with a borrow from Auden
I like to watch the H2 O2
seethe on my broken skin. Those to whom
damage is done do damage in
return. Every bubble that pops
marks the scouring of an open wound.
Those to whom—we are dangerous.
I am dangerous. When I was scourged
I was turned. Those to whom damage. Be wary of
the victim (weihe, witness). I have bragged about
the harm done me—as if it made me
appealing. Stand off from me. Observe
from a distance, as I cauterize.
Cover your eyes. I am sufficient
to my own boiling festival.
Sharon Olds is the author of twelve books of poetry, including most recently Balladz (Alfred A. Knopf, 2022), a finalist for the National Book Award, and Stag’s Leap (2012), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize. Her other honors include the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award for her first book, Satan Says (1980), and the National Book Critics Circle Award for her second, The Dead and the Living (1983). The Unswept Room (2002) was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Olds teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and helped to found the NYU workshop program for residents of Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island, and for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. (updated 10/2023)
Olds’s AGNI poem “Hyacinth Aria” is reprinted in The Best American Poetry 2020.