"Pain I Did Not"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Feb. 8 2011 6:50 AM

"Pain I Did Not"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Sharon Olds read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

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When my husband left, there was pain I did not
feel, which those who lose the one
who loves them feel.  I was not driven
against the grate of a mortal life, but
just the slowly shut gate
of preference. At times, I envied them—
what I saw as the honorable suffering
of one who is thrown against that iron
grille.  I think he had come, in private, to
feel he was dying, with me, and if
he had what it took to rip his way out, with his
teeth, then he could be born.  And so he went
into another world—this
world, where I do not see or hear him—
and my job is to eat the whole car
of my anger, part by part, some parts
ground down to steel-dust.  I like best
the cloth seats, blue-silver, first
car we bought together, long since
marked with the scrubbed stains—drool,
tears, ice-cream, no come, but only
the month's blood of release, and the letting
go of the broken waters.

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Sharon Olds' most recent book is One Secret Thing. She teaches in the graduate creative-writing program at New York University.