Ode to the Tampon

Sharon Olds


From Issue 66


Ode to the Tampon

Inside-out clothing;

queen’s robe;

white-jacketed worker who clears the table

prepared for the feast which goes uneaten;

hospital orderly; straitjacket

which takes into its folded wings

the spirit of the uncapturable one;

soldier’s coat;

dry dock for the boat not taken;

seeker of the red light of stars

which have ceased to be before we see them;


unhonored one; undertaker;


you who in the cross-section diagram,

before the eyes of a girl child,

glide into potential space,

out of the second-stage rocket’s cardboard cylinder,

up beyond the atmosphere,

where no one has gone before;

you who began life as a seed in the earth,

you who blossomed into the air like steam from a whale’s blowhole,

you who were compressed into a dense calyx,

nib which dips into a forty-year river;

mute calligrapher—we write you here.


Sharon Olds is author to 12 collections of poetry and holds numerous honors including a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.  Her most recent collection, Stag’s Leap, was the recipient of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T. S. Eliot Prize.   She was New York state poet laureate from 1998 to 2000 and currently teaches for New York University’s Graduate Creative Writing Program.