Powerful stuff, as always with Olds' poetry. She's got an uncompromising vision, even when, as here, she turns playful, even adolescent. Man, I envy those words--but am so glad she's able to put them out there and make them sing. Here's the poem:
When I think of my adolescence, I think
of the bathroom of those seedy hotels
in San Francisco, where my boyfriend took me.
I had never seen bathrooms like that--
no curtains, no towels, no mirror, just
a sink green with grime and a toilet
yellow and black--like something in a science experiment,
growing the plague in bowls.
Sex was still a crime, then,
I'd sign out of my college dorm
to a false destination, sign into
the flophouse under a false name,
go down the hall to the one bathroom
and lock myself in. And I could not learn to get that
diaphragm in, I'd decorate it
like a cake, with glistening spermicide,
and lean down, and it would leap from my fingers
and sail into a corner, to land
in a concave depression like a rat's nest,
I'd bend and pluck it out and wash it
and wash it down to that fragile dome,
I'd frost it again till it was shimmering
and bend it into its little arc and it would
fly through the air, rim humming
like Saturn's ring, I would bow down and crawl to retrieve it.
When I think of being nineteen
that's what I see, that delicate disc
floating through the air and descending, I see myself
kneeling and reaching, reaching for my life.
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