Treasure Island

Sharon Olds

(November 19, 1942 / San Francisco)

The Clasp


She was four, he was one, it was raining, we had colds,
we had been in the apartment two weeks straight,
I grabbed her to keep her from shoving him over on his
face, again, and when I had her wrist
in my grasp I compressed it, fiercely, for a couple
of seconds, to make an impression on her,
to hurt her, our beloved firstborn, I even almost
savored the stinging sensation of the squeezing,
the expression, into her, of my anger,
"Never, never, again," the righteous
chant accompanying the clasp. It happened very
fast-grab, crush, crush,
crush, release-and at the first extra
force, she swung her head, as if checking
who this was, and looked at me,
and saw me-yes, this was her mom,
her mom was doing this. Her dark,
deeply open eyes took me
in, she knew me, in the shock of the moment
she learned me. This was her mother, one of the
two whom she most loved, the two
who loved her most, near the source of love
was this.


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Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Colleen Courtney (5/15/2014 10:54:00 AM)

    I can also remember the first time own daughter looked at me with that unbelievable look of, but wait, you're my mom! Lovely poem. (Report) Reply

  • Saadat Tahir (6/1/2009 10:07:00 AM)

    yes every day happening...but not something ull forget in a long time...the angels might forget and take it in stride....you will surely remeber and relive
    poignant sensitising and great vwrite
    tenner
    cheers (Report) Reply

  • Bill Grace (4/12/2006 10:52:00 PM)

    One of the English essayists I was required to read ages ago said that if you strike a child it can be forgiven only if it done in the heat of the moment and without premeditation. This may be the thought of E. M. Forrester, but I don't think so, and my mind does not seem to be able to help with a more exact source. 'The Clasp' is undergirded by this wonderful sensitivity and the courage to share a frequent phenomenon of being a parent. I hope someday to find more of your work here or someplace in the universe because it speaks of what Paul Tillich's literary executor once referred to as the integrity of language. Bill Grace (Report) Reply

  • Michael Philips (1/19/2005 8:49:00 AM)

    This poem rings with truth. I know that 'What's this? ' look from a child - the sudden realization that you're not always on their side. Olds brings this out so succinctly and beautifully. I had never thought about it before. (Report) Reply

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