Sharon Olds


When I was a girl, I knew I was a man
because they might send me to Alcatraz
and only men went to Alcatraz.
Every time we drove to the city I'd 
see it there, white as a white
shark in the shark-rich Bay, the bars like 
milk-white ribs. I knew I had pushed my 
parents too far, my inner badness had
spread like ink and taken me over, I could
not control my terrible thoughts,
terrible looks, and they had often said 
they would send me there — maybe the very next
time I spilled my milk, Ala
Cazam, the aluminum doors would slam, I'd be
there where I belonged, a girl-faced man in the 
prison no one had escaped from. I did not 
fear the other prisoners,
I knew who they were, men like me who had 
spilled their milk one time too many,
not been able to curb their thoughts—
what I feared was the horror of the circles: circle of
sky around the earth, circle of
land around the Bay, circle of
water around the island, circle of
sharks around the shore, circle of 
outer walls, inner walls, 
steel girders, chrome bars, 
circle of my cell around me, and there at the 
center, the glass of milk and the guard's 
eyes upon me as I reached out for it.

spoken = Linsay Rousseau