“The One Girl at the Boys Party” (Sharon Olds, 1983)
- When I take my girl to the swimming party
- I set her down among the boys. They tower and
- bristle, she stands there smooth and sleek,
- her math scores unfolding in the air around her.
- They will strip to their suits, her body hard and
- indivisible as a prime number,
- they’ll plunge in the deep end, she’ll subtract
- her height from ten feet, divide it into
- hundreds of gallons of water, the numbers
- bouncing in her mind like molecules of chlorine
- in the bright blue pool. When they climb out,
- her ponytail will hang its pencil lead
- down her back, her narrow silk suit
- with hamburgers and french fries printed on it
- will glisten in the brilliant air, and they will
- see her sweet face, solemn and
- sealed, a factor of one, and she will
- see their eyes, two each,
- their legs, two each, and the curves of their sexes,
- one each, and in her head she’ll be doing her
- sparkle and fall to the power of a thousand from her body.
I love the clarity and the honesty in Sharon Olds’ poetry. and for some reason I especially love her poems about her children. I don’t have kids of my own yet, but I imagine she hits just on the head the odd mix of emotions watching your children grow up brings to you—pride in their strengths, anxiousness over what they don’t know and how they might stumble, wonder at the things they understand better than you. A t the things you know are headed their way.