Sharon Olds
Not Dare to Know

He would laugh a laugh almost of dis-
belief, sometimes, during the months

he was leaving me, before anyone knew, there was a
lightness in his laugh, a reprieve.  I asked him

to go with me to someone to help us

do this with less horror and shock,
he could not -- and it was irrevocable, still,
my vision of him as a kind man, of his

body as the body of a gentleman,
gentryman who would always keep
his word to another gentryman,
I could not dare to know he was not
extra good, magic good,
I could not afford in my moral purse
to know this man -- whose story, then, was joy
and breakthrough at last.  I did not so much
swallow it as promulgate
and prorogate, conceive and gestate,
I’d always wanted to be married to someone extra-
special, and so I was, because

I said I was, so it was someone extra-
special tearing the home, room
from room, in quiet non-unsmilingness.
And then in the months that followed his departure
I dreamed by the window, I drifted, a diver
beside the empty pool she had seen
as full.  And I went a little crazy, and started
multiplying -- say twice a week, and
once or twice a day in August,
for thirty-two years, and each time
five, or seven, or what, makes how many
hundred thousand orgasms with this
gentleman I did not know, who,
maybe, knew me better than I knew
myself, knew my greed and my
arithmetic.  And at last a workaday
god of love came, and put
her palm on my forehead, and said, Go
lie down, I’ll do your bathrooms tonight
along of mine, you poor spoiled creature.


Found In Volume 45, No. 01
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Sharon Olds
About the Author

Sharon Olds's most recent book is Arias (Penguin/Random House, 2019). Among her many honors are the Pulitzer Prize, the T.S. Eliot Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. She teaches poetry workshops at New York University’s Graduate Creative Writing Program.