Monday, August 27, 2012

"Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night": Anne Sexton

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know WHICH TOOLS.
They never ask WHY BUILD.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed my body.

Still-born, they don't always die,
but dazzled, they can't forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue--
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death's a sad bone; bruised, you say,

and yet she waits for me, year after year,
to do 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.

Anne Sexton wrote "Wanting to Die" in 1966 as her marriage collapsed, her personal imploded, and her daughters left the nest.  After writing this poem, she held on for eight more long years before finally committing suicide in 1974.  If you want my opinion, Anne did "not go gentle into that good night" (Dylan Thomas).  Some lives come together in beautiful ways, others are nothing, but pain.  You try to get by.  Pretend holding onto dreams is the key.  Smile through the tears, and then, like I did today, buy a pack of cigarettes and try to hold off the breakdown you know is coming.  Why judge Sexton?  She left her mark which is more than most of us ever will.  We let the cancer eat us; the depression overwhelm us; the heartaches crumble us.  Anne wrote her poetry, raised her girls, and then exited on her own terms.  What is there to fear?  Nothing could be worse than this life. Leave the page of the book carelessly open, something unsaid, the phone off the hook and the love, whatever it was, an infection.

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