Unmatching Legs Ode

I don’t know why I am fairly cheerful
about my unmatching legs.  I am not
cheerful about my foot soles, which were
like two brains, reading the ground,
and now have less than half their nerves, they are the
numbskulls to whom I trust my balance, their
surfaces crinkled tinfoil made of rubber.
But when I lie on the floor, on my back,
and look up, at my lower limbs, those
tapered feelers, I like them, even
though you cannot tell if the left is
withered or the right fat—the right
is swollen.  When I was a new matron,
I thought that the blue-green line down my inner
calf—the great saphenous vein—
was a Nile beauty mark, and the way it
rose, when I was carrying my first young, there was
something cool in how it fit between the
ledges of the gastrocnemius
and soleus, like a snake between two
strata of rock.  So when I see the leg’s mass,
I am almost proud of it, that it could
fit in it one and a half of its fellow.
And the skinny leg, the original one,
how can it be that I like the healed
gouge on it, from the edge of the porch
stair, when I fell upwards, or the one
from the corner fang of the truck door,
they hold the places I’ve been, they are like
passport stamps from his kingdom.  I have always
liked my legs, the double stem
which lifts the big odd flower of me up
and up.  It’s as if I fell in love
with them, when they and I began
to learn to walk together.  The two of them were
best friends, who could press against each other
and feel the love, at the top of the stalks, and they were
twins—not identical, but
mirror twins, loving the other was
loving the self, they were ecstatics, they were
the thyrsus and the stylus, the healthy narcissus.
I’m sad they will rot.  I wish our bodies
could leave us when they are done with us—
leave our spirits here, and walk away.

“Unmatching Legs Ode” from Odes by Sharon Olds. Copyright © 2016 by Sharon Olds. Originally published by Alfred A. Knopf. Used with the permission of the poet.

This poem was originally read in the On Being episode “Odes to the *****.”