Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Anne Sexton

I stumbled across this list of ten "extraordinary literary suicides" yesterday (morbid much? would have been useful for my Halloween costumes) and read this little phrase in one of them:

In a tribute to her in the New York Times, Erica Jong wrote, “Anne Sexton killed herself because it is too painful to live in this world without numbness, and she had no numbness at all.”

I just really thought it was a sad, perfect way of saying that. Then I went and read some Sexton. (I hadn't read any except for basic stuff in poetry classes.) I hardly even noticed the rhyme in this one until I copied it over.

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.


Anonymous said...

She's amazing. I'd never read that one; it's beautiful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

While we're on the subject of amazing depressive poets: according to www.poets.org, Edwin Arlington Robinson (who wrote "Richard Cory" and "Miniver Cheevy") "described his childhood as stark and unhappy; he once wrote in a letter to Amy Lowell that he remembered wondering why he had been born at the age of six." That is, wondering, at the age of six, why he had been born.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think I had read it before but not with the right attention that time. I love the ambiguous imagery of swimming/drowning/coupling.