Sharon’s Spiritual Similes
Cari Gilkison, Critical Writing
Sharon Olds uses similes to help convey the idea that physical love and spiritual love in her poem “Sex without Love.” Throughout the poem she compares lovers to dancers, ice-skates and runners.
“Beautiful Dancers” (2) is how Sharon Olds first describes lovers. The lovers are intertwined in a graceful. Although magnificent, these dancers of the physical world. She uses the simile of dancers to create an image of something special, but lacking even still.
Using a slight variation of dancer Olds compares the lovers to Ice-Skaters. They are swift, gliding smoothly, but not over ice—over each other. “Fingers hooked, inside each other’s bodies, face.” (4-5) There is definitely a feeling of intimacy, but it is still a carnal knowledge of one another.
“Red as steak, as wine” (6) is how she describes the lovers. It is a particularly strong simile in that is reinforced by the imagery. Red is a powerful color with man connotations. Red is representative of a woman’s sexuality and even childbirth. Red is also the color of blood, which symbolizes life itself. It is an earthly color, so we see that the lovers have not pushed beyond the tangible.
“Wet as the children whose mothers are going to give them away” (6-8) Olds adds. The children’s wetness is a simile comparing the lovers to newborns who will not be held and comforted. The love and bonding will not happen between the mother and child, nor will it happen between the lovers. Tears will not fall.
“They are like runners, they know they are alone” (18) Olds concludes. The lovers are not a picture of rapture. They are solitary and alone in the world despite their physical abilities and closeness. Like running, they may love making provides a solid health benefit, but it cannot fill the emptiness inside. “Sex a single body alone in the universe, against its own best time.” (23-24)
They have to reach deeper than that and find love in order to avoid the loneliness. Sex without love is an illusion, a lie and purposeless. This what Sharon Olds conveys in her poem “Sex without Love” through the use of many vivid similes. Comparing the physical image to the spiritual one she gets the reader to see the empties of sex without love.
Olds, Sharon. “Sex without Love.” Literature and the Writing Process. Editor Elizabeth McMahan, Susan Day and Robert Funk. 3rd Edition. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1993. pg 618.