Showing 11 - 17 of 17 annotations associated with Olds, Sharon
The narrator of this poem seems to be starving herself to death to be with her father who has died recently. She talks of " . . . flirting with my father, / his cadaver the only body this thin / I have seen--I am walking around like his corpse . . . . " Her eating disorder may be a form of grieving. She has lost her will to live.
Summary:This poem is narrated by a school girl watching her anorexic mother force herself to eat cottage cheese so she can stay alive for her daughter. Apparently the mother's mother has also died young (at age twenty or so), and this mother at forty has no will to live, but forces herself to survive for the sake of her child.
Summary:I have never written against the dead, says the narrator, but in this instance, the death of her grandfather, she must. Why? Because, ominously, "he taught my father/ how to do what he did to me." The poem moves from a startlingly literal image of nursing the nameless dead, to the pocketwatch which was sent as a memento after this particular death, to specific personal memories of mistreatment at the hands of the grandfather. The narrator cannot regret this death.
The narrator has experienced an epiphany in which she can understand objectively, even forgive, her father’s abusive behavior toward her. She has seen in her mind’s eye her father as a child, in the bleak household where "something was / not given to you, or something was / taken from you . . . "; she wishes that the love she feels for her father now could have nurtured him as a child and saved him from becoming an alcoholic adult who mistreated his family.
The narrator observes how her dying father is changing as he dies. She experiences the process as if she were giving cosmic birth to him,
and as if she could protect him in the safety of her womb.
This dead body is to be treated with respect, not to be left alone or to be donated to the anatomy lab, or for organ transplantation. For the narrator, there is little difference between this body of her dead father and the unconscious body she remembers from so much of her childhood. She cannot make the distinction emotionally between the dead and the living father, " . . . this was the one I had known anyway, / this man made of rich substance."
A powerful lament over a father’s wasted life, and the "purgatory" of living in a household dominated by alcoholism and marital discord. Strong and graphic language weaves a complex web of conflicting emotions: hatred and self-hatred, scorn and pity, condemnation and forgiveness.