Sharon Olds
Photo: Courtesy Sharon Olds
Sharon Olds cuts the ties that bind.
Maybe 12 or 13 years ago, I came to the end of my marriage, which lasted 32 years—and it was a great shock. It was so unexpected that my sense of myself really got shaken. Not myself as a mother or as a teacher or a friend, but just me, whoever I was when I was alone. And suddenly I was alone a lot. Lucille Clifton's "won't you celebrate with me" helped, especially the last two lines, "something has tried to kill me / and has failed," even though I had experienced nothing like what she had, coming of age in this country when she did. Still, the poem just sounded so true, and it was encouraging. It's good not to let your mind go slithering down into the bad things it likes to get moody about. It has to do with my belief in doing everything I can to help myself remember all that each one of us can do for our own personal calm and happiness, and for the people directly around us—and even for the world.

won't you celebrate with me

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
—Lucille Clifton

Sharon Olds has written 11 poetry books.

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