Sharon Olds

After 37 Years My Mother
Apologizes for My Childhood

When you tilted toward me, arms out 
like someone trying to walk through a fire, 
when you swayed toward me, crying out you were 
sorry for what you had done to me, your 
eyes filling with terrible liquid like 
balls of mercury from a broken thermometer 
skidding on the floor, when you quietly screamed 
Where else could I turn? Who else did I have?, the 
chopped crockery of your hands swinging toward me, the 
water cracking from your eyes like moisture from 
stones under heavy pressure, I could not 
see what I would do with the rest of my life. 
The sky seemed to be splintering, like a window 
someone is bursting into or out of, your 
tiny face glittered as if with 
shattered crystal, with true regret, the 
regret of the body. I could not see what my 
days would be with you sorry, with 
you wishing you had not done it, the 
sky falling around me, its shards 
glistening in my eyes, your old, soft 
body fallen against me in horror I 
took you in my arms, I said It’s all right, 
don’t cry, it’s all right, the air filled with 
flying glass, I hardly knew what I 
said or who I would be now that I had forgiven you.

spoken = Linsay Rousseau