Vol. 44 No. 24 · 15 December 2022

My Head and My Mother’s Breast in Quarantine Together

Sharon Olds

207 words

After nine months safe and well
in a room alone, I was sitting facing
the afternoon
winter sunlight,
a magnifying mirror propped
on the windowsill. Some skin over my
breastbone was swollen, I pressed down
and in, on either side of the tiny hill.
And where had I ever seen a snake
strike by flying through the air, but out of the
little half-egg mound a six-inch
viper, yellow-green, shot,
and I pushed again, and a second Worme
(medieval for a dragon) streaked.
EEUUwww, as anyone sane would say,
anyone raised by a mother who kept larvae
in jars with leaves – they named one
‘Mommy’s Disgusting’. As a child I had seen how my
mother looked at her drunken husband,
and now I had expelled the devil, like
gangrene reptile milk from my rib-skin.
Maybe this is the pornography
the great critic sniffed out in me.
There’s not much some of us can see of the world,
solo in a room, like sitting on my
mother’s lap in the car, on the highway, when my
dad swerved as we passed a woman’s
leg separated from her torso on the macadam
highway and my mom with angelic aplomb
turned my head into her breast.

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