Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Lady of the Water, Rising on the Beach, a Piano at Her Fingertips, Shame on Her Lips and a Flute's Speech

Anne Sexton was born 86 years ago today. When I first read poetry one of the poets I read was Anne Sexton. I wrote last week about a new book of poetry criticism called Lyric Shame, it interrogates shame and shame's effect in poetry's version of King of Anarchists. The book features Anne Sexton among a half dozen, and it's true: even Anne Sexton's confessionalist poetry is a sin regardless the depth and width of original brilliance that kicked open doors to rooms no one had explored in these poetic forms. Hundreds of thousands have written shitty Anne Sexton imitative confessionalist poems and not a single one is Anne Sexton's fault. I ... I admit it, I love Anne Sexton's poetry, but so you feel safe, I promise all of mine were burned behind the Red Shed of Oakton when I was eighteen. The one of you who didn't know until now should know the Red Shed of Oakton, shelter to countless packs of Winston, er, Marlboros, is about to be torn down. Also too, this is my favorite Peter Gabriel song:


Anne Sexton

The end of the affair is always death.   
She’s my workshop. Slippery eye,   
out of the tribe of myself my breath   
finds you gone. I horrify
those who stand by. I am fed.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Finger to finger, now she’s mine.   
She’s not too far. She’s my encounter.   
I beat her like a bell. I recline
in the bower where you used to mount her.   
You borrowed me on the flowered spread.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Take for instance this night, my love,   
that every single couple puts together   
with a joint overturning, beneath, above,   
the abundant two on sponge and feather,   
kneeling and pushing, head to head.   
At night alone, I marry the bed.

I break out of my body this way,   
an annoying miracle. Could I   
put the dream market on display?   
I am spread out. I crucify.
My little plum is what you said.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Then my black-eyed rival came.
The lady of water, rising on the beach,   
a piano at her fingertips, shame   
on her lips and a flute’s speech.
And I was the knock-kneed broom instead.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

She took you the way a woman takes   
a bargain dress off the rack
and I broke the way a stone breaks.
I give back your books and fishing tack.   
Today’s paper says that you are wed.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

The boys and girls are one tonight.
They unbutton blouses. They unzip flies.   
They take off shoes. They turn off the light.   
The glimmering creatures are full of lies.
They are eating each other. They are overfed.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.


  1. Uh, whatever they find stashed in the walls of the Red Shed...uhm... I didn't do it. It was Elric.

  2. re: Unconsoled—I got halfway through and wholeway confused. One of the few books I couldn't bring myself to finish. And I've loved/respected everything else of his I've read—which is most, if not all. I believe I got it from you, btw. Will try again later.

    1. Earthgirl got to the scene where Ryder discovers his parents' old car in a Central European junkyard and then literally threw the book at me. She likes his other stuff too. I think I'm the outlier.