“35/10,” by Sharon Olds

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“35/10,” by Sharon Olds, appeared in MQR’s Spring 1982 issue.

Brushing out my daughter’s dark
silken hair before the mirror
I see the gray gleaming on my head,
the silver-haired servant behind her. Why is it
just as we begin to go
they begin to arrive, the fold in my neck
clarifying as the fine bones of her
hips sharpen? As my skin shows
its dry pitting, she opens like a small
pale flower on the tip of a cactus;
as my last chances to bear a child
are falling through my body, the duds among them,
her full purse of eggs, gold and
firm as hard-boiled yolks, is about
to snap its clasp. I brush her tangled
fragrant hair at bedtime. It’s an old
story—the oldest we have on our planet—
the story of replacement.

Photograph of Sharon Olds by Marcus Mam for Vogue.

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