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Ode to the The

I liked that you were small and thick,
easy to recognize.  I think
I thought you were married to and, who was often
somewhere in the sentence, holding things
together, while you would be standing, a tin
soldier, the rifle barrel of your h
sticking up over your shoulder.  I felt a little
sorry for you, always announcing,
never the thing itself.  When I looked
you up, they said your meaning is “controlled
by the notion ‘previously recognized,
noticed or encountered,’” and your Indo-European
base is *-to-, and *-ta-, each of them
the’d with its asterisk.  O the,
I have never thanked you, guardian of the noun,
worker ant, moving things along as if
from underneath–river of the,
wheels of the.  Thank you for always
being yourself, never adding
a letter to make a scary face
from within the phrase.  All honor to thee,
enduring grammatical gristle, plain
flourish, stalwart bugler–the the of this song.

_______________________________________

Sharon Olds is the author of many books including Satan Says, which received the San Francisco Poetry Center Award and The Dead and the Living which was both the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983 and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her latest collection is Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002. Professor Olds holds the Erich Maria Remarque Professorship at NYU.

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Bianca is a poet and artist, and is the author of the chapbook Someone Else's Wedding Vows from Argos Books. She has been published in such magazines as Best American Poetry 2011, Conduit, and American Poetry Review. She is the cofounder and editor of Monk Books. Her next book, Antigonick, a new kind of comic book, and collaboration with Anne Carson, will be out in 2012 from New Directions. She lives in Brooklyn with the poet Ben Pease and their cat Commander Riker.

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  • Mike Cooper November 15, 2011, 1:04 am

    This is the poetry I like to find.  Not the best, or even particularly good.  Please don’t be offended.  Since TS Eliot nothings been good to me.  But I know I’ll be thinking about this poem over at least the next week of data entry.  Mostly numbers.  But when there is a word that word is often The.  So, well thank you.

  • Maggi December 31, 2011, 9:54 am

    Thank you for this poem, thank you for making the Ordinary Extraordinary! :)

  • B. Pres February 16, 2014, 12:14 pm

    Wow, this one sneaks up on you. My first read-through of this I got to the end and thought, “what fluff! Okay, Sharon Olds, if you say so.” But then I gave it a second read and the genius of her expression and observations jumped out at me: “I thought you were married to and, who was often

    somewhere in the sentence, holding things

    together, while you would be standing, a tin

    soldier, the rifle barrel of your h

    sticking up over your shoulder.”

    or “I felt a little

    sorry for you, always announcing,

    never the thing itself. ”

    Dang, Sharon Olds, you stinker you!

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