who were you?
Merely a kid, keeping alive." - Anne Sexton, from Baby Picture
"…I’m an ocean-going vessel
but you are a ceiling made of wood…”
Anne Sexton, from Grandfather, Your Wound
demersi asked: I've recently come across people saying Anne Sexton physically AND sexually abused her daughter, do you whether is this entirely true or not? Its somewhat unsettled me because I adore her and consider her one of my favorite literary figures and an inspiration when it comes to writing. Also, I absolutely love your blog!!! It is possibly my favorite on tumblr.
First of all, thank you very much! Ugh, ignore the gossip. Ignore the vague, ignorant comments, dear. Please do ignore them. I wouldn’t like to elaborate on this issue that much myself but I suggest that you read Searching For Mercy Street: My Journey Back To My Mother, Anne Sexton written of course by Anne’s own daughter, Linda Gray Sexton. You will find in the book anything that you need to know. Linda’s writing is honest and unspeakably raw and, according to me, she tells it as it is and is brave enough to expose certain incidents which as traumatic as they may sound they still can really be felt and understood through how directly yet personally Linda captures them in words — she just has the right language to obviously approach her own issues and give them to the reader as wholly and clearly as it may get; no one shall have a say in this other than her. Anyway, having read that book myself, it all comes down to Anne occasionally entering in a state of trance; a state which was not uncommonduring many of the manic episodes she underwent and then even experienced loss of memory after they’d end (she was originally diagnosed with hysteria but it is believed that her case was that of a manic depression) — anyway, biographical details are all included in the book. I for one think that her entire bond with Linda was very very hard to grasp; she loved her daughter more than anyone, I believe, even more than her “treasures” aka her own poems which practically kept her alive. She loved Linda. Mental illness and “states” and all sorts of outrageous behavioural patterns Anne did experience through her own battle with the illness itself have nothing to do with her adoring her own child. Keep your mind open and read the book x
the girl of the chain letter,
the girl full of talk of coffins and keyholes,
the one of the telephone bills,
the wrinkled photo and the lost connections,
the one who kept saying–
We must never! We must never!
and all those things…
with her eyes half under her coat,
with her large gun-metal blue eyes,
with the thin vein at the bend of her neck
that hummed like a tuning fork,
with her shoulders as bare as a building,
with her thin foot and her thin toes,
with an old red hook in her mouth,
the mouth that kept bleeding
in the terrible fields of her soul…
who kept dropping off to sleep,
as old as a stone she was,
each hand like a piece of cement,
for hours and hours
and then she’d wake,
after the small death,
and then she’d be as soft as,
as delicate as…
as soft and delicate as
an excess of light,
with nothing dangerous at all,
like a beggar who eats
or a mouse on a rooftop
with no trap doors,
with nothing more honest
than your hand in her hand–
with nobody, nobody but you!
and all those things.
nobody, nobody but you!
This is the desk I sit at
and this is the desk where I love you too much
and this is the typewriter that sits before me
where yesterday only your body sat before me
with its shoulders gathered in like a Greek chorus,
with its tongue like a king making up rules as he goes,
with its tongue quite openly like a cat lapping milk,
with its tongue - both of us coiled in its slippery life.
That was yesterday, that day.
That was the day of your tongue,
your tongue that came from your lips,
two openers, half animals, half birds
caught in the doorway of your heart.
That was the day I followed the king’s rules,
passing by your red veins and your blue veins,
my hands down the backbone, down quick like a firepole,
hands between legs where you display your inner knowledge,
where diamond mines are buried and come forth to bury,
come forth more sudden than some reconstructed city.
It is complete within seconds, that monument.
The blood runs underground yet brings forth a tower.
A multitude should gather for such an edifice.
For a miracle one stands in line and throws confetti.
Surely The Press is here looking for headlines.
Surely someone should carry a banner on the sidewalk.
If a bridge is constructed doesn’t the mayor cut a ribbon?
If a phenomenon arrives shouldn’t the Magi come bearing gifts?
Yesterday was the day I bore gifts for your gift
and came from the valley to meet you on the pavement.
That was yesterday, that day.
That was the day of your face,
your face after love, close to the pillow, a lullaby.
Half asleep beside me letting the old fashioned rocker stop,
our breath became one, became a child-breath together,
while my fingers drew little o’s on your shut eyes,
while my fingers drew little smiles on your mouth,
while I drew I LOVE YOU on your chest and its drummer
and whispered, 'Wake up!' and you mumbled in your sleep,
'Sh. We're driving to Cape Cod. We're heading for the Bourne
Bridge. We’re circling the Bourne Circle.’ Bourne!
Then I knew you in your dream and prayed of our time
that I would be pierced and you would take root in me
and that I might bring forth your born, might bear
the you or the ghost of you in my little household.
Yesterday I did not want to be borrowed
but this is the typewriter that sits before me
and love is where yesterday is at.