Take the I Out
But I love the I, steel I-beam that my father sold. They poured the pig iron into the mold, and it fed out slowly, a bending jelly in the bath, and it hardened, Bessemer, blister, crucible, alloy, and he marketed it, and bought bourbon, and Cream of Wheat, its curl of butter right in the middle of its forehead, he paid for our dresses with his metal sweat, sweet in the morning and sour in the evening. I love the I, frail between its flitches, its hard ground and hard sky, it soars between them like the soul that rushes, back and forth, between the mother and father. What if they had loved each other, how would it have felt to be the strut joining the floor and roof of the truss? I have seen, on his shirt-cardboard, years in her desk, the night they made me, the penciled slope of her temperature rising, and on the peak of the hill, first soldier to reach the crest, the Roman numeral I-- I, I, I, I, girders of identity, head on, embedded in the poem. I love the I for its premise of existence—our I—when I was born, part gelid, I lay with you on the cooling table, we were all there, a forest of felled iron. The I is a pine, resinous, flammable root to crown, which throws its cones as far as it can in a fire.
by Sharon Olds, from Blood, Tin, Straw