Sunday, July 27, 2008

Anne Sexton on Writer's Almanac


For those unfamiliar with Anne Sexton, whose Selected Poems is on the "Near Perfect" list, there is this, from this morning's Writer's Almanac:


Locked Doors

For the angels who inhabit this town,
although their shape constantly changes,
each night we leave some cold potatoes
and a bowl of milk on the windowsill.
Usually they inhabit heaven where,
by the way, no tears are allowed.

They push the moon around like
a boiled yam.
The Milky Way is their hen
with her many children.
When it is night the cows lie down
but the moon, that big bull,
stands up.

However, there is a locked room up there
with an iron door that can't be opened.
It has all your bad dreams in it
It is hell.
Some say the devil locks the door
from the inside.
Some say the angels lock it from
the outside.
The people inside have no water
and are never allowed to touch.
They crack like macadam.
They are mute
They do not cry help
except inside
where their hearts are covered with grubs.

I would like to unlock that door,
turn the rusty key
and hold each fallen one in my arms
but I cannot, I cannot.
I can only sit here on earth
at my place at the table.
Anne Sexton

This encapsulates so much of her profound work, vacillating between child-like fable and hellish nightmare, all in modern vernacular, this time with a somewhat uncharacteristic wish for redemption.

As powerful as it gets ...


best,
Don

4 comments:

Greg Schwartz said...

"They push the moon around like/a boiled yam."

That's a great line!

Jim H. said...

Sexton's dual visions, and her sense of helplessness, remind me of a little song by Steve Goodman. A dialogue with his girlfriend.

She: "If me and B.B. King was both drownin', which one would you chose?"

He: "Baby. Oh, baby. I ain't never heard you play no blues."

Charles Gramlich said...

"where their hearts are covered with grubs" is a great line. Definitely an interesting mixture of horror and child like imagery. I've not read a lot of her work, and, honestly, I'm not sure I like this one. Memorable, but troubling.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks, Greg and Jim. Sounds like I have to look up Mr. Goodman.

Charles, I think you have captured her ... "memorable but troubling." Sexton was troubled all her life and ultimately a suicide. Her work was incendiary. I think she is the premiere confessional poet and I know many, many folks would disagree.

Her honesty penetrated beyond the veil.

Don