. People have been raised on stakes at the gates of cities, for ravens and crows to eat, alive, people have been draped on fences of barbed wire, to show the qualities of the mind of the one who inside the fence presides. There’s the garment of a member of our family fluttering, this morning — noon now — from a tree. What family? Family of whom? My country, ‘tis of thee. In the mystery, when people are emptying the dead one’s home, of all traces of him, I suddenly see that this small apartment, this pair of rented rooms, may be where I die. I picture a pair of strangers carrying me out, I’m on a stretcher, in braids — somehow I’m a skeleton already, smiling, and probably wanting to get up and cake-walk out, as if I could still amuse someone, with my song and dance — an articulated puppet, who could make it look as if I’m having fun, as if this is what I had had in mind, all along, before I was born, when I was a soul raptor, hovering in the vestibule above existence, and I saw, far below me, the edge of the Pacific, and the Golden Gate, and my parents’ roof, their ceiling, their bed, their bodies, and saw inside their bodies, inside her — and inside him in- side her — and then I was tilting and peregrine- stooping, and diving into being! I want to have as much fun on my way out as on my way in, as if this whole thing were my idea, a little comedy between nothing and nothing — between everything and everything. Her appearance would be sudden — out the kitchen door and out from behind the grandfather clock like a dryad squirted out from inside a tree-trunk. And she was so small, that year, the anorex had whittled her to a twiggy nixie, she’d appear as if out of some kindling dimension, her limbs not Easter rabbitical but scrawn Blair Witch, she would manifest, crying out, “He is risen!” And we would respond, “Christ is risen!” and she could intone, in turn, “The Lord is risen indeed.” I did not know why she was getting narrower and narrower, and drier, as I began to odoriferate and slop and bulge. I did not know I hated, I did not know there was meanness in me, and near-permanent dysforgiveness and scorn. But a month later, when her brother asked for their father’s clock, and its innards were cesaereaned out of it, and its case was moved away from the wall and pall-borne out of that home — when under- neath where it had stood heaps of years of childrens’ untaken vitamins dully shone — on my mother’s face was a look of unalloyed regret, which seemed to have little to do with herself, and at that moment, from my narrow vision of her, there emerged a slightly less narrow vision — out of an isoceles angle, an equilateral angle was born, as I had once come forth from inside her with no thought of her, with zero compassion — within me the means of the invention of compassion and the means of its corruption. Sweet Land of Liberty