This paper argues that Anne Sexton unfolds many psychological patterns . especially her Pulitzer Prize winning volume Live or Die in Maria walked in one day crying: “My mother died when she was forth-five years old, my stepmother did not live pasty forty-five, Anne Sexton committed suicide. Excerpt from The Lives and Voices of Anne Sexton: A Biographical and Cultural Explication of "Wanting to Die". Joann K Deiudicibus. Joann Deiudicibus.
The collected works of Anne Sexton showcase the astonishing career of one of of mental illness in her moving Pulitzer Prize–winning collection Live or Die. For instance, when she wrote "Cripples and Other Stories" (in Live or Die), a poem that almost totally xxvi "occurred" on the page in an hour's time, she crumpled. abandoned the themes of Confessional poetry after the publication of Live or Die in. Anne Sexton in her lifetime wrote many poems and in every poem she.
The collected works of Anne Sexton showcase the astonishing career of one of of mental illness in her moving Pulitzer Prize–winning collection Live or Die. Anne Sexton is renowned as one of the most powerful poets of the post - World Live or Die, Anne Sexton's third published volume of poetry, was awarded the. This paper argues that Anne Sexton unfolds many psychological patterns . especially her Pulitzer Prize winning volume Live or Die in
To browse Academia. Skip to main content. You're using an out-of-date version of Internet Explorer. Log In Sign Up. Rosario Aninat. Oysters 2. How We Danced 3. The Boat 4. Santa 5. Friends 6. Begat Angels of the Love Live 1. Angel anne Fire and Sexton 2. Angel of Clean Sheets 3. Angel of Flight pdf Sleigh Bells 4. Angel of Hope and Calendars 5. Angel of Blizzards and Blackouts 6. Dreams 2. The Dy-dee Doll 3. Seven Times 4. Madonna 5. Max 6. Not So. And indeed she had briefly modeled for the Hart Agency in Boston.
Earrings and bracelets, French perfume, high heels, matching lip and fingernail gloss bedecked her, all intimidating pdf in the chalk-and-wet-overshoes atmosphere of the Boston Center for Adult Pdf, where we were enrolled in John Holmes's poetry workshop. Poetry — we were both ambitious beginners — and proximity — we lived in the same suburb — brought us together.
As intimate friends and professional allies, we remained intensely committed to one another's writing and well-being to the day of her death in the fall of The facts of Anne Sexton's troubled and chaotic life are well known; no other American poet in our time has cried aloud pub- licly so many private details.
While the frankness of these revela- tions attracted many readers, especially women, who identified strongly with the female aspect of the poems, a number of poets and critics — for the most live, although not exclusively, male — took offense.
Die writing was too easy or too hard for her. She became meager and exagger- ated. Many of her most embarrassing poems pdf have been fascinating if someone had put them sexton quotes, as the presenta- tion anne some character, sexton the author. And yet the ground for Sexton's confessional poems had die well prepared. InAllen Ginsberg's Howl had declaimed: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked. At the time Sexton began to work in the confessional mode, W.
Snodgrass had already published his prize-winning collec- tion. Heart's Needle, which included details of sexton divorce and custody struggle. Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell were hammering out their own autobiographical accounts of alienation, despair, anomie, and madness. John Berryman, deceiving no one, charm- ingly protested in a prefatory note that the Henry of The Dream Songs "is essentially about an imaginary character not the poet, not me.
It seems curious that the major and by far die vitriolic expressions of outrage were reserved for Sexton. Someone once said that we have art in order not to die of the truth, a dictum we might neatly apply to Sexton's perspectives.
To Hayden Carruth, the poems "raise the never-solved problem of what literature really is, where you draw the line between art and documentary.
The in- timate details divulged in Sexton's poetry enchanted or repelled with anne passion. In addition to the strong feelings Anne's work aroused, there was the undeniable fact of her physical beauty. Her presence on the platform dazzled with its staginess, its props of water glass, cigarettes, die ashtray.
She used pregnant pauses, husky whispers, pseudoshouts pdf calculated effect. A Pdf audi- ence might hiss its displeasure or deliver a standing ovation. It did not doze off during a reading. Anne basked in the attention she attracted, partly because it was antithetical to an earlier generation's view of the woman writer as "poetess," and partly because she was flattered by and enjoyed the adoration of her public.
Her parents, she was convinced, had not wanted her to be born. Her sisters, she alleged, competed against and won out over her. Her teachers, unable to rouse the slumbering intelli- gence from its hiding place, treated her with impatience and anger. Anne's counterphobic response to rejection and admonish- ment was always to defy, dare, press, contravene. Live the fright- sexton little girl became a flamboyant pdf provocative woman; the timid child who skulked in closets burst sexton as an exhibitionist declaiming with her own rock group; the intensely private individ- ual bared her liver to the eagle in public readings where almost invariably there was standing room only.
A few months shy of her live birthday, she eloped with Alfred Muller Sexton II nicknamed Kayoenrolled in a Hart Agency modeling course, and lived briefly in Baltimore and San Francisco while her husband anne in the Navy. Inshe returned to Massachusetts, where Linda Gray Sexton was born. The first breakdown, diagnosed as postpartum depression, oc- curred inthe live year her beloved great-aunt Anna Ladd Dingley, the Nana of the poems, died.
She took refuge in West- wood Lodge, a anne neuropsychiatric hospital that was fre- quently to serve as her sanctuary when the voices that urged her to die reached an insistent pitch. Its director, Dr. Martha Brunner- Sexton, figured in Anne's life as a benevolent but disciplinary mother, who would not permit this troubled daughter to kill herself. Nevertheless, seven months after her second child, Joyce Ladd Sexton, was born inAnne suffered a second crisis and was hospitalized.
Anne children were sent to live with her husband's parents; and while they were separated from her, she attempted suicide on her birthday, November 9, This was the first of several episodes, or at least the first that die openly acknowledged. Frequently, these attempts occurred around Anne's live, a time of year she came increasingly to dread.
After administering a series of diagnostic tests, he presented his patient with her scores, objective evidence that, despite the disapproving naysayers from her past, she was highly intelligent. Her associative pdf suggested that she ought to return to the writing of poetry, something she had shown a deft talent for during secondary school. It was at Orne's insistence that Anne enrolled in the Holmes workshop.
Martin" came directly out of that experience, as did so many of the poems in her first collection, To Bedlam and Part Way Back. On a snowy Sunday afternoon early inshe drove to my house to ask me to look at "something. Could it be called sexton poem? It was "Music Swims Back to Me," her first breakaway from adolescent lyrics in rhyming iambic pentameter. Years later, when it seemed to her that all else in her life had failed — marriage, the succor of children, the grace of friendship, the promised land to which psychotherapy held the key — she turned to God, with a kind of stubborn absolutism that was miss- ing from the Protestantism of her inheritance.
The God she wanted was a sure thing, an Old Testament avenger die his Chosen People, an authoritarian yet forgiving Father decked out in sacrament and anne. An elderly, sympathetic priest she called on — "accosted" might die a better word — patiently explained that he could not make her a Catholic by fiat, nor could he administer the sacrament the pdf rites she longed for.
But in his native wisdom he said a saving thing to her, said the magic and simple words that kept her alive at least a year beyond her time and made The Awful Rowing Toward God a possibility. I cite these two examples to indicate the influence that figures of authority had over Anne's life in the most elemental sense; first the psychiatrist and then the priest put an imprimatur on poetry as salvation, as a worthy goal in itself. When everything else die when a succession of thera- pists deserted her for whatever good, poor, or personal reasons; when intimates lost interest or could not fulfill all the roles they were asked to play; when a series of sexton and physical ill- nesses assaulted her, the making of sexton remained her one con- stant.
To pdf her own metaphor, "out of used furniture [she made] a tree. Sexton's progress in Holmes's workshop in was meteoric.
A year later, five of us joined together to form a workshop of our own — an arrangement that lasted until Holmes's untimely death from cancer in During this period, all live us wrote and revised prolifically, competitively, as if pdf the wolves of the world were at our backs. Our sessions were jagged, intense, often angry, but also loving.
As Holmes's letters from this anne make abundantly clear, he decried the confessional direction Anne's poems were taking, while at the same time acknowledging her talent. Her compulsion to deal with such then-taboo material as suicide, mad- ness, and abortion assaulted live sensibilities and triggered his own defenses.
Live that the relationship would harm my own work, he warned live to resist becoming involved with Anne. It was the only advice he gave me that I rejected, and at some psy- chic cost. Anne and I both regarded Holmes as an academic father. Virtually every poem in the Bedlam book came under scrutiny during this period, as did many of the poems in All My Pretty Ones.
She had an unparalleled tenacity in those early days and only aban- doned a "failed" poem with regret, if not downright anger, after dozens of attempts to make it come right. It was awesome the way she could arrive at our bimonthly sessions with three, four, even five anne and complicated poems. She was never meek about it, but she did listen, and she did respect the counsel of others.
She gave generous help to her colleagues, and she anne, de- manded, insisted on generous response. As a result of this experience, Anne came to believe in the value of the workshop. She loved growing in this way, and she urged the method on her students at Boston University, Colgate, Oberlin, and in other workshops she conducted from time to time. During the workshop years, we began to communicate more and more frequently by telephone. Since there were no message units involved in the basic monthly phone-company fee — the figure I remember is seven dollars — we had a second phone line installed in our suburban homes so that we anne talk at live.
For years we conducted our own mini-workshops by phone, die working method that does much to train the ear to hear line breaks, in- ternal rhymes, intentional or unwanted musical devices, and so forth.
W e did this so comfortably and over such an extended period of time that indeed when we met we were somewhat shy of each other's poems as they appeared on the page. I die re- member often saying "Oh, so that's what it looks like," sexton a poem I had heard and visualized through half-a-dozen die. Over the years, Anne's lines shortened, her line breaks became, I think, more unpredictable, and her imagery grew increasingly surreal.
Yet, the two thoughts coexist naturally for her, like humanity and original sin. Her urge to die does not mean that she blames life or has not enjoyed its fleeting pleasures. In line eight, Sexton uses simile to connect the suicidal to carpenters. This comparison is unexpected, making the art of killing oneself a trade, or vocation.
The implication is that it takes skill and talent to perform the task correctly. More commonly, the simile connotes Christ. Perhaps martyrs like Jesus and suicides are similar in their zeal for death.
Furthermore, the implication that carpenters produce out of the necessity of their craft remains ironic. For whom do suicides produce except themselves? Suicides and carpenters dedicate themselves to their respective callings in life. It does not occur to our speaker that she should want anything else. Although it was no better than being a wife or mother, she accepted it because its source was predominantly internal rather than externally imposed by society.
Unfortunately, it conflicted with the outside world as well. The issue is problematic, especially later on in the ninth stanza, where death appears as a woman. The speaker transforms into a passive invalid, in the fifth stanza. She is incapacitated after engorging herself on the enemy. The final line offers some relief, yet it is not satisfying. The hyphenation of the monosyllabic words places more stress at the end of this stanza in a spondee.
The speaker is like an elderly person or a baby; each trapped by nature, time, aging, death, and illness. Controlled by some vile, inevitable condition despite consciousness she is unable to care for herself. In the sixth stanza, the speaker admits that the body is no sacred place for the suicide, no temple. Ironically, the mouth is held shut artificially for the sake of proper appearance after death, while in life, the speaker, so engrossed in her obsession, did not care enough to close it.
The death state seems to offer the speaker more ability and poise, unlike the careless, consumed, static state of ceaseless suffering in life. To want death is fascinating to the suicide who cannot help but interrogate her abnormal compulsions in an antagonistic world where life is considered unconditionally sacred, and children smiling as in line twenty-one turns grotesque.
Sexton manages to place the innocent and young among the living dead, wearing the visage of happiness as they consider their own ends. Now the reversal of a need for death on the suicide's part in the way that a non-suicide preserves life is complete.
The special language is no longer muddled. This darkly sensual description entangles the reader in the paradox of death for the suicide as an act of creation, the creation of freedom from suffering. Did you hear what it said? I only said how there is a pewter urn pinned to the tavern wall, as old as old is able to be and be there still.
I said, the poets are there I hear them singing and lying around their round table and around me still. Across the room is a wreath made of a corpse's hair, framed in glass on the wall, as old as old is able to be and be remembered still. I only said how I want to be there and I would sing my songs with the liars and my lies with all the singers. Poets are sitting in my kitchen. Why do these poets lie? Why do children get children and Did you hear what it said? I only said how I want to be there, Oh, down at the tavern where the prophets are singing around their round table until they are still.
FUNNEL The family story tells, and it was told true, of my great-grandfather who begat eight genius children and bought twelve almost new grand pianos. He left a considerable estate when he died. The children honored their separate arts; two became moderately famous, three married and fattened their delicate share of wealth and brilliance.
The sixth one was a concert pianist. She had a notable career and wore cropped hair and walked like a man, or so I heard when prying a childhood car into the hushed talk of the straight Maine clan. One died a pinafore child, she stays her five years forever. And here is one that wrote — I sort his odd books and wonder his once alive words and scratch out my short marginal notes and finger my accounts. Back from that great-grandfather I have come to tidy a country graveyard for his sake, to chat with the custodian under a yearly sun and touch a ghost sound where it lies awake.
It fit his plan of culture to do it big. On this same scale he built seven arking houses and they still stand. One, five stories up, straight up like a square box, still dominates its costal edge of land. It is rented cheap in the summer musted air to sneaker-footed families who pad through its rooms and sometimes finger the yellow keys of an old piano that wheezes bells of mildew. Like a shoe factory amid the spruce trees it squats; flat roof and rows of windows spying through the mist.
Where those eight children danced their starfished summers, the thirty-six pines sighing, that bearded man walked giant steps and chanced his gifts in numbers.
Back from that great-grandfather I have come to puzzle a bending gravestone for his sake, to question this diminishing and feed a minimum of children their careful slice of suburban cake.
In the false New England forest where the misplanted Norwegian trees refused to root, their thick synthetic roots barging out of the dirt to work the air, we held hands and walked on our knees. Actually, there was no one there. It was a place of parallel trees, their lives filed out in exile where we walked too alien to know our sameness and how our sameness survives. Outside of us the village cars followed the white line we had carefully walked two nights before toward our single beds.
W e lay halfway up an ugly hill and if we fell it was here in the woods where the woods were caught in their dying and you held me well. And now I must dream the forest whole and your sweet hands, not once as frozen as those stopped trees, nor ruled, nor pale, nor leaving mine. Today, in my house, I see our house, its pillars a dim basement of men holding up their foreign ground for you and me. My dear, it was a time, butchered from time, that we must tell of quickly before we lose the sound of our own mouths calling mine, mine, mine.
He rode on the lip that buoyed him there and buckled him under. He stood up, anonymous and straight among them, between their sand pails and nursery crafts. The breakers cartwheeled in and over to puddle their toes and test their perfect skin. He was my brother, my small Johnny brother, almost ten. W e flopped down upon a towel to grind the sand under us and watched the Atlantic sea move fire, like night sparklers; and lost our weight in the festival season.
He dreamed, he said, to be a man designed like a balanced wave. Johnny, your dream moves summers inside my mind. He was tall and twenty that July, but there was no balance to help; only the shells came straight and even.
This was the first beach of assault; the odor of death hung in the air like rotting potatoes; the junkyard of landing craft waited open and rusting. The bodies were strung out as if they were still reaching for each other, where they lay to blacken, to burst through their perfect skin. And Johnny Pole was one of them. He gave in like a small wave, a sudden hole in his belly and the years all gone where the Pacific noon chipped its light out.
Like a bean bag, outflung, head loose and anonymous, he lay. Did the sea move fire for its battle season? Does he lie there forever, where his rifle waits, giant and straight? You lie, a small knuckle on my white bed; lie, fisted like a snail, so small and strong at my breast.
Your lips are animals; you are fed with love. At first hunger is not wrong. The nurses nod their caps; you are shepherded down starch halls with the other unnested throng in wheeling baskets. You tip like a cup; your head moving to my touch. You sense the way we belong. But this is an institution bed. You will not know me very long. The doctors are enamel. They want to know the facts. They guess about the man who left me, some pendulum soul, going the way men go and leave you full of child.
But our case history stays blank. All I did was let you grow. Now we are here for all the ward to see. They thought I was strange, although I never spoke a word. I burst empty of you, letting you learn how the air is so. The doctors chart the riddle they ask of me and I turn my head away.
I do not know. Yours is the only face I recognize. Bone at my bone, you drink my answers in. Six times a day I prize your need, the animals of your lips, your skin growing warm and plump. I see your eyes lifting their tents.
They are blue stones, they begin to outgrow their moss. I am a shelter of lies. Should I learn to speak again, or hopeless in such sanity will I touch some face I recognize? Down the hall the baskets start back. My arms fit you like a sleeve, they hold catkins of your willows, the wild bee farms of your nerves, each muscle and fold of your first days. Your old man's face disarms the nurses. But the doctors return to scold me. I speak. It is you my silence harms. I should have known; I should have told them something to write down.
My voice alarms my throat. And now that's that. There is nothing more that I can say or lose. Others have traded life before and could not speak. I tighten to refuse your owling eyes, my fragile visitor. I touch your cheeks, like flowers. You bruise against me. W e unlearn. I am a shore rocking you off.
You break from me. I choose your only way, my small inheritor and hand you off, trembling the selves we lose. Go child, who is my sin and nothing more. After that it came to my door. Now it lives here. And of course: it is a soft sound, soft as a seal's ear, that was caught between a shape and a shape and then returned to me.
You know how parents call from sweet beaches anywhere, come in come in, and how you sank under water to put out the sound, or how one of them touched in the hall at night: the rustle and the skin you couldn't know, but heard, the stout slap of tides and the dog snoring. It's here now, caught back from time in my adult year — the image we did forget: the cranking shells on our feet or the swing of the spoon in soup.
It is as real as splinters stuck in your ear. The noise we steal is half a bell. And outside cars whisk by on the suburban street and are there and are true. What else is this, this intricate shape of air? I held my breath and daddy was there, his thumbs, his fat skull, his teeth, his hair growing like a field or a shawl.
I lay by the moss of his skin until it grew strange. My sisters will never know that I fall out of myself and pretend that Allah will not see how I hold my daddy like an old stone tree. HUTCH of her arms, this was her sin: where the wood berries bin of forest was new and full, she crept out by its tall posts, those wooden legs, and heard the sound of wild pigs calling and did not wait nor care. The grass speaks.
I hear green chanting all day. I will fear no evil, fear no evil The blades extend and reach my way. The sky breaks. It sags and breathes upon my face. There is no safe place. And you do. The yellow moths sag against the locked screens and the faded curtains suck over the window sills and from another building a goat calls in his dreams.
This is the T V parlor in the best ward at Bedlam. The night nurse is passing out the evening pills. She walks on two erasers, padding by us one by one. My sleeping pill is white. It is a splendid pearl; it floats me out of myself, my stung skin as alien as a loose bolt of cloth. I will ignore the bed. I am linen on a shelf. Let the others moan in secret; let each lost butterfly go home. Old woolen head, take me like a yellow moth while the goat calls hush- a-bye.
I have heard they sat for hours in briny tubs, patting hotel towels sweetly over shivered skin, smelling the stale harbor of a lost ocean, praying at last for impossible loves, or new skin, or still another child. And since this was the style, I don't suppose they knew what they had lost.
Almost yesterday, pushing West, I lost ten Utah driving minutes, stopped to steal past postcard vendors, crossed the hot slit of macadam to touch the marvelous loosed bobbing of The Salt Lake, to honor and assault it in its proof, to wash away some slight need for Maine's coast.
Later the funny salt itched in my pores and stung like bees or sleet. I rinsed it off in Reno and hurried to steal a better proof at tables where I always lost.
Today is made of yesterday, each time I steal toward rites I do not know, waiting for the lost ingredient, as if salt or money or even lust would keep us calm and prove us whole at last. There is no word for time. Today we will not think to number another summer or watch its white bird into the ground. Today, all cars, all fathers, all mothers, all children and lovers will have to forget about that thing in the sky, going around like a persistent rumor that will get us yet.
THE W A I T I N G HEAD If I am really walking with ordinary habit past the same rest home on the same local street and see another waiting head at that upper front window, just as she would always sit, watching for anyone from her wooden seat, then anything can be true.
I only know how each night she wrote in her leather books that no one came. Now she is always dead and the leather books are mine. Today I see the head move, like some pitted angel, in that high window. What is the waiting head doing? It looks the same. Will it lean forward as I turn to go?
I think I hear it call to me below but no one came no one came. Even so, I must admire your skill. You are so gracefully insane. We fidget in our plain chairs and pretend to catalogue our facts for your burly sorcery or ignore your fat blind eyes or the prince you ate yesterday who was wise, wise, wise. Riding my warm cabin home, I remember Betsy's laughter; she laughed as you did, Rose, at the first story.
Someday, I promised her, I'll be someone going somewhere and we plotted it in the humdrum school for proper girls. The next April the plane bucked me like a horse, my elevators turned and fear blew down my throat, that last profane gauge of a stomach coming up. And then returned to land, as unlovely as any seasick sailor, sincerely eighteen; myfirststory, my funny failure. Maybe Rose, there is always another story, better unsaid, grim or flat or predatory.
She used the return ticket I gave her. This was the rude kill of her; two planes cracking in mid-air over Washington, like blind birds. And the picking up afterwards, the morticians tracking bodies in the Potomac and piecing them like boards to make a leg or a face. There is only her miniature photograph left, too long ago now for fear to remember.
Special tonight because I made her into a story that I grew to know and savor. A reason to worry, Rose, when youfixon an old death like that, and outliving the impact, to find you've pretended. We bank over Boston. I am safe. I put on my hat. I am almost someone going home.
The story has ended. And if I tried to give you something else, something outside of myself, you would not know that the worst of anyone can be, finally, an accident of hope. I tapped my own head; it was glass, an inverted bowl.
It is a small thing to rage in your own bowl. At first it was private. Then it was more than myself; it was you, or your house or your kitchen. Not that it was beautiful, but that I found some order there. There ought to be something special for someone in this kind of hope. This is something I would never find in a lovelier place, my dear, although your fear is anyone's fear, like an invisible veil between us a l l.
I am thirty this November. You are still small, in your fourth year. W e stand watching the yellow leaves go queer, flapping in the winter rain, falling flat and washed. And I remember mostly the three autumns you did not live here. They said I'd never get you back again. I tell you what you'll never really know: all the medical hypothesis that explained my brain will never be as true as these struck leaves letting go.
Ugly angels spoke to me. The blame, I heard them say, was mine. Death was simpler than I'd thought. The day life made you well and whole I let the witches take away my guilty soul.
I pretended I was dead until the white men pumped the poison out, putting me armless and washed through the rigamarole of talking boxes and the electric bed. I laughed to see the private iron in that hotel. Today the yellow leaves go queer. You ask me where they go. I say today believed in itself, or else it fell. Today, my small child, Joyce, love your self's self where it lives. There is no special God to refer to; or if there is, why did I let you grow in another place.
You did not know my voice when I came back to call. All the superlatives of tomorrow's white tree and mistletoe will not help you know the holidays you had to miss. The time I did not love myself, I visited your shoveled walks; you held my glove. There was new snow after this. They sent me letters with news of you and I made moccasins that I would never use. When I grew well enough to tolerate myself, I lived with my mother.
Too late, too late, to live with your mother, the witches said. I had my portrait done instead. Part way back from Bedlam I came to my mother's house in Gloucester, Massachusetts. And this is how I came to catch at her; and this is how I lost her. I cannot forgive your suicide, my mother said. And she never could. She had my portrait done instead. I lived like an angry guest, like a partly mended thing, an outgrown child. I remember my mother did her best. She took me to Boston and had my hair restyled.
Your smile is like your mother's, the artist said. I didn't seem to care. There was a church where I grew up with its white cupboards where they locked us up, row by row, like puritans or shipmates singing together. My father passed the plate. Too late to be forgiven now, the witches said. I wasn't exactly forgiven. They had my portrait done instead. All that summer sprinklers arched over the seaside grass.
W e talked of drought while the salt-parched field grew sweet again. To help time pass I tried to mow the lawn and in the morning I had my portrait done, holding my smile in place, till it grew formal. They hung my portrait in the chill north light, matching me to keep me well. Only my mother grew ill. She turned from me, as if death were catching, as if death transferred, as if my dying had eaten inside of her.
That August you were two, but I timed my days with doubt. On the first of September she looked at me and said I gave her cancer. They carved her sweet hills out and still I couldn't answer. That winter she came part way back from her sterile suite of doctors, the seasick cruise of the X-ray, the cells' arithmetic gone wild. Surgery incomplete, the fat arm, the prognosis poor, I heard them say.
During the sea blizzards she had her own portrait painted. A cave of a mirror placed on the south wall; matching smile, matching contour. But you were mine after all. I wintered in Boston, childless bride, nothing sweet to spare with witches at my side. I missed your babyhood, tried a second suicide, tried the sealed hotel a second year.
On April Fool you fooled me. W e laughed and this was good. I checked out for the last time on the first of May; graduate of the mental cases, with my analyst's okay, my complete book of rhymes, my typewriter and my suitcases.
All that summer I learned life back into my own seven rooms, visited the swan boats, the market, answered the phone, served cocktails as a wife should, made love among my petticoats and August tan. And you came each weekend. But I lie. You seldom came. I just pretended you, small piglet, butterfly girl with jelly bean cheeks, disobedient three, my splendid stranger. That October day we went to Gloucester the red hills reminded me of the dry red fur fox coat I played in as a child; stock-still like a bear or a tent, like a great cave laughing or a red fur fox.
W e drove past the hatchery, the hut that sells bait, past Pigeon Cove, past the Yacht Club, past Squall's Hill, to the house that waits still, on the top of the sea, and two portraits hang on opposite walls.
In north light, my smile is held in place, the shadow marks my bone. What could I have been dreaming as I sat there, all of me waiting in the eyes, the zone of the smile, the young face, the foxes' snare.
In south light, her smile is held in place, her cheeks wilting like a dry orchid; my mocking mirror, my overthrown love, my first image. She eyes me from that face, that stony head of death I had outgrown. The artist caught us at the turning; we smiled in our canvas home before we chose our foreknown separate ways. The dry red fur fox coat was made for burning. And this was the cave of the mirror, that double woman who stares at herself, as if she were petrified in time — two ladies sitting in umber chairs.
You kissed your grandmother and she cried. I could not get you back except for weekends. You came each time, clutching the picture of a rabbit that I had sent you. For the last time I unpack your things. W e touch from habit. The first visit you asked my name. Now you stay for good. I will forget how we bumped away from each other like marionettes on strings. It wasn't the same as love, letting weekends contain us.
You scrape your knee. You learn my name, wobbling up the sidewalk, calling and crying. You call me mother and I remember my mother again, somewhere in greater Boston, dying. I remember we named you Joyce so we could call you Joy.
You came like an awkward guest that first time, all wrapped and moist and strange at my heavy breast. I needed you. I didn't want a boy, only a girl, a small milky mouse of a girl, already loved, already loud in the house of herself. W e named you Joy. And this was my worst guilt; you could not cure nor soothe it.
I made you to find me. Mother, my Mary Gray, once resident of Gloucester and Essex County, a photostat of your will arrived in the mail today. This is the division of money. I am one third of your daughters counting my bounty or I am a queen alone in the parlor still, eating the bread and honey. It is Good Friday. Black birds pick at my window sill. Your coat in my closet, your bright stones on my hand, the gaudy fur animals I do not know how to use, settle on me like a debt.
A week ago, while the hard March gales beat on your house, we sorted your things: obstacles of letters, family silver, eyeglasses and shoes. Like some unseasoned Christmas, its scales rigged and reset, I bundled out with gifts I did not choose. Now the hours of The Cross rewind. My timely loss is too customary to note; and yet I planned to suffer and I cannot. It does not please my yankee bones to watch where the dying is done in its ugly hours. Black birds peck at my window glass and Easter will take its ragged son.
The clutter of worship that you taught me, Mary Gray, is old. I imitate a memory of belief that I do not own. I trip on your death and Jesus, my stranger floats up over my Christian home, wearing his straight thorn tree. I have cast my lot and am one third thief of you. Time, that rearranger of estates, equips me with your garments, but not with grief. This winter when cancer began its ugliness I grieved with you each day for three months and found you in your private nook of the medicinal palace for New England Women and never once forgot how long it took.
But you turned old, all yourfifty-eightyears sliding like masks from your skull; and at the end I packed your nightgowns in suitcases, paid the nurses, came riding home as if I'd been told I could pretend people live in places. Since then I have pretended ease, loved with the trickeries of need, but not enough to shed my daughterhood or sweeten him as a man.
I drink thefiveo'clock martinis and poke at this dry page like a rough goat. I fumble my lost childhood for a mother and lounge in sad stuff with love to catch and catch as catch can. And Christ still waits. I have tried to exorcise the memory of each event and remain still, a mixed child, heavy with cloths of you.
Sweet witch, you are my worried guide. Their walls creak Anne! My desk moves. Its cave murmurs Boo and I am taken and beguiled. Or wrong. For all the way I've come I'll have to go again. Instead, I must convert to love as reasonable as Latin, as solid as earthenware: an equilibrium I never knew.
And Lent will keep its hurt for someone else. Christ knows enough staunch guys have hitched on him in trouble, thinking his sticks were badges to wear. Spring rusts on its skinny branch and last summer's lawn is soggy and brown. Yesterday is just a number. All of its winters avalanche out of sight. What was, is gone. Mother, last night I slept in your Bonwit Teller nightgown.
Divided, you climbed into my head. There in my jabbering dream I heard my own angry cries and I cursed you, Dame keep out of my slumber. My good Dame, you are dead. And Mother, three stones slipped from your glittering eyes. And now, while Christ stays fastened to his Crucifix so that love may praise his sacrifice and not the grotesque metaphor, you come, a brave ghost, to fix in my mind without praise or paradise to make me your inheritor. Did you say all? O hell-kite! I cannot but remember such things were, That were most precious to me.
It is June. I am tired of being brave. We drive to the Cape. I cultivate myself where the sun gutters from the sky, where the sea swings in like an iron gate and we touch.
In another country people die. My darling, the wind falls in like stones from the whitehearted water and when we touch we enter touch entirely. No one's alone. Men kill for this, or for as much. And what of the dead? They lie without shoes in their stone boats. They are more like stone than the sea would be if it stopped. They recuse to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone. I touch their cardboard faces.
They must go. But the eyes, as thick as wood in this album, hold me. I stop here, where a small boy waits in a ruffled dress for someone to come Is this your father's father, this commodore in a mailman suit? My father, time meanwhile has made it unimportant who you are looking for. I'll never know what these faces are all about.
I lock them into their book and throw them out. This is the yellow scrapbook that you began the year I was born; as crackling now and wrinkly as tobacco leaves: clippings where Hoover outran the Democrats, wiggling his dryfingerat me and Prohibition; news where the Hindenburg went down and recent years where you went flush on war.
This year, solvent but sick, you meant to marry that pretty widow in a one-month rush. But before you had that second chance, I cried on your fat shoulder. Three days later you died. These are the snapshots of marriage, stopped in places.
Now I fold you down, my drunkard, my navigator, my first lost keeper, to love or look at later. I hold afive-yeardiary that my mother kept for three years, telling all she does not say of your alcoholic tendency.
You overslept, she writes. My God, father, each Christmas Day with your blood, will I drink down your glass of wine? The diary of your hurly-burly years goes to my shelf to wait for my age to pass. Men kill for this, or for as much. And what of the dead? They lie without shoes in their stone boats. They are more like stone than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone. Materials for Teachers Materials for Teachers Home.
Poems for Kids. Poems for Teens. Lesson Plans. Teach this Poem. Poetry Near You. Academy of American Poets. National Poetry Month. American Poets Magazine. Poems Find and share the perfect poems. Wanting to Die. Death's a sad Bone; bruised, you'd say, and yet she waits for me, year after year, to so delicately undo an old wound, to empty my breath from its bad prison.
Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet, raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon, leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss, leaving the page of the book carelessly open, something unsaid, the phone off the hook and the love, whatever it was, an infection. Winter Colony Stylishly, in the white season, we come here wearing awkward logs on our feet, to skate on icebergs, to ride pulleys into the sky and ride the sky down. Anne Sexton Her Kind I have gone out, a possessed witch, haunting the black air, braver at night; dreaming evil, I have done my hitch over the plain houses, light by light: lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
The Truth the Dead Know For my Mother, born March , died March and my Father, born February , died June Gone, I say and walk from church, refusing the stiff procession to the grave, letting the dead ride alone in the hearse. Academy of American Poets Educator Newsletter.