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On the Hearth of the Broken Home

To celebrate the Pulitzer Prize announcements yesterday, we thought it only fitting to share this stunning poem by Sharon Olds, whose collection, Stag’s Leap, won the prize for poetry.

This poem was first published in issue 7.  

Congratulations to all of the winners. 

On the Hearth of the Broken Home
by Sharon Olds

Slowly fitting my pinky-tip down
into the wild eggshell fallen
from inside the chimney, I feel as if I’m like
a teenage boy in love, allowed
into the beloved’s body, like my father
with the girl he loved, who loved him. If he
had married her… I lift it up
close to my eyes, the coracle dome
hung with ashes, rivered with flicks
of chint, robes of the unkown—only
a sojourner, in our home, where love
was sparrow-netted to make its own
cage, jessed with its jesses, limed
with its radiant lime. And above the tiny
tossed-off cloak of the swift, in the deep
reaches of the old dutch oven, on a bed
of sprung traps, the mince in them
long gone to meltdown, and to maggotmeal,
and wet dust, and dry dust,
there lies another topped shell, smaller,
next to it its doffed skull
tressed with spinneret sludge, speckled with
flue-mash flecks, or the morse of a species,
when I lift it up, its yolk drops out, hard
amber, light coming through it, fringed
in a tonsure of mold and soot. If I ever
dreamed, as a child, of everlasting
love, these were its shoes: one dew-licked
kicked-off slipper of a being now flying, one
sunrise-milk-green boot of the dead,
which I wore, as I dreamed.


Sharon Olds has published several volumes of poetry, including, Stag’s Leap , which won the Pulitzer Prize, and The Dead and the Living, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1984. She was the New York State Poet Laureate from 1998 to 2000.

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Posted in From The Vault, Poetry

Comments: 1

(460) Comments

  1. Wow. “Stunning” is certainly the right word for this.

    “One dew-licked kicked-off slipper of a being now flying…” Incredible. Reading those words makes me feel the same kind of satisfaction that good-quality caramel melting in my mouth brings about.

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