Sharon Olds

(November 19, 1942 / San Francisco)

The Borders


To say that she came into me,
from another world, is not true.
Nothing comes into the universe
and nothing leaves it.
My mother—I mean my daughter did not
enter me. She began to exist
inside me—she appeared within me.
And my mother did not enter me.
When she lay down, to pray, on me,
she was always ferociously courteous,
fastidious with Puritan fastidiousness,
but the barrier of my skin failed, the barrier of my
body fell, the barrier of my spirit.
She aroused and magnetized my skin, I wanted
ardently to please her, I would say to her
what she wanted to hear, as if I were hers.
I served her willingly, and then
became very much like her, fiercely
out for myself.
When my daughter was in me, I felt I had
a soul in me. But it was born with her.
But when she cried, one night, such pure crying,
I said I will take care of you, I will
put you first. I will not ever
have a daughter the way she had me,
I will not ever swim in you
the way my mother swam in me and I
felt myself swum in. I will never know anyone
again the way I knew my mother,
the gates of the human fallen.


Anonymous submission.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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Comments about this poem (The Borders by Sharon Olds )

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  • Colleen Courtney (5/15/2014 10:51:00 AM)

    The moher-daughter relationship can be so beautiful but yet also so tenuous. Tender and poignant write. (Report) Reply

  • Walter Durk (3/11/2008 7:56:00 PM)

    This is a very emotional poem, sad yet telling. To me, it is beautifully written and touching. (Report) Reply

  • Glenda Shank (2/20/2006 11:22:00 AM)

    This is an excellent capturing of the emotions of an abused woman and the resolution to keep her own ddaughter safe. My favorite by Sharon Olds. (Report) Reply

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