Sharon Olds

Faust 1972
April 13, 2012 Olds Sharon

Faust 1972


This time, Faust was a nursing mother —

on one arm, a nine-month-old,

by one hand, a four-year-old, and in the

backpack a Ph.D., now un-take-

backable.  She was walking down the steps,

on which, four years before, in the Strike,

the English Department Administrator

had stood with the bandage around her head,

bloody where the night-stick had hit her when they tried to fight

past her to her students.  Nursing Faust

descended, now, beside the Alma

Mater, who was no longer wearing her

Shirley Hess lookalike

red-blotched headdress.  And no spirit

came up to the milk-fat graduate

to tempt her — she just spoke, herself,

to the one she felt within her, the one

she thought of as Satan.  Give me my own

poems, she said, and I’ll give you back

all I have learned (forgetting she had learned

almost nothing), and the poems don’t have to be

good — just my own, the work of an ordinary

woman.  Then they went to Tom’s, for pancakes —

the worn, vinyl booster seat

and the high-chair — and it was either Mary,

or Betty, who took care of them,

one on her feet all day, weighing maybe

300, one maybe 80 years old,

which was just the way things were, nothing

Faust would try to do anything about.

Pancakes for three, and bacon, and an extra

plate for the ego’s voice, in my day called Satan.

Sharon Olds (born November 19, 1942) is an American poet. Olds has been the recipient of many awards including the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry,the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award, and the first San Francisco Poetry Center Award in 1980She currently teaches creative writing at New York University.