“My Father’s Diary” by Sharon Olds

It is the dark pit of the semester when it seems like the grading will never end. For every assignment you grade and return, two are turned in, an endless cycle that grinds everyone down: student and teacher alike. As a result, I don’t have the time or energy to write here about any of things I’d like to write about: my experience presenting on “digitized diaries” at the Texas Digital Humanities Conference, or two recent diary-related publications that I’d like to review, or anything else. But here’s a beautiful diary poem to tide you over.

Sharon Olds, “My Father’s Diary”

I get into bed with it, and spring
the scarab legs of its locks. Inside,
the stacked, shy wealth of his print—
he could not write in script, so the pages
are sturdy with the beamwork of printedness,
WENT TO LOOK AT A CAR, DAD
IN A GOOD MOOD AT DINNER, WENT
TO TRY OUT SOME NEW TENNIS RACQUETS,
LUNCH WITH MOM, life of ease—
except when he spun his father’s DeSoto on the
ice, and a young tree whirled up to the
hood, throwing up her arms—until
LOIS. PLAYED TENNIS, WITH LOIS,
LUNCH WITH MOM AND LOIS, LOIS
LIKED THE CAR, DRIVING WITH LOIS,
LONG DRIVE WITH LOIS. And then,
LOIS! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! SHE IS SO
GOOD, SO SWEET, SO GENEROUS, I HAVE
NEVER, WHAT HAVE I EVER DONE
TO DESERVE SUCH A GIRL? Between the dark
legs of the capitals, moonlight, soft
tines of the printed letter gentled
apart, nectar drawn from serif, the
self of the grown boy pouring
out, the heart’s charge, the fresh
man kneeling in pine-needle weave,
worshipping her. It was my father
good, it was my father grateful,
it was my father dead, who had left me
these small structures of his young brain—
he wanted me to know him, he wanted
someone to know him.
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