Chamber Thicket

By Sharon Olds b. 1942 Sharon Olds
As we sat at the feet of the string quartet,   
in their living room, on a winter night,   
through the hardwood floor spurts and gulps   
and tips and shudders came up, and the candle-scent   
air was thick-alive with pearwood,   
ebony, spruce, poplar, and horse   
howled, and cat skreeled, and then,   
when the Grösse Fugue was around us, under us,   
over us, in us, I felt I was hearing   
the genes of my birth-family, pulled, keening   
and grieving and scathing, along each other,   
scraping and craving, I felt myself held in that   
woods of hating longing, and I knew   
and knew myself, and my parents, and their parents,   
there—and then, at a distance, I sensed,   
as if it were thirty years ago,   
a being, far off yet, oblique-approaching,   
straying toward, and then not toward,   
and then toward this place, like a wandering dreaming   
herdsman, my husband. And I almost wanted   
to warn him away, to call out to him   
to go back whence he came, into some calmer life,   
but his beauty was too moving to me,   
and I wanted too much to not be alone, in the   
covert, any more, and so I prayed him   
come to me, I bid him hasten, and good welcome.

Source: Poetry (August 2001).


This poem originally appeared in the August 2001 issue of Poetry magazine

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August 2001
 Sharon  Olds


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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Music, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Love, Romantic Love, Realistic & Complicated

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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