Song to Gabriel Hirsch

- 1942-

We first met in your home. Outside,
summer fire. Inside, Texas
summer ice, I was wiped out
by travel and illness, lying on a couch,
which made me a good height for you to talk to.
That I had a son with the same name
as you, struck you with wonder—me, too—
one name, one label, two beings. We said,
to each other, I think, whatever came into
our minds—put there by what the other
had just said—as if we threw,
one by one, taking turns, those
intensely dried paper flowers
of my childhood, into a glass of water,
and watched them uncurl, fast, uneven,
and bright—and tossed another. We were in
the present moment, so intensely in it
everything outside it took a step back,
out of the light, then another step back.
And that was where we met, next,
years later, in that light, you were so
intent, alert, alive, as if
in the grip of a fierce brightness, and moving
around in it, quick in its grip. I wish I had
been there, last week, to hear your best friend,
who had met you eye to eye—in what,
in your childhood, was the future—talk of how
extraordinary you were, my almost
unknown dear, your mother’s and father’s
dearest. You were wearing a cape, that first day,
a cloak of many colors, a cloud,
your hand on the shoulder of the wild creature of your life.

More by Sharon Olds

Take the I Out

But I love the I, steel I-beam
that my father sold. They poured the pig iron
into the mold, and it fed out slowly,
a bending jelly in the bath, and it hardened,
Bessemer, blister, crucible, alloy, and he
marketed it, and bought bourbon, and Cream
of Wheat, its curl of butter right
in the middle of its forehead, he paid for our dresses
with his metal sweat, sweet in the morning
and sour in the evening. I love the I,
frail between its flitches, its hard ground
and hard sky, it soars between them
like the soul that rushes, back and forth,
between the mother and father. What if they had loved each other,
how would it have felt to be the strut
joining the floor and roof of the truss?
I have seen, on his shirt-cardboard, years
in her desk, the night they made me, the penciled
slope of her temperature rising, and on
the peak of the hill, first soldier to reach
the crest, the Roman numeral I--
I, I, I, I,
girders of identity, head on,
embedded in the poem. I love the I
for its premise of existence--our I--when I was
born, part gelid, I lay with you
on the cooling table, we were all there, a 
forest of felled iron. The I is a pine,
resinous, flammable root to crown,
which throws its cones as far as it can in a fire.