Material Ode by Sharon Olds

O tulle, O taffeta, O grosgrain—
I call upon you now, girls,
of fabrics and the woman I sing. My husband
had said he was probably going to leave me—not for sure, but
likely, maybe—and no, it did not
have to do with her. O satin, O
sateen, O velvet, O fucking velveeta—
the day of the doctors' dress-up dance,
the annual folderol, the lace,
the net, he said it would be hard for her
to see me there, dancing with him,
would I mind not going. And since I'd been
for thirty years enarming him,
I enarmed him further—Arma, Virumque,
sackcloth, ashen embroidery! As he
put on his tux, I saw his slight
smirk into the mirror, as he did his bow tie,
but after thirty years, you have some
affection for each other's little faults,
and it suited me to cherish the belief
no meanness could happen between us. Fifty-
Fifty we had made the marriage,
Fifty-fifty its demise. And when he came
home and shed his skin, Reader,
I slept with him, thinking it meant
he was back, his body was speaking for him,
and as it spoke, its familiar sang
from the floor, the old-boy tie. O silk,
O slub, O cocoon stolen. It is something
our species does, isn't it,
we take what we can. Or else there'd be grubs
who kept people, in rooms, to produce
placentas for the larvaes' use, there would be
a cow who would draw from our womb our unborn
offspring, to make of them shoes for a calf.
O bunny-pajamas of children! Love
where loved. O babies' flannel sleeper
with a slice of cherry pie on it.
Love only where loved! O newborn suit
with a smiling worm over the heart, it is
forbidden to love where we are not loved.

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