Sharon Olds
Looking at Them Asleep (ca. 1988)


When I come home late at night and go in to kiss the children,


I see my girl with her arm curled around her head,


her face deep in unconsciousness—so


deeply centered she is in her dark self,


her mouth slightly puffed like one sated but


slightly pouted like one who hasn’t had enough,


her eyes so closed you would think they have rolled the


iris around to face the back of her head,


the eyeball marble-naked under that


thick satisfied desiring lid,


she lies on her back in abandon and sealed completion,


and the son in his room, oh the son he is sideways in his bed,


one knee up as if he is climbing


sharp stairs up into the night,


and under his thin quivering eyelids you


know his eyes are wide open and


staring and glazed, the blue in them so


anxious and crystally in all this darkness, and his


mouth is open, he is breathing hard from the climb


and panting a bit, his brow is crumpled


and pale, his long fingers curved,


his hand open, and in the center of each hand


the dry dirty boyish palm


resting like a cookie. I look at him in his


quest, the thin muscles of his arms


passionate and tense, I look at her with her


face like the face of a snake who has swallowed a deer,


content, content—and I know if I wake her she’ll


smile and turn her face toward me though


half asleep and open her eyes and I


know if I wake him he’ll jerk and say Don’t and sit


up and stare about him in blue


unrecognition, oh my Lord how I


know these two. When love comes to me and says


What do you know, I say This girl, this boy.