Departure Gate

Sharon Olds

She was standing near a departure gate,
sandal-footed, her wiggly hair
and the latticework of her mercury footwear
the same satiny gold, and there was something
wistful about her, under the burnish
of her make-up she looked extremely young,
and a little afraid. I wanted to speak
to her, as if I were a guardian spirit
working the airport -- God knows
I was crazed with my fresh solitariness --
so I did a little double-take
when I passed her, and said, Could I ask, where did you
get your sandals -- my husband, I lied,
wants me to get some, and she said a name, as if
relieved to speak. Thanks, I said,
they look great with your hair -- actually
(my head bowed down on its own), you look
like a goddess. Her face came out from behind
its cloud, You don’t know how I needed that!,
she cried out, I’m going to meet my boyfriend’s
parents. You’ll do just fine, I said, you look
beautiful and good. She looked joyful. I bustled off --
so this is what I’ll do, now,
instead of kissing and being kissed, I’ll
go through airports praising people like an
anti-Christ saying, you do not need
to change your life.

This is one of three poems by Sharon Olds. Click to read "Pacific Coast Ode" or "Mean-Spirited Poem of Thanks to My Mother".