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Weekly Poem: ‘Diagnosis’

By Sharon Olds


By the time I was six months old, she knew something
was wrong with me. I got looks on my face
she had not seen on any child
in the family, or the extended family,
or the neighborhood. My mother took me in
to the pediatrician with the kind hands,
a doctor with a name like a suit size for a wheel:
Hub Long. My mom did not tell him
what she thought in truth, that I was Possessed.
It was just these strange looks on my face–
he held me, and conversed with me,
chatting as one does with a baby, and my mother
said, She’s doing it now! Look!
She’s doing it now! and the doctor said,
What your daughter has

is called a sense
of humor. Ohhh, she said, and took me
back to the house where that sense would be tested
and found to be incurable.

Sharon Olds is the author of several books of poetry, including “The Dead and the Living,” winner of the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award; “The Unswept Room,” a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and “Stag’s Leap,” which was published this year. She teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University.

Watch our profile of Olds here.

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