I Could Not Tell

By Sharon Olds b. 1942 Sharon Olds
I could not tell I had jumped off that bus,
that bus in motion, with my child in my arms,
because I did not know it. I believed my own story:   
I had fallen, or the bus had started up
when I had one foot in the air.

I would not remember the tightening of my jaw,   
the irk that I’d missed my stop, the step out   
into the air, the clear child
gazing about her in the air as I plunged
to one knee on the street, scraped it, twisted it,   
the bus skidding to a stop, the driver
jumping out, my daughter laughing
Do it again.

I have never done it   
again, I have been very careful.
I have kept an eye on that nice young mother
who lightly leapt
off the moving vehicle
onto the stopped street, her life
in her hands, her life’s life in her hands.

Sharon Olds, “I Could Not Tell” from Satan Says. Copyright © 1980 by Sharon Olds. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press, upress.pitt.edu.

Source: Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004)

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Poet Sharon Olds b. 1942

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, Parenthood

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Sharon  Olds

Biography

Sharon Olds is one of contemporary poetry’s leading voices. Winner of several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award, Olds is known for writing intensely personal, emotionally scathing poetry which graphically depicts family life as well as global political events. “Sharon Olds is enormously self-aware,” wrote David Leavitt in the Voice Literary Supplement. “Her poetry is . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Parenthood

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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