Day 1~Anne Sexton
If I did not start with Anne Sexton I would be a hypocrite, because I believe she is the mother of my work (and many poets work) as she taught me what modern poetry could be, heart wrenching, beautiful, witty, powerful, and freedom. Yes her poetry was part of the confessional movement, a movement I see as liberating and the soul of all modern poetry. After all, aren’t we all confessing some part of us every time we pick up a pen? She taught me you can write about anything from a necklace sent by a friend to Rumpelstiltskin to your own body. Before I was brought to Anne Sexton’s work, I thought all poetry had to rhyme and sound like the Romantic Period, and sadly all mine did.
Her life was not long enough, only surviving this world for 45 years (November 9, 1928-October 4, 1974), but her words will survive when we seize too. She wrote over 18 books (4 children’s books with Maxine Kumin) and left unpublished work upon her departure.
Today I post two of my favorite poems by Anne Sexton. I love these two poems so much that I have portions of them stenciled on my office wall. May I urge you read far more of her work when you have time.
With Mercy for the Greedy
For my friend, Ruth, who urges me to make an appointment for the Sacrament of Confession
Anne Sexton, “With Mercy for the Greedy” from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981). Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton and Loring Conant, Jr. Reprinted with the permission of Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.
Source: The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1981)
This is the desk I sit at
and this is the desk where I love you too much
and this is the typewriter that sits before me
where yesterday only your body sat before me
with its shoulders gathered in like a Greek chorus,
with its tongue like a king making up rules as he goes,
with its tongue quite openly like a cat lapping milk,
with its tongue – both of us coiled in its slippery life.
That was yesterday, that day.
That was the day of your tongue,
your tongue that came from your lips,
two openers, half animals, half birds
caught in the doorway of your heart.
That was the day I followed the king’s rules,
passing by your red veins and your blue veins,
my hands down the backbone, down quick like a firepole,
hands between legs where you display your inner knowledge,
where diamond mines are buried and come forth to bury,
come forth more sudden than some reconstructed city.
It is complete within seconds, that monument.
The blood runs underground yet brings forth a tower.
A multitude should gather for such an edifice.
For a miracle one stands in line and throws confetti.
Surely The Press is here looking for headlines.
Surely someone should carry a banner on the sidewalk.
If a bridge is constructed doesn’t the mayor cut a ribbon?
If a phenomenon arrives shouldn’t the Magi come bearing gifts?
Yesterday was the day I bore gifts for your gift
and came from the valley to meet you on the pavement.
That was yesterday, that day.
That was the day of your face,
your face after love, close to the pillow, a lullaby.
Half asleep beside me letting the old fashioned rocker stop,
our breath became one, became a child-breath together,
while my fingers drew little o’s on your shut eyes,
while my fingers drew little smiles on your mouth,
while I drew I LOVE YOU on your chest and its drummer
and whispered, ‘Wake up!’ and you mumbled in your sleep,
‘Sh. We’re driving to Cape Cod. We’re heading for the Bourne
Bridge. We’re circling the Bourne Circle.’ Bourne!
Then I knew you in your dream and prayed of our time
that I would be pierced and you would take root in me
and that I might bring forth your born, might bear
the you or the ghost of you in my little household.
Yesterday I did not want to be borrowed
but this is the typewriter that sits before me
and love is where yesterday is at.
Anne Sexton on Amazon where you can purchase all or just some of her work.