Monday, December 7, 2009

My Thesis Introduction

I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions, about how one thing follows another, about what comes next. And it seems to me that they’re never neat, never tidy, never what I expect them to be. Sometimes the fulcrum on which life pivots is long and slow, a gradual movement from one stage to another. But other times change is balanced on a moment, a tiny, sharp, jarring moment.

I started many of the essays in this thesis before I became a mother, something so unexpected, so utterly catastrophic, that it made everything before seem so small, so insignificant, so self-centered. I suppose that’s what parenthood does to most people. The problem is that my concerns have changed, and as such, so has my writing.

I kept thinking that I could retrace my steps through my work in order to make it make sense in the light of my current life. In some cases I think I’ve done that. In others, I’m not sure.

Because my life is messy and because my conception of myself is also messy, it stands to reason that a memoir of my life is going to be messy. In this collection, I’m wrestling with who I am and how I got here. There are some answers, and there are new questions. In the end, I hope, it’s a good story.

***This has since been totally revised!

by Sharon Olds

Brushing out our daughter’s brown
silken hair before the mirror
I see the grey 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 moist
precise 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, round 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.