Sharon Olds: Hello. My name is Sharon Olds, and this poem is called Poem in the Form of a Telegram to Someone Looking at Henri Rousseau's The Sleeping Gypsy.
Before they had
and periods, in telegrams, they had
only the word STOP. When I say
STOP, hit PAUSE and look at The Sleeping
Gypsy. If the picture were a photograph,
what do you think would happen next?
STOP If the sleeper is dreaming, what might
the sleeper be dreaming of? STOP
If the lion were thinking, what might the lion
be thinking? STOP If the moon could dream,
what might the moon be dreaming? STOP
If you could show
this picture to someone
you know, who would you show it to?
STOP If you could show it to someone in some
other country on earth this minute?
STOP If you could show it to someone
no longer living, who would it be?
STOP If you could show it to someone not yet
born? STOP Now I am going
to answer my own questions. STOP
I saw the picture when I was five.
My father's middle name was Lyon.
I had a book called The Cozy Lion, he was
shy, he didn't want to scare anyone.
I thought this was a picture of a woman
in a world where she was safe -- a girl
singer, maybe a sister of Joseph with the
Coat of Many Colors. Her dress
was like lines of music. The lion's tail
was like a line of music. The picture
was a dream of my father guarding my sleep,
the musical instrument was like
a whole note, a reflection of the music, and like
of the moon.