Monday, November 14, 2005

The Food-Thief

(Uganda, drought)

They drive him along the road in the steady
conscious way they drove their cattle
when they had cattle, when they had homes and
living children. They drive him with pliant
peeled sticks, snapped from trees
whose bark cannot be eaten – snapped,
not cut, no one has a knife, and the trees that can be
eaten have been eaten leaf and trunk and the
long roots pulled from the ground and eaten.
They drive him and beat him, a loose circle of
thin men with sapling sticks,
driving him along slowly, slowly
beating him to death. He turns to them
with all the eloquence of the body, the
wrist turned out and the vein up his forearm
running like a root just under the surface, the
wounds on his head ripe and wet as a
rich furrow cut back and cut back at
plough-time to farrow a trench for the seed, his
eye pleading, the iris black and
gleaming as his skin, the white a dark
occluded white like cloud-cover on the
morning of a day of heavy rain.
His lips are open to his brothers as the body of a
woman might be open, as the earth itself was
split and folded back and wet and
seedy to them once, the lines on his lips
fine as the thousand tributaries of a
root-hair, a river, he is asking them for life
with his whole body, and they are driving his body
all the way down the road because
they know the life he is asking for –
it is their life.

By Sharon Olds


I have with me ‘The Gold Cell’, Sharon Olds' third collection of poems, and which the above poem was taken. This is the first time I have read a poetry book written by a single poet. I usually go for collections or anthologies. Like a charm it works its magic, enslaving me under its spell.

(Updated on 14 November 2005)


Bluesky_Liz said...

Anthologies and collections are like taking samples. Reading a single author enables one to have the full experience of his or her style. IMHO, it feels more complete. :)

Interesting poem. :)

Alson Teo said...

That is true, additional information such as when, in what circumstances, and what was his/her emotion condition when the author wrote the poems can also enrich the experience. She is a great poet, no doubt about it. However, quite a number of her poems may not be suitable for children and teens. Some readers may even be offended by them.

dsnake1 said...

Great poets write with their hearts and if they offend some people, so what? Think of Pound, Ginsberg, Blake.

BTW this is a very beautiful poem, very graphic. Thanks for unearthing this gem, DP.

And BTW, I see a snake on the cover of the book, hahahah

Alson Teo said...

Maybe that was why this book caught my attention. :)

panda said...

tat's a book dsnake must read then! hehehee

dsnake1 said...

yeah, yeah, panda!