The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

The Unswept
By Sharon Olds

Broken bay leaf. Olive pit.
Crab leg. Claw. Crayfish armor.
Whelk shell. Mussel shell. Dogwinkle. Snail.
Wishbone tossed unwished on. Test
of sea urchin. Chicken foot.
Wrasse skeleton. Hen head,
eye shut, beak open as if
singing in the dark. Laid down in tiny
tiles, by the rhyparographer,
each scrap has a shadow -- each shadow cast
by a different light. Permanently fresh
husks of the feast! When the guest has gone,
the morsels dropped on the floor are left
as food for the dead -- O my characters,
my imagined, here are some fancies of crumbs
from under love's table.


If that poem looks familiar, I posted it on August 14th, 2005, when Robert Pinsky wrote about Olds. Mary Karr chose the same subject for Poet's Choice in last Sunday's Washington Post Book World. "The same savage carnality that makes Olds's early poems so arresting finds form in her later poems about love and its attendant disappointments," writes Karr. "In 'The Unswept,' the detritus of many meals are imagined. Notice that the bay leaf is broken, and how many hard items follow: the pit of the olive, the various shells (like the wavy-shelled dogwinkle, which feeds on mussels). Even the wishbone is 'unwished on,' suggesting someone too blighted to hope. Maybe Olds is mocking critics who've complained that she neglects language in favor of narrative clarity and psychological insight, but this poem proves for me her linguistic and metaphorical genius."

We had an absolutely gorgeous Sunday to make up for our washed-out Saturday, picking up Adam from Hebrew school and driving to Virginia after lunch. We went first to Huntley Meadows Park, which had been in a state of flux a few years ago because it looked like the beavers that built the dam which in turn sustained the large wetlands in the park had moved upriver, and the park caretakers were having a dilemma whether to maintain the dam themselves or let nature take its course. Today when we went on the boardwalks through the wetlands, we were delighted to discover thick plant growth and curled up sleeping in the tall marsh grasses, an entire family of beavers right off the walkway! The whole park was full of music from the frogs hiding by the cattails, and there were egrets, ducks, Canada geese, snapping turtles, red-eared sliders, rat snakes, dragonflies, dozens of insects and many flowers.

From Huntley Meadows we drove to nearby Lee District Park in Alexandria, where Northern Virginia's Pagan Pride Day was being hosted by the Open Hearth Foundation. We heard Cassandra Syndrome performing and walked around the tents where some local vendors and groups were set up. I was bummed not to bump into anyone I knew, but we got there pretty late in the afternoon, and we didn't stay long because we were headed to the Palladium Civic Green in McLean to see Jody Marshall on dulcimer, Andrea Hoag on fiddle, Zan McLeod on guitar and Carey Creed singing. They played a bunch of traditional tunes and originals of Jody's and Carey sang some of the songs on her newest CD, Peace of Wild Things, which I love. There was a wine store just behind the green and we got a bottle of Riesling and ate hummus and pistachios!

One of the beavers at Huntley Meadows Park. They were all sleepy, hiding from the sun, and none of them felt like posing for photos.

A snapping turtle made its way through the water looking for food.

Smaller turtles were content to sun themselves on logs while the egrets fished nearby.

The Pagan Pride Day setup in Lee District Park.

Tarot cards, jewelry and ritual items were being raffled.

Cassandra Syndrome playing in the amphitheater in the woods.

Carey, Andrea, Jody and Zan at the Palladium Civic Green across from the fire station.

It's a pretty park, but not quiet when the fire trucks and ambulances come screeching out!

I had things to say about Tom Brady, the Bears, and various other football games of which I caught bits, but I must go to sleep, as dementordelta is coming over on Monday to cause trouble celebrate her birthday early!

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