Of All the Dead That Have Come to Me, This Once

Olds, Sharon

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Feb-09-1994


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.


This is one of a number of poems in which Olds peels off the layers of abusive behavior passed down from generation to generation. Here she only hints at what is a major focus of other poems, the father, and a disastrous family life (see for example Beyond Harm, Late Poem to My Father, and Waste Sonata, all annotated in this database).

Primary Source

The Dead and the Living



Place Published

New York