Anne Sexton

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To love another is something
like prayer and it can't be planned, you just fall
into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.

Anne Sexton (November 9, 1928 - October 4, 1974), born Anne Gray Harvey, was an American poet and writer. She won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1967 for Live or Die.

Quotes[edit]

We are all writing God's poem.

To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960)[edit]

I imitate
a memory of belief
that I do not own.
  • Even so, I must admire your skill.
    You are so gracefully insane.
  • Love your self's self where it lives.
    There is no special God to refer to; or if there is,
    why did I let you grow
    in another place. You did not know my voice
    when I came back to call. All the superlatives
    of tomorrow's white tree and mistletoe
    will not help you know the holidays you had to miss.
    • "The Double Image"
  • I rot on the wall, my own
    Dorian Gray.
    • "The Double Image"
  • I imitate
    a memory of belief
    that I do not own.
    • "The Division of Parts"
  • I have ridden in your cart, driver,
    waved my nude arms at villages going by,
    learning the last bright routes, survivor
    where your flames still bite my thigh
    and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
    A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
    I have been her kind.
    • "Her Kind"

All My Pretty Ones (1962)[edit]

  • All who love have lied.
    • "The Operation"
  • Fact: death too is in the egg.
    Fact: the body is dumb, the body is meat.
    And tomorrow the O.R. Only the summer was sweet.
    • "The Operation"
  • Need is not quite belief.
    • "With Mercy for the Greedy"
  • Dearest,
    although everything has happened,
    nothing has happened.
    • "Letter Written on a Ferry While Crossing Long Island Sound"
  • A woman who writes feels too much,
    those trances and portents!
    As if cycles and children and islands
    weren't enough; as if mourners and gossips
    and vegetables were never enough.
    She thinks she can warm the stars.
    A writer is essentially a spy.
    Dear love, I am that girl.
    • "The Black Art"
  • It would be pleasant to be drunk:
    faithless to my tongue and hands,
    giving up the boundaries
    for the heroic gin.
    Dead drunk is the term I think of,
    insensible,
    neither cool nor warm,
    without a head or foot.
    To be drunk is to be intimate with a fool.
    I will try it shortly.
    • "Letter Written During a January Northeaster"
  • And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
    in their stone boats. They are more like stone
    than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
    to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.
    • "The Truth the Dead Know"
  • In a dream you are never eighty.
    • "Old"

Live or Die (1966)[edit]

  • I was spread out daily
    and examined for flaws.
    • "Those Times..."
  • I grow old on my bitterness.
    • "Two Sons"
  • Love! That red disease —
    • "Menstruation at Forty"
  • Why have your eyes gone into their own room?
    • "Your Face on the Dog's Neck"
  • But suicides have a special language.
    Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
    They never ask why build.
    • "Wanting to Die"

Love Poems (1969)[edit]

You said the anger would come back
just as the love did.
  • My mouth blooms like a cut.
    I've been wronged all year, tedious
    nights, nothing but rough elbows in them
    and delicate boxes of Kleenex calling crybaby
    crybaby, you fool!
    • "The Kiss"
  • I am alive when your fingers are.
    • "The Breast"
  • As for me, I am a watercolor.
    I wash off.
    • "For My Lover, Returning to His Wife"
  • You said the anger would come back
    just as the love did.
    • Again and Again and Again"
  • He puts his bones back on,
    Turning the clock back an hour.
    She knows flesh, that skin balloon,
    the unbound limbs, the boards,
    the roof, the removable roof.
    She is his selection, part time.
    You know the story too! Look,
    when it is over he places her,
    like a phone, back on the hook.
    • "You All Know the Story of the Other Woman"
  • Catch me. I'm your disease.
    • "Eighteen Days Without You": December 18th

Transformations (1971)[edit]

  • Beauty is a simple passion,
    but, oh my friends, in the end
    you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes.
    • "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"

The Book of Folly (1972)[edit]

  • With a tongue like a razor he will kiss
    the mother, the child,
    and we three will color the stars black
    in memory of his mother
    who kept him chained to the food tree
    or turned him on and off like a water faucet
    and made women through all these hazy years
    the enemy with a heart of lies.
    • "The Wifebeater"
  • In my sights I carve him
    like a sculptor. I mold out
    his last look at everyone.
    I carry his eyes and his
    brain bone at every position.
    I know his male sex and I do
    march over him with my index finger.
    His mouth and his anus are one.
    I am at the center of feeling.
    • "The Assassin"
  • My eyes, those sluts, those whores, would play no more.
    • "Killing the Spring"

A Small Journal (1974)[edit]

ed. Howard Moss

  • It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.
    • "The Poet's Story," January 1, 1972 entry

The Awful Rowing Toward God (1975)[edit]

  • The tongue, the Chinese say,
    is like a sharp knife:
    it kills
    without drawing blood.
    • "The Dead Heart"
  • I am, each day,
    typing out the God
    my typewriter believes in.
    Very quick. Very intense,
    like a wolf at a live heart.
    • "Frenzy"

45 Mercy Street (1976)[edit]

  • What can I do with this memory?
    Shake the bones out of it?
    Defoliate the smile?
    Stub out the chin with cigarettes?
    Take the face of the man I love
    and squeeze my foot into it,
    when all the while my heart is making a museum?
    I love you the way the oboe plays.
    I love you the way skinny dipping makes my body feel.
    I love you the way a ripe artichoke tastes.
    Yet I fear you,
    as one in the desert fears the sun.
    • "Waking Alone" from The Divorce Papers
  • I am murdering me, where I kneeled at your kiss.
    I am pushing knives through the hands
    that created two into one.
    Our hands do not bleed at this,
    they lie still in their dishonor.
    • "Killing the Love" from The Divorce Papers
  • I am stuffing your mouth with your
    promises and watching
    you vomit them out upon my face.
    • "Killing the Love"
  • There is rust in my mouth,
    the stain of an old kiss.
    • "The Lost Lie" from The Divorce Papers

Words for Dr. Y (1978)[edit]

  • Death,
    I need my little addiction to you.
    need that tiny voice who,
    even as I rise from the sea,
    all woman, all there,
    says kill me, kill me.
    • "Letters to Dr. Y."
  • I begin again, Dr.Y,
    this neverland journal,
    full of my own sense of filth.
    Why else keep a journal, if not
    to examine your own filth?
    • "Letters to Dr. Y."
  • God is only mocked by believers.
    • "Letters to Dr. Y."
  • Blue eyes wash off sometimes.
    • "Letters to Dr. Y."
  • Here in the hospital, I say,
    that is not my body, not my body.
    I am not here for the doctors
    to read like a recipe.
    • "August 17th" from Scorpio, Bad Spider, Die: The Horoscope Poems

Poems 1971-1973 (1981)[edit]

  • We all walk softly away.
    We would stay and be the nurse but
    there are too many of us and we are too worried to help.
    It is love that walks away
    and yet we have terrible mouths
    and soft milk hands.
    We worry with like.
    We walk away like love.
    • "To Like, To Love"
  • Earth, earth
    riding your merry-go-round
    toward extinction,
    right to the roots
    thickening the oceans like gravy,
    festering in your caves,
    you are becoming a latrine.
    • "As It Was Written" from Last Poems
  • To love another is something
    like prayer and it can't be planned, you just fall
    into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.

External links[edit]

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