Then the drawing on the label of our favorite red wine looks like my husband, casting himself off a cliff in his fervor to get free of me. His fur is rough and cozy, his face placid, tranced, ruminant, the bough of each furculum reaches back to his haunches, each tine of it grows straight up and branches, like a model of his brain, archaic, unwieldy. He bears its bony tray level as he soars from the precipice edge, dreamy. When anyone escapes, my heart leaps up. Even when it’s I who am escaped from, I am half on the side of the leaver. It's so quiet, and empty, when he's left. I feel like a landscape, a ground without a figure. Sauve qui peut—let those who can save themselves save themselves. Once I saw a drypoint of someone tiny being crucified on a fallow deer’s antlers. I feel like his victim, and he seems my victim, I worry that the outstretched legs on the hart are bent the wrong way as he throws himself off. Oh my mate. I was vain of his faithfulness, as if it was a compliment, rather than a state of partial sleep. And when I wrote about him, did he feel he had to walk around carrying my books on his head like a stack of posture volumes, or the rack of horns hung where a hunter washes the venison down with the sauvignon? Oh leap, leap! Careful of the rocks! Does the old vow have to wish him happiness in his new life, even sexual joy? I fear so, at first, when I still can’t tell us apart. Below his shaggy belly, in the distance, lie the even dots of a vineyard, its vines not blasted, its roots clean, its bottles growing at the ends of their blowpipes as dark, green, wavering groans.
“Stag's Leap” by Sharon Olds.
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.
By permission of the author.
Sharon Olds (1942- ) was born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford and Columbia Universities. She is the winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her collection Stag's Leap (2012). Olds' other honors include the National Book Circle Critics Award as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. From 1998 to 2000, she served as the State Poet of New York. Olds currently teaches graduate-level workshops in poetry at New York University. Photo Credit: Brett Hall Jones.
Learn more about Sharon Olds at The Poetry Foundation.