Liked to Watch Me

Sharon Olds

Fall 2018

Out walking, it comes to me: I have known
at least two men who liked to watch me
sleep. I would bet cash money God
never looked at me once, alive
or dead, or before I was alive. But two
men I loved, a year apart, would go
up on one elbow—
the elbow one of sexual love’s
best friends—and look down, and I wonder what
they saw. They said they saw, in my strange
visage, beauty, and something they called
sweet. Did I seem childish, to them, was there
something unprotected in the greedy way
I gave myself, awake? They said they would
gloat, in gratefulness, that I
was in their bed. There was never a good
dream, in my head—they did not see that—
they saw the winter rivulet
of alpine hair in moonlight. I think
it’s what I’d always wanted, and had not
imagined I could have: my flesh
itself, and my troubled features, to be
liked—adored. And since the doubt
in my irises, the woods-green-brown under
overcast, was not visible,
my matter could be loved in my spirit’s
absence, or I could keep my ill
spirit out of sight, behind my
well matter’s veil, I could do it in my sleep.

Sharon Olds has published thirteen volumes of poetry, which have won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors. She teaches at NYU.

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