picasso GIRL BEFORE A MIRROR _thumb
by Sharon Olds

At first I do not believe it, in the hotel triple mirror
That that is my body,
In back, below the waist, and above the legs
The thing that doesn’t stop moving when I stop moving
And it doesn’t look like just one thing
Or even one big double thing
Even the word saddlebags has a smooth calfskin feel to it
Compared to this compendium of net string bags
Shaking their booty of cellulite, fruits, and nuts
Some lumps look like bon-bons translated intact from chocolate
box to buttocks
The curl on top showing slightly through my skin
Once I see what I can do with this, I do it
High-stepping to make the rapids of my bottom
Rush and ripple like a world wonder
Slowly I believe what I am seeing
A 54-year-old rear end, once a tight end
High and mighty, almost a chicken butt
Now exhausted as if tragic
But this is not an invasion
My cul-de-sac is not being used to hatch
alien cells, bald peas, gyroscopes, sacks of marbles
It’s my hoard of treasure, my good luck
Not to be dead, yet
Though when I toss the main of my ass again
And see in a clutch of eggs, each egg on its own as if shell-less, shudder
I wonder if anyone has ever died looking in a mirror of horror
I think I will not even catch a cold from it
I will go to school to it, to Butt Boot Camp
To the video store where I saw in the window
My hero, my workout jelly roll model, my apotheosis–
Killer Buns.

IMAGE: “Girl Before a Mirror” by Pablo Picasso (1932).

MORE: Watch Sharon Olds read “Self-Portrait, Rear View” at youtube.

Sharon Olds

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sharon Olds’ National Book Critics Circle Award-winning volume The Dead and the Living (1984) has sold more than 50,000 copies, ranking it as one of contemporary poetry’s best-selling volumes. After attending Stanford University, she earned her Ph.D. at Columbia in 1972. Her collections include Strike Sparks (2002), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, One Secret Thing (2009), and Stag’s Leap (2012)—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Britain’s T.S. Eliot prize. Olds served as New York State Poet from 1998 to 2000, and currently teaches in the graduate writing program at New York University.