Monday, April 23, 2012

Portrait Of Anne Sexton

 In honor of National Poetry Month, here is my poem "Portrait of Anne Sexton":

Portrait Of Anne Sexton

You sat at forty-
three years of age
in white wicker
with your proper
Wellesley deportment,
serene as ice yet
still looking like
a young girl, tanned, freckled,
limber, freshly clean
after climbing trees.
You were taking sips of gin
between puffs on
a Pall Mall,
hands aristocratically poised
and draped like a
panther on a branch,
wearing a sleeveless
dress with a pleated
Mary Tyler Moore skirt,
the kind my mother
made for herself
from a Butterick pattern
bought at Woolworth’s
on a blinding summer day.
You covered that chair
like a cashmere sheet,
crossed your legs
like a woman in the
backseat of a Mercedes
driving through Beverly Hills
and posed nicely for the
picture, ready to let the
camera flatten you but
a strange heat radiated
from your eyes,
your smile that
remembered being a
speechless mannequin
modeling hats and dresses
and now said softly,
But it was for the book,
all for the book, that slim
safe home for the poems
you wanted so badly.
You wanted to go to them,
run to them, you would’ve
chewed your arm off to get
out of the trap and
flee toward them,
each one a baby
falling from the sky.
You set them up
in your room,
hooked to wires,
coaxing them like
tiny lab experiments.
When they convulsed,
you did too or
maybe you did first
and they followed,
imitating their savior,
their only god,
the one who purrs and
smells of gin.
You charted their growth:
which ones would live
and which would die?
So you sat
far from rain,
far from night
but only on the outside.
You couldn’t escape
the prison, the weekly,
daily rendings
that sent you reeling to
the sealed hotels,
where they showed you
home movies of the
cosmic despair of the universe
in the doorway of your room
on a white bed sheet
strung on rope
like drying laundry.
And you still saw it
after lights out,
after your release—
all you had to do
was close your eyes
and count the steps
from the wicker chair
to the tuna sandwich,
from the tuna sandwich
to the vodka,
from the vodka
to the garage
and to the ignition.

©JEF 1998

April is National Poetry Month!

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