The Origin of Olive Oyl
When Olive was an embryo, she curled her thumbs
into the "o," stretched herself into an obelisk,
tall as a coconut palm, stately as a saguaro.
Legends crisscross at this crucial point:
Sweet Haven lore has Olive as princess of knobby-kneed
school girls, while King Features lists her as kitsch witch.
She used to spin on the playground until she fainted.
She used to pull herself up and scare everyone.
Olive drew her own face, then her mothers
rose full-moon over her daughters rubbery china bones.
Orzo, Ooze, Oulipo
as though the whole world were one big O!1
She rose from razor shells and the abiding anorectic
wombs of the gods of Italy and vinegar.
Olive saw the adf u
cn rd ths u cn gt a gd jb2
and sent her resume to a P.O. Box,
the thin lines of her qualifications
like squiggles of a Basho
or tiny flecks of light that have passed through crystal.
5. (The Origin of Popeye)
Only Olive owned ostentatious orgasms;
the puerile position of pomp belonged to Popeye.
Olive, it is said. created him when she slipped
on a slimy spinach leaf and landed on a pipe.
Ceci nest pas une pipe,3
some said to negate the narration,
the way Olives body looks sideways, blending into the vertical
horizon we call the end, dead end, sweet dreams.
Olive, so many dots of color, rearranging herself like nomenclature.
Frank OHaras favorite form of punctuation was the exclamation
If you can read this you can get a good job.
Sometimes Popeye smoked a pipe and sometimes he didnt.
Originally published in the February/March
2000 issue of Boston Review
Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton