Ode of Girls’ Things
I loved the things that were ours—pink gloves,
hankies with a pastoral scene in one corner.
There was a lot we were not allowed to do,
but what we were allowed to do was ours,
dolls you carry by the leg, and dolls’
clothes you would put on or take off—
someone who was yours, who did not
have the rights of her own nakedness,
and who had a smooth body, with its
untouchable place, which you would never touch, even on her,
you had been cured of that.
And some of the dolls had hard-rubber hands, with
dimples, and though you were not supposed to, you could
bite off the ends of the fingers when you could not stand it.
And though you’d never be allowed to, say, drive a bus,
or do anything that had to be done right, there was a
teeny carton, in you, of eggs
so tiny they were invisible.
And there would be milk, in you, too—real
milk! And you could wear a skirt, you could
be a bellflower—up under its
cone the little shape like a closed
buckle, intricate groove and tongue,
where something like God’s power over you lived. And it
you shared some things with boys—
the alphabet was not just theirs—
and you could make forays over into their territory,
you could have what you could have because it was yours,
and a little of what was theirs, because
you took it. Much later, you’d have to give things
up, too, to make it fair—long
hair, skirts, even breasts, a pair
of raspberry colored pumps which a friend
wanted to put on, if they would fit his foot, and they did.
Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Olds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“There are some truths in our lives so obvious to us they might not seem interesting enough for a poem. But if we have passionate feelings about something, it is engaging for us to write about it! And the more odes I wrote, the more often some of them wanted to have one long line—in this case maybe eight accents, which in one sense is just two of my four beats put together, but I do like the rush when that happens.”
Born on November 19, 1942, in San Francisco, Sharon Olds has served as New York state poet laureate and a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets.
Date Published: 2015-12-21
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/ode-girls-things