Sunday, October 19, 2014

Anne Sexton - Poetry

Another new poet for me.  The blurb says that she was a friend of Sylvia Plath, whom I have heard of.  The poem has a less than cheerful title, 'Wanting to Die'.

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
The never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born, they don't always die,
but dazzled, they can't forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue!-
that , all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death's a sad Bone; bruised, you'd say,

and yet she waits for me, year after year,
to so delicately undo an old wound,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love, whatever it was, an infection.

A couple of months ago, when Robin Williams committed suicide, I got into one of those internet arguments, you know the type.  The other person works with death and has had to comfort the families of suicide.  She was (justly) angry with those who have suicided and was upset with people that were putting Robin Williams on a pedestal.
I could understand the anger, but thought that this was a bad way to prevent future suicides.  I don't know if anyone would stop from killing themselves because they thought people would be angry afterward.  In fact, that thought of future reaction might be a goad for them to go on.  The approach that made the most sense to me was the one where people talked about depression being an outside force ('not really you') and how it could be combated.
This poem seems to line up with that.  'and yet she [Death] waits for me, year after year/to do delicately undo an old wound/to empty my breath from its bad prison'.  If you tried to tell this person that you'll be pissed at them, they'd simply think that you were afraid to leave your prison cell.  They wouldn't understand you and that misunderstanding would go both ways.

I would love to hear Socrates discuss this poem.

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