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Original Essays | June 20, 2014

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It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches... Continue »
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1 Burnside POET- A- Z910 [A] to 906 [Z]

The Unswept Room

by

The Unswept Room Cover

ISBN13: 9780375709982
ISBN10: 0375709983
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

The Shyness

Then, when we were joined, I became

shyer. I became completed, joyful,

and shyer. I may have shone more, reflected

more, and from deep inside there rose

some glow passing steadily through me, but I was not

playing, now, I felt a little like someone

small, in a raftered church, or in

a cathedral, the vaulted spaces of the body

like a sacred woods. I was quiet when my throat was not

making those iron, orbital, rusted,

coming noises at the hinge of matter and

whatever is not matter. He takes me into

ending after ending like another world at the

center of this one, and then, if he begins to

end when I am resting I feel awe, I almost feel

fear, sometimes for a moment I feel

I should not move, or make a sound, as

if he is alone, now,

howling in the wilderness,

and yet I know we are in this place

together. I thought, now is the moment

I could become more loving, and my hands moved shyly

over him, secret as heaven,

and my mouth spoke, and in my beloveds

voice, by the bones of my head, the fields

groaned, and then I joined him again,

not shy, not bold, released, entering

the true home, where the trees bend down along the

ground and yet stand, then we lay together

panting, as if saved from some disaster, and for ceaseless

instants, it came to pass what I have

heard about, it came to me

that I did not know I was separate

from this man, I did not know I was lonely.

Bible Study: 71 b.c.e.

After Marcus Licinius Crassus

defeated the army of Spartacus,

he crucified 6,000 men.

That is what the records say,

as if he drove in the 18,000

nails himself. I wonder how

he felt, that day, if he went outside

among them, if he walked that human

woods. I think he stayed in his tent

and drank, and maybe copulated,

hearing the singing being done for him,

the woodwind-tuning he was doing at one

remove, to the six-thousandth power.

And maybe he looked out, sometimes,

to see the rows of instruments,

his orchard, the earth bristling with it

as if a patch in his brain had itched

and this was his way of scratching it

directly. Maybe it gave him pleasure,

and a sense of balance, as if he had suffered,

and now had found redress for it,

and voice for it. I speak as a monster,

someone who this hour has thought at length

about Crassus, his ecstasy of feeling

nothing while so much is being

felt, his hot lightness of spirit

in being free to walk around

while others are nailed above the earth.

It may have been the happiest day

of his life. If he had suddenly cut

his hand on a wineglass, I doubt he would

have woken up to what he was doing.

It is frightening to think of him suddenly

seeing what he was, to think of him running

outside, to try to take them down,

one man to save 6,000.

If he could have lowered one,

and seen the eyes when the level of pain

dropped like a sudden soaring into pleasure,

wouldn't that have opened in him

the wild terror of understanding

the other? But then he would have had

5,999

to go. Probably it almost never

happens, that a Marcus Crassus

wakes. I think he dozed, and was roused

to his living dream, lifted the flap

and slowly looked out, at the rustling, creaking

living field-his, like an external

organ, a heart.

Sunday Night

When the family would go to a restaurant,

my father would put his hand up a waitress's

skirt if he could-hand, wrist,

forearm. Suddenly, you couldn't see

his elbow, just the upper arm.

His teeth were wet, the whites of his eyes

wet, a man with a stump of an arm,

as if he had reached behind the night.

It was always the right arm, he wasn't

fooling. Places we had been before,

no one would serve us, unless there was a young

unwarned woman, and I never warned her.

Wooop! he would go, as if we were having

fun together. Sometimes, now,

I remember it as if he had had his

arm in up to his shoulder, his arm

to its pit in the mother, he laughed with teary

eyes, as if he was weeping with relief.

His other arm would be lying on the table-

he liked to keep it motionless, to

improve the joke, ventriloquist

with his arm up the dummy, his own shriek

coming out of her mouth. I wish I had stuck

a fork in that arm, driven the tines

deep, heard the squeak of muscle,

felt the skid on bone. I may have

met, since then, someone related

to one of the women at the True Blue

or at the Hick'ry Pit. Sometimes

I imagine my way back into the skirts

of the women my father hurt, those bells of

twilight, those sacred tented woods.

I want to sweep, tidy, stack-

whatever I can do, clean the stable

of my father's mind. Maybe undirty

my own, come to see the whole body

as blameless and lovely. I want to work off

my father's and my sins, stand

beneath the night sky with the full moon

glowing, knowing I am under the dome

of a woman who forgives me.

From the Hardcover edition.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Erica Reichert, April 17, 2009 (view all comments by Erica Reichert)
Absolutely amazing. The Unswept Room is one of Olds' very best. A must read for lovers of contemporary American poetry.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780375709982
Author:
Olds, Sharon
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Location:
New York
Subject:
American
Subject:
American - General
Subject:
Single Author / American
Subject:
Poetry-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
10381
Publication Date:
20020931
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
144
Dimensions:
8.38x5.94x.46 in. .46 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Poetry » A to Z

The Unswept Room Used Trade Paper
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$11.50 In Stock
Product details 144 pages Alfred A. Knopf - English 9780375709982 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A magnificent collection of poems that gets right at the marrow of life. Olds writes of family, the joys of marriage, and the experience of being a woman in such clear verse and wonderful language that each poem offers fresh insight."
"Synopsis" by , From a greatly admired poet comes a dazzling new collection that projects a fresh spirit, a startling energy of language and rhythm, and a moving, elegiac tone shot through with humor.
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