For My Lover, Returning To His Wife

She is all there.
She was melted carefully down for you
and cast up from your childhood,
cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.

She has always been there, my darling.
She is, in fact, exquisite.
Fireworks in the dull middle of February
and as real as a cast-iron pot.

Let’s face it, I have been momentary.
vA luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor.
My hair rising like smoke from the car window.
Littleneck clams out of season.

She is more than that. She is your have to have,
has grown you your practical your tropical growth.
This is not an experiment. She is all harmony.
She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,

has placed wild flowers at the window at breakfast,
sat by the potter’s wheel at midday,
set forth three children under the moon,
three cherubs drawn by Michelangelo,

done this with her legs spread out
in the terrible months in the chapel.
If you glance up, the children are there
like delicate balloons resting on the ceiling.

She has also carried each one down the hall
after supper, their heads privately bent,
two legs protesting, person to person,
her face flushed with a song and their little sleep.

I give you back your heart.
I give you permission—

for the fuse inside her, throbbing
angrily in the dirt, for the bitch in her
and the burying of her wound—
for the burying of her small red wound alive—

for the pale flickering flare under her ribs,
for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse,
for the mother’s knee, for the stocking,
for the garter belt, for the call—

the curious call
when you will burrow in arms and breasts
and tug at the orange ribbon in her hair
and answer the call, the curious call.

She is so naked and singular
She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
Climb her like a monument, step after step.
She is solid.

As for me, I am a watercolor.
I wash off.

—Anne Sexton

Recited by the Poet Anne Sexton


Sexton, Anne (1928–74), major American poet, whose book Transformations (1971) was one of the most significant ‘subversive’ adaptations of the Grimms’ tales from a woman’s perspective.

Sexton was born Anne Grey Harvey into an upper‐middle‐class family in Newton, Massachusetts; after attending a Boston finishing school, she eloped with Alfred Muller Sexton and worked for a time as a model.

In the early 1950s, during which time she gave birth to her two daughters, she had a series of mental breakdowns and was advised by her psychiatrist, Dr Martin Orne, to write poetry as a form of therapy. Consequently, Sexton began taking courses in John Holme’s poetry workshop at the Boston Center for Adult Education, and her talent was immediately recognized. She received a scholarship in 1958 to the Antioch Writers’ Conference, and later that year she was accepted into Robert Lowell’s graduate writing seminar at Boston University, where she met and became friends with Sylvia Plath, Maxine Kumin, and George Starbuck.

In 1960 she published her first important collection of poetry, To Bedlam and Part Way Back, and she also began teaching poetry at Harvard and Radcliffe. Throughout the 1960s Sexton won numerous prizes and published several collections of poetry, but she also suffered from severe depressions, attempted suicide, and was hospitalized on occasion.

She won the Pulitzer Prize for Live or Die in 1967, and she taught at Boston University, worked at the American Place Theatre, and conducted poetry workshops in her home. However, she continued to feel disturbed and tried to commit suicide again in 1970, the year before she published Transformations, which was performed in an operatic adaptation in Minneapolis in 1973. This was also the year in which she divorced her husband and was hospitalized at the McLean’s Hospital. The following year she took her life in the garage of her home by carbon monoxide poisoning.


Image by Edward Hopper
Published in: on February 4, 2010 at 7:54 PM  Leave a Comment  
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