Poetry Tuesday: Anne Sexton
I have several other very important posts to write concerning the holidays and foodstuffs, but first: a sampling of Anne Sexton. I recently checked out her complete poems from the library. While for my tastes she is a little overly verbose and narrative in her writing, she has created some brilliant poems and I would like to share a sampling of my favourites.
First, one of my favourite poems of all time (I have read it countless times), “The Truth the Dead Know”:
Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
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 the stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.
A quotation she uses to begin one of her poems is valuable in itself and worth repeating here:
For a man needs only to be turned around once
with his eyes shut in this world to be lost … Not
til we are lost … do we begin to find ourselves.
–Thoreau, Walden (a book on my reading list sorely needing to be read)
From the poem, “Said the Poet to the Analyst”:
My business is words. Words are like labels,
or coins, or better, like swarming bees.
I confess I am only broken by the sources of things;
as if words were counted like dead bees in the attic,
unbuckled from their yellow eyes and their dry wings.
I must always forget who one words is able to pick
out another, to manner another, until I have got
something I might have said…
but did not.
Pieces of the poem, “Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward,” (available here in full):
Child, the current of your breath is six days long.You lie, a small knuckle on my white bed;lie, fisted like a snail, so small and strongat my breast. Your lips are animals; you are fedwith love. At first hunger is not wrong.The nurses nod their caps; you are shepherdeddown starch halls with the other unnested throngin wheeling baskets. You tip like a cup; your headmoving to my touch. You sense the way we belong.But this is an institution bed.You will not know me very long.
(…)And now that’s that. There is nothing morethat I can say or lose.Others have traded life beforeand could not speak. I tighten to refuseyour owling eyes, my fragile visitor.I touch your cheeks, like flowers. You bruiseagainst me. We unlearn. I am a shorerocking you off. You break from me. I chooseyour only way, my small inheritorand hand you off, trembling the selves we lose.Go child, who is my sin and nothing more.