Maggie R. Sex without Love by Sharon Olds How do they do it, the ones who make love without love? Beautiful as dancers, gliding over each other like ice-skaters over the ice, fingers hooked inside each other's bodies, faces red as steak, wine, wet as the children at birth whose mothers are going to give them away. How do they come to the come to the come to the God come to the still waters, and not love the one who came there with them, light rising slowly as steam off their joined skin? These are the true religious, the purists, the pros, the ones who will not accept a false Messiah, love the priest instead of the God. They do not mistake the lover for their own pleasure, they are like great runners: they know they are alone with the road surface, the cold, the wind, the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardiovascular health--just factors, like the partner in the bed, and not the truth, which is the single body alone in the universe against its own best time. Analysis & Response: This poem fascinated me. Although I felt a flush rise to my cheeks in the beginning, her mild vulgarity is refreshing, because it is easy to see that she is being honest. She cannot fathom those who have sex without love; the one night stands, the random strangers, the unfamiliarity of it all. She feels that sex is a religious sacrament, and sees those who do not treat it that way not in a bad light, but in a new one. She sees them as independent, and smart for realizing that in the end, we are all truly alone, unless we are so lucky to find true love. This poem is strangely beautiful. Poetic Response: It’s as if she knows. She knows what it’s like to be young and not understand. She knows what it’s like to get older and still not understand. She knows that some day she will look back and understand that she never fully understood. And that’s okay. I want to believe with her. I want to believe that love and sex are intertwined and tangled up so deeply that it is shocking to see them apart, like a night without the stars. I want to believe that in spirit we are never alone, but in life we are terminally by ourselves, and that there is nothing shameful in that. I want to believe with her because it is hard to put full faith into anything at my age. Where is the line between trusting someone and being fooled? It is obvious to me that she does not wish to be fooled, she wishes to be fascinated. As do I. Sex is not the answer to love, and she knows that; it is the fingernails with which we break love down into tiny pieces, sometimes to be built up stronger, and sometimes to stay forever in fragments. I want to believe with her that love is divine. I want to believe with her that love is unique and powerful. I want to believe, so I do.