Not Once

Not once—not when I toppled, rigid, a
5'7" pine felled,
stiff as a board, a five and a half foot
plank, 16 x 32,
and not while I wallowed on the rug among
his oxygen tubes and my cane and his 8
wheelchair wheels, and not when I sat by his
hospice bed, chirping I’m fine!,
and not the next day, when the brilliant violet
and black slash-slathered in my easy-life skin,
or days later when the purple turned yellow and the
blue green—never once when I
said No pain, Nothing broken,
did I feel lucky, did I measure the force of the
blow, the floor speeding up like a heavy-weight’s
smash to my cheek and eyebrow, not until
today, did I begin to feel
grateful for my good fortune—no concussion, no
fracture—as if I expected to be able to be
struck by the earth, a wrecking ball,
and not feel it—
as when someone on the other side of the world,
or the city, is struck in my name, I do not feel it.


Copyright © 2022 by Sharon Olds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 2, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Eighteen months quarantined in a house in the woods—near a road with two neighbors’ houses on it (not quite in sight, all of us keeping in strict isolation)—I slowly learned some things about class, race, privilege, and entitlement. My beloved had died in February 2020. My brother died in August of that year. My children and grandchildren were far away and well. My life had so much love in it, so much fear. I had learned so much with Carl in our last two years. I was ready to learn more.”
Sharon Olds