Sharon Olds
Ode of Broken Loyalty

I want to go back to that day, when it

was broken in me, the loyalty

to family, when I was cut free,

or cut myself free, from the fully human,

and floated off, like an astronaut

untethered. I want to go back to the hourxq

some cord in my mind was cut, and I no longer

was fed by the placenta of the nuclear

or extended family, but aborted

myself or was aborted from that house. Once torn

away, once shunned and shunning, it seemed there was

little I could not write about, I felt

as if my disenfranchisement

had been undone, I was out on the wind, like a

spinster alone in orgasm,

like a witch, but I thought I was thinking and singing

for everyone, in every land

and time. I was insane. Was I insane? I thought

that someone driven out beyond the silence

of normal reticence could speak

for the normal. I don’t want to go back

to the hour I broke and ran, the broken

yolk and albumen shining in the toothed

bowls of the shell. I love to say

it might have been I who broke the contract,

as if it were not obvious

it was broken, physically, in me.

I want to go back to when I found the paper,

and the ink, as if the matter of the earth

wanted to chant, and be chanted, as if one could

think oneself loyal, being loyal to that chant.

Found In Volume 40, No. 06
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Sharon Olds
About the Author

Sharon Olds is the author of thirteen books of poetry, most recently Balladz (2022), a finalist for the National Book Award, Arias (2019), short-listed for the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize, Odes (2016) and Stag’s Leap (2012), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize.