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1954 Analysis

Author: poem of Sharon Olds Type: poem Views: 13

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Then dirt scared me, because of the dirt

he had put on her face. And her training bra

scared me—the newspapers, morning and evening,

kept saying it, training bra,

as if the cups of it had been calling

the breasts up—he buried her in it,

perhaps he had never bothered to take it

off. They found her underpants

in a garbage can. And I feared the word

eczema, like my acne and like

the X in the paper which marked her body,

as if he had killed her for not being flawless.

I feared his name, Burton Abbott,

the first name that was a last name,

as if he were not someone specific.

It was nothing one could learn from his face.

His face was dull and ordinary,

it took away what I’d thought I could count on

about evil. He looked thin and lonely,

it was horrifying, he looked almost humble.

I felt awe that dirt was so impersonal,

and pity for the training bra,

pity and terror of eczema.

And I could not sit on my mother’s electric

blanket anymore, I began to have a

fear of electricity—

the good people, the parents, were going to

fry him to death. This was what

his parents had been telling us:

Burton Abbott, Burton Abbott,

death to the person, death to the home planet.

The worst thing was to think of her,

of what it had been to be her, alive,

to be walked, alive, into that cabin,

to look into those eyes, and see the human

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