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Kirby Olson


For John Powell, R.I.P.

Bathers at Asnières by Georges Seurat

The swimming pool is rectangular turquoise.
In it are several adults swimming in straight lines.
A dozen children play with toy sharks in the shallow end.

My child Julian is in my arms.
I walk him around, encourage him to float.
Large trees surround the pool:

the only one I recognize is a sycamore.
2 dozen SUVs in the parking lot,
& Julian is floating.


About the writer:
When Kirby Olson studied with Allen Ginsberg in the 70s, he gave him this poem, as it was the only poem he’d written up to that point.

I have often met the beauty of the living
It was in the magenta sunset.
It was in the hummingbird.
It was a child reaching up to kiss his mother goodnight.

Ginsberg told him to write a big, dirty, sex poem instead. Olson thought Ginsberg was crazy, but it was funny. All of Olson’s poems in some way are about family, but now more about his own children rather than his parents. He still thinks that true beauty can only happen inside of families. Olson’s poems have been in Poetry East, Partisan Review, and a hundred others. Explore Kirby Olson’s offering Poems for Families in the O:JA&L 2022 Pamphlet Series.

Image: Bathers at Asnières by Georges Seurat (1859-1891). Oil on canvas. 79.1 x 118.1 inches. 1884. Retouched 1887. Public domain.

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