The Clasp


She was four, he was one, it was raining, we had colds,
we had been in the apartment two weeks straight,
I grabbed her to keep her from shoving him over on his
face, again, and when I had her wrist
in my grasp I compressed it fiercely, for almost a
second, to make an impression on her,
to hurt her, our beloved firstborn, I even nearly
savored the stinging sensation of the squeezing, the
expression, into her, of my anger,
"Never, never again," the righteous
chant accompanying the clasp. It happened very
fast–grab, crush, crush,
crush, release–and at the first extra
force, she swung her head, as if checking
who this was, and looked at me,
and saw me–yes, this was her mom,
her mom was doing this. Her dark,
deeply open eyes took me
in, she knew me, in the shock of the moment
she learned me. This was her mother, one of the
two whom she most loved, the two
who loved her most, near the source of love
was this.


Sharon Olds, Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002, Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.