Sunday, November 9, 2008

Anne Sexton, I Could Have Been Your Daughter

Anne Sexton Pictures, Images and Photos

the first time i saw you, i thought ' Who is that woman? '
i read your poem ' I think it would be better to be a Jew '
and i knew exactly what that voice was saying,
and how she was saying it
so i loved you, right then.

then i found out you were crazy.
my other Goddess of Words, Sylvia Plath
your somewhat friend, crazy too.
i knew her first. before i read you
and i thought it fitting that you both
spoke witching hour.

i come from Witchland-
let us now check the required boxes:
crazy/distant father (check)
distant/crazy mother (check)
family history of madness (check)
attraction to destruction (check)
self hatred (check)
a skin so thin the world bleeds through
check, check doublecheck

i read your biography this year,
after years of reading only your poems
and certain articles in well known publications.
i think i loved you less
i'm sure you don't care
in the least, now that you are part of the
west wind, the hard rained lake,
the far furious waves clapping toward the sky.

now that you are who you were writing to
all those years,
the same mystery i keen toward with
every black word,
bled out in ink like a saturated rag
the overabundance of ecstasy and horror
we stew in our juices, as they say.

i know about madness, Anne Sexton.
i do.
if i were as brave as you, i'd be clearer on this issue.
if i were as cowardly as you, i'd sleep with my therapist.
if i were as trapped as you,
i'd never make it, either.

it's simply different, when you live it.
than to just say, you know, she was a genius mad woman,
and i love her for that.
it's a deep compassion artists can have for each other.

however, being the daughter of genuis, the daughter
of madness,
i have a different take on the book.
i read from the ending backward-

i already know the story,
it's how we got there i don't understand.
i might have been your daughter, Anne Sexton.
if you lay next to me at night with your sad heavy
breasts up against my small body,
i felt the same great sickening
your daughter did then.
children don't care about genius.
they only want love.

it is never the same for those of us
who have burned in the fire
than for those who hold their hands
and fly eyes open, dance feet on coals and exclaim
' oh burn in this fire! '

Anne Sexton, I could have been your daughter,
but i'm glad i wasn't.
this way, i can love your poems with my whole heart,
and forgive you for your life long sufferings
which tormented your children, and broke hearts.

it's easier this way;
i have my own family to forgive.

on the birthday of the fellow Scorpio and poet, Mrs. Anne Sexton;
it's a complicated relationship.
but that is the story of her life,
so i think she'd understand.

thank you, Anne Sexton, for you poems, especially the list as follows, poems which on too many a tear filled fear filled night have given me great solace, for what reason i can never explain, simply the mystery of brilliant poetry, which i have breathed since i was small:
What's That, The Double Image, The Division of Parts, Rowing,The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator, For My Lover, Returning to His Wife, The Addict, Pain For a Daughter, Cripples and Other Stories, Wanting to Die, Flee on Your Donkey, The Black Art, Old, The Fortress, The Operation, The Truth the Dead Know

"Anne, Anne,
flee on your donkey,
flee this sad hotel,
ride out on some hairy beast,
gallop backward pressing
your buttocks to his withers,
sit to his clumsy gait somehow.
Ride out
any old way you please!
In this place everyone talks to his own mouth.
That's what it means to be crazy.
Those I loved best died of it—
the fool's disease. "

- Anne Sexton
Annie said...

Hi Maggie, I just wanted to let you know I'm still here, reading and appreciating your posts. I've never read anything by Anne Sexton. When I go to the library tomorrow, back to work the first day after my illness, I'll look for a volume of her poems.

Shannon said...

I read this yesterday and got called away before I could comment. This morning, I am still thinking of it.

Chandini Santosh said...

Dearest Maggie
I lost one brother to schizophrenia. Another one to a plane crash. (1st January 1978, Santacruz Airport, Bombay, India. Boeing, Emperor Ashoka, No survivors.)My father on the cold of an operating table.
My son to cot death. My husband to cancer three months ago.
I suppose you could call me a survivor. I am sure you too are.
Lots of love to you. You may take all the love and care you need. I know the value of all this.

ButtonHole said...

Very very nice, Magspies.

And I'm writing you an email in a bit, I swear!! I've had your addy at the top several times and something's come up to thrwart its send!

ButtonHole said...

Did I spell THWART wrong? Oh dear.

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday Maggie! Love you!

Countrybelle said...

hello, just found your wonderful (and wonderfully brave) blog...

Emily A. Benton said...

I enjoyed this - I imagined you reading it loudly and quick.

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