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Sharon Olds  
 
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Sharon Olds


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, wrists,
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 warm 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.


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