• 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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