Sharon Olds (1942–), a widely-read contemporary poet who has long taught at NYU and won numerous critical awards, in recent years used her celebrity status to make a political statement (as did Marlon Brando, declining an Oscar Award, Robert Hughes declining a White House Invitation from Lady Bird Johnson, and many others). She turned down Laura Bush’s invitation to read her poetry at a festival of 85,000 people. In a long detailed Open Letter she concluded, “I could not face... breaking bread with you... who represent... this war...its continuation...torture... I could not stomach it.”
Sometimes I can almost see, around our heads,
Like gnats around a streetlight in summer,
The children we could have,
The glimmer of them.
Sometimes I feel them waiting, dozing
In some antechamber servants,
half Listening for the bell.
Sometimes I see them lying like love letters
In the Dead Letter Office.
And sometimes, like tonight, by some black
Second sight I can feel just one of them
Standing on the edge of a cliff by the sea
In the dark, stretching its arms out
Desperately to me.
Further Reading: Olds, Sharon, Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002; Olds, Sharon, The Wellspring (1996), both in our library.