Poetry / The English Teacher

Turns of Phrase & Altered Perceptions

Death amongst the living. Life, grown still. Landscapes.

Art imitates life. Life masquerades as artistic license. Parts of the whole, and whole parts redacted.

Fathers, daughters. Wife & Mother. Collateral Damage.



Welcome to Sharon Olds‘ “Still Life in Landscape.” (Don’t say I didn’t warn you)


Still Life in Landscape

Sharon Olds


It was night, it had rained, there were pieces of cars and

half-cars strewn, it was still, and bright,

a woman was lying on the highway, on her back,

with her head curled back and tucked under her shoulders

so the back of her head touched her spine

between her shoulder-blades, her clothes

mostly accidented off, and her

leg gone, a long bone

sticking out of the stub of her thigh—

this was her abandoned matter,

my mother grabbed my head and turned it and

clamped it into her chest, between

her breasts. My father was driving—not sober

but not in this accident, we’d approached it out of

neutral twilight, broken glass

on wet black macadam, like an underlying

midnight abristle with stars. This was

the world—maybe the only one.

The dead woman was not the person

my father had recently almost run over,

who had suddenly leapt away from our family

car, jerking back from death,

she was not I, she was not my mother,

but maybe she was a model of the mortal,

the elements ranged around her on the tar—

glass, bone, metal, flesh, and the family.


That is poetry.



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