Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Other Anne Sexton: It Is A Spring Afternoon

I've spent the summer very slowly reading through the complete poems of Anne Sexton for the 3 Poems By discussion group, which will be meeting this Thursday at my other job. I recently posted about this over at a different blog and, in that post, I talked about one of her lesser known poems, "Young," and how it highlighted an aspect of Sexton that one doesn't often hear about. I continue to slowly read through her work, a poem or two at most per day, because frankly it is all I can absorb.

Last week I ran across this poem, again emphasizing an aspect of Sexton not often discussed:

It Is A Spring Afternoon
Everything here is yellow and green.
Listen to its throat, its earthskin,
the bone dry voices of the peepers
as they throb like advertisements.
The small animals of the woods
are carrying their deathmasks
into a narrow winter cave.
The scarecrow has plucked out
his two eyes like diamonds
and walked into the village.
The general and the postman
have taken off their packs.
This has all happened before
but nothing here is obsolete.
Everything here is possible.

Because of this
perhaps a young girl has laid down
her winter clothes and has casually
placed herself upon a tree limb
that hangs over a pool in the river.
She has been poured out onto the limb,
low above the houses of the fishes
as they swim in and out of her reflection
and up and down the stairs of her legs.
Her body carries clouds all the way home.
She is overlooking her watery face
in the river where blind men
come to bathe at midday.

Because of this
the ground, that winter nightmare,
has cured its sores and burst
with green birds and vitamins.
Because of this
the trees turn in their trenches
and hold up little rain cups
by their slender fingers.
Because of this
a woman stands by her stove
singing and cooking flowers.
Everything here is yellow and green.

Surely spring will allow
a girl without a stitch on
to turn softly in her sunlight
and not be afraid of her bed.
She has already counted seven
blossoms in her green green mirror.
Two rivers combine beneath her.
The face of the child wrinkles
in the water and is gone forever.
The woman is all that can be seen
in her animal loveliness.
Her cherished and obstinate skin
lies deeply under the watery tree.
Everything is altogether possible
and the blind men can also see.
Anne Sexton

I see this poem as a companion piece to "Young," portraying a time in a young woman's life when she is on the cusp between adolescence and adulthood. Though both these poems have slightly portentous undercurrents, both also emphasize a youthful promise the idea of which Sexton obviously cherished.

The loss for her of this innocence and for us of Sexton herself is almost too much to bear.


This week's featured back issue is #164, from July 2008. And the war drags on ...

turned back & got lost.
John Martone

The Numbers of the Dead
which appear in the headlines
to be perfectly round
like the planets

aren't really round.
They only appear that way
when seen from a great distance.

Up close they bulge.
They are gouged, pocked, frigid,
infinitely lonely numbers

divisible only by themselves and one.
Paul Hostovsky

LeRoy Gorman

Muddy ditch water,
& dimples beneath
waterspider's feet–

---------tenuous, this life.
Hosho McCreesh

in the footprints
of the warrior...
translated by David G. Lanoue



Charles Gramlich said...

Oh wow, Spring afternoon is a masterpiece. Especially the opening stanza. I'm sure I've never read this before. Glad to discover it.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

This one really grabbed me, too, glad you liked it, Charles.

Ed Baker said...

read this poem slowly line by line

you know

perfection is when the words and the sound and the sense

are all-of-a-one..

I call it Magic!

been reading here also slowlyslowly her Complete Poems also..

doing a family memorial ceremony this Saturday here for my 94 year old mother who died Monday..

I will read this poem... this narrative
while sitting in a chair... slowly!

it "grabbed" me too...

the multiplicity of connections...

you know her/her body of work... well,

sacred stuff... she is/was her own Religion

Issa's Untidy Hut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks again for sending the picture of you, your son and mom the other day. I really appreciated it. Sorry to hear of her death. All of us who regularly read you and contribute here at Issa's Untidy Hut will be thinking of you.

The Sexton poem will work well.


Poet Hound said...

Really enjoyed your discussion on Sexton, I need to read her poems again as well...

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks, PC - her work is always rewarding, challenging, and draining. I continue to read the collected poems (I'm about ¾ through) and they continue to thrill, appeal, and shock. Our library discussion ended up being one of our best yet.

Greg said...

never saw that particular Issa poem before, but definitely like it. John Martone can always say so much in so little.

Ed Baker said...

John's new book just here..

ksana (with a dot under the s and the n)

poems 2004-2009

via Red Moon Press
(I think Jim changed his email address so

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ed, yes a copy just arrived for me and it looks great ...


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Indeed, there are a some really good short poem poets out there, but JM is one of the masters. Don