September 2, 2014

Max’s Musings

By Max Molleston

Each month as I consider the column, or essay if you prefer, and don’t have a ripe idea which can deal with a specific poet or a topic, I rumble through my library, ad lib, to bring you a topic that first, appeals to me some way, and hopefully, to you my important audience. The name of Sharon Olds, a book published by Knopf, and in its thirteenth printing in 1995. The title of this work of the woman is The Gold Cell. The cover is red with a gold circle and a snake wrapped around the gold. My literary adventures take me lots of places but have never seriously considered Sharon Olds, who, it happens, is in her 70s like me. Sharon was somewhere probably doing a reading in 1996, and signed the copy I have, to Ellen. My copies always belonged to someone else first, obtained with me in mind by my friend Dick Mackin of Bettendorf over lots of years at yard sales. I have never seen Sharon Olds, but I can picture a pleasant, talented poet reading her poems and captivating an audience with the pace and impact of her creations. In seeking the activity of General, then President U.S. Grant and his Galena roots, I came across the name Sharon Olds as a board member of one of the groups that works to amplify the Civil War General any way possible. So have I, by composing a fifteen page booklet on the surrender of General Lee to General Grant at a village in Virginia, April 9th 1865. I hope to get it to the Galena festivities next April, and with luck meet Sharon Olds. I have not read a poet like Sharon Olds, but I can hear a great delivery from a podium with the words flowing very naturally and full of meaning to her listeners.

I found one I can relate to on page 82 of this volume.

Gerbil Funeral

By the time we’re ready it’s dark, so somebody goes for a flashlight, and we all troop out to the grave by its shuddering light. The beam goes down into the whole deep, its talcum sides a soft gold the autumn has been so dry. The crickets begin as our daughter wraps the coffin in black plastic, a shroud of glittering darkness, and her father with his long arm sets it in the bottom of the pit. Then there’s a moment of silence, none of us knows what to do, so she takes the shovel and drops the first spade full of dirt.
… (twenty five lines later) …
She turns and walks to the house, her heart cold and hard in her chest as a bulb in the winter ground.

We had a gerbil funeral at our home, and the deceased ended in a very heavy iron rendering pot my wife had brought from her farm when nobody else wanted it. I would hope that some other of those small critters brought home from a school classroom and eventually “put to rest” on your premises, is part of family history.

Olds poetry is longer( and more emotionally involved) than many composed by most of her contemporary poets, people in their 70’s and 80’s with lots of poems, and some honors, on shelves where they live. Perhaps her audience likes the style of her wording because she speaks in what I consider a “matter of fact” fashion about sex and sexual encounters, poem after poem. Olds shares either poetical or personal experiences in life and sex as if they are common, which of course, they are. Poets, men and women, allude but are less frank about what’s taking place or what might take place. She may tell us, but her poetry rolls out, with little shame or camouflage about her troubled father and a mother who may not have been a saint, but whom Olds includes in much of the poetry I am reading. And in a final section she writes of her children and their behaviors and misadventures.

So it is all there for every woman or girl to read and try to understand, vicarious or actual experience . You know, I may meet Sharon Olds. Maybe she lives in Galena, Illinois and I will see more than her name on a page of the Miner’s Journal with others of a group that cares about what Galena stands for and what goes on there. Catch me in October and I promise more poems and less… stuff.

Filed Under: Personal Growth