In the sunless wooden room at noon
the mother had a talk with her daughter.
The rudeness could not go on, the meanness
to her little brother, the selfishness.
The eight-year-old sat on the bed
in the corner of the room, her irises distilled as
the last drops of something, her firm
face melting, reddening,
silver flashes in her eyes like distant
bodies of water glimpsed through woods.
She took it and took it and broke, crying out
I hate being a person! diving
into the mother
a deep pond—and she cannot swim,
the child cannot swim.
"The Talk" by Sharon Olds, from Strike Sparks. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)