Anne Sexton Reads

hear Anne Sexton’s poetry at the Poetry Foundation; the first one is “The Double Image” and the first time I heard it I was in my mother’s garage bawling my eyes out.

The Double Image

By Anne Sexton 1928–1974

I am thirty this November.
You are still small, in your fourth year.
We stand watching the yellow leaves go queer,
flapping in the winter rain,
falling flat and washed. And I remember
mostly the three autumns you did not live here.
They said I’d never get you back again.
I tell you what you’ll never really know:
all the medical hypothesis
that explained my brain will never be as true as these
struck leaves letting go.
I, who chose two times
to kill myself, had said your nickname
the mewling months when you first came;
until a fever rattled
in your throat and I moved like a pantomime
above your head. Ugly angels spoke to me. The blame,
I heard them say, was mine. They tattled
like green witches in my head, letting doom
leak like a broken faucet;
as if doom had flooded my belly and filled your bassinet,
an old debt I must assume.
Death was simpler than I’d thought.
The day life made you well and whole
I let the witches take away my guilty soul.
I pretended I was dead
until the white men pumped the poison out,
putting me armless and washed through the rigamarole
of talking boxes and the electric bed.
I laughed to see the private iron in that hotel.
Today the yellow leaves
go queer. You ask me where they go. I say today believed
in itself, or else it fell.
Today, my small child, Joyce,
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 time I did not love
myself, I visited your shoveled walks; you held my glove.
There was new snow after this.
They sent me letters with news
of you and I made moccasins that I would never use.
When I grew well enough to tolerate
myself, I lived with my mother. Too late,
too late, to live with your mother, the witches said.
But I didn’t leave. I had my portrait
done instead.
Part way back from Bedlam
I came to my mother’s house in Gloucester,
Massachusetts. And this is how I came
to catch at her; and this is how I lost her.
I cannot forgive your suicide, my mother said.
And she never could. She had my portrait
done instead.
I lived like an angry guest,
like a partly mended thing, an outgrown child.
I remember my mother did her best.
She took me to Boston and had my hair restyled.
Your smile is like your mother’s, the artist said.
I didn’t seem to care. I had my portrait
done instead.
There was a church where I grew up
with its white cupboards where they locked us up,
row by row, like puritans or shipmates
singing together. My father passed the plate.
Too late to be forgiven now, the witches said.
I wasn’t exactly forgiven. They had my portrait
done instead.
All that summer sprinklers arched
over the seaside grass.
We talked of drought
while the salt-parched
field grew sweet again. To help time pass
I tried to mow the lawn
and in the morning I had my portrait done,
holding my smile in place, till it grew formal.
Once I mailed you a picture of a rabbit
and a postcard of Motif number one,
as if it were normal
to be a mother and be gone.
They hung my portrait in the chill
north light, matching
me to keep me well.
Only my mother grew ill.
She turned from me, as if death were catching,
as if death transferred,
as if my dying had eaten inside of her.
That August you were two, but I timed my days with doubt.
On the first of September she looked at me
and said I gave her cancer.
They carved her sweet hills out
and still I couldn’t answer.
That winter she came
part way back
from her sterile suite
of doctors, the seasick
cruise of the X-ray,
the cells’ arithmetic
gone wild. Surgery incomplete,
the fat arm, the prognosis poor, I heard
them say.
During the sea blizzards
she had here
own portrait painted.
A cave of mirror
placed on the south wall;
matching smile, matching contour.
And you resembled me; unacquainted
with my face, you wore it. But you were mine
after all.
I wintered in Boston,
childless bride,
nothing sweet to spare
with witches at my side.
I missed your babyhood,
tried a second suicide,
tried the sealed hotel a second year.
On April Fool you fooled me. We laughed and this
was good.
I checked out for the last time
on the first of May;
graduate of the mental cases,
with my analyst’s okay,
my complete book of rhymes,
my typewriter and my suitcases.
All that summer I learned life
back into my own
seven rooms, visited the swan boats,
the market, answered the phone,
served cocktails as a wife
should, made love among my petticoats
and August tan. And you came each
weekend. But I lie.
You seldom came. I just pretended
you, small piglet, butterfly
girl with jelly bean cheeks,
disobedient three, my splendid
stranger. And I had to learn
why I would rather
die than love, how your innocence
would hurt and how I gather
guilt like a young intern
his symptoms, his certain evidence.
That October day we went
to Gloucester the red hills
reminded me of the dry red fur fox
coat I played in as a child; stock-still
like a bear or a tent,
like a great cave laughing or a red fur fox.
We drove past the hatchery,
the hut that sells bait,
past Pigeon Cove, past the Yacht Club, past Squall’s
Hill, to the house that waits
still, on the top of the sea,
and two portraits hung on the opposite walls.
In north light, my smile is held in place,
the shadow marks my bone.
What could I have been dreaming as I sat there,
all of me waiting in the eyes, the zone
of the smile, the young face,
the foxes’ snare.
In south light, her smile is held in place,
her cheeks wilting like a dry
orchid; my mocking mirror, my overthrown
love, my first image. She eyes me from that face,
that stony head of death
I had outgrown.
The artist caught us at the turning;
we smiled in our canvas home
before we chose our foreknown separate ways.
The dry red fur fox coat was made for burning.
I rot on the wall, my own
Dorian Gray.
And this was the cave of the mirror,
that double woman who stares
at herself, as if she were petrified
in time — two ladies sitting in umber chairs.
You kissed your grandmother
and she cried.
I could not get you back
except for weekends. You came
each time, clutching the picture of a rabbit
that I had sent you. For the last time I unpack
your things. We touch from habit.
The first visit you asked my name.
Now you stay for good. I will forget
how we bumped away from each other like marionettes
on strings. It wasn’t the same
as love, letting weekends contain
us. You scrape your knee. You learn my name,
wobbling up the sidewalk, calling and crying.
You call me mother and I remember my mother again,
somewhere in greater Boston, dying.
I remember we named you Joyce
so we could call you Joy.
You came like an awkward guest
that first time, all wrapped and moist
and strange at my heavy breast.
I needed you. I didn’t want a boy,
only a girl, a small milky mouse
of a girl, already loved, already loud in the house
of herself. We named you Joy.
I, who was never quite sure
about being a girl, needed another
life, another image to remind me.
And this was my worst guilt; you could not cure
nor soothe it. I made you to find me.

Anne Sexton, “The Double Image” from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton and Loring Conant, Jr. Reprinted with the permission of Sll/Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

Source: The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Houghton Mifflin, 1981)

Poems by Charles and James Wright


Clear night, thumb-top of a moon, a back-lit sky.

Moon-fingers lay down their same routine

on the side deck and the threshold, the white keys

and the black keys.

Bird hush and bird song.  A cassia flower falls.

I want to be bruised by God.

I want to be strung up in a strong light and singled out Read More

The Room of My Life

Time for another round of Open Link Night over at dVerse Poets’ Pub! Come join in and share a poem and read the talent of others.  This poem was inspired by Anne Sexton’s poem “The Room of My Life” and this is the first draft I wrote at six this morning.  The title will change.  Thanks!


Here, in the room of my life,

a cigarette is half burning, the gray ash

snake still in the crystal.  Cheap crystal.

Good Will crystal.

Painted black book shelves, yellowed paperbacks

with bent corners–The Bell Jar–like a pulse

on the second shelf.  Two copies.

There is wallpaper–striped gold with deep purple

paisley and forest greens.  I must have picked at it–

near the ceiling, strips are gone,

the delicate paper bowing backwards.  Pieces of it

have slipped down into the cold register.

There are one or two windows…the heavy drapes block out

all seasons but there is, shhh, one crack between the curtain panels

where brilliant light sneaks through.

I lay on the dusty chaise like Woolf in makeup Read More

Poem by Vikas K. Menon

Vikas K. Menon






they say you must abolish your self

others burn their lack with bourbon,

fall into the easy incandescence

of the night.  thy juggle their intoxication

and selves, a furious circus.

they scare off what they seek.

but you–you are here for me.

among my many selves

I keep you close to me– Read More

Memory Retrieval

It’s Open Link Night 98 over at dVerse Poets Pub! Come share, read, and join in the fun!

In this sleepy little town

down behind the milkweed

to the hidden trail

that winds through the pines

and then,

MoxieMamaStudios Etsy
MoxieMamaStudios Etsy





just like that


and once the light

has teared your eyes Read More

An Amazing Poem by Heather Sawaya

So I had the very fortunate luck of coming across a poem“Pull Me Down” by blogger and poet Heather Sawaya over at Heather Sawaya Poetry.  It made me cry. A lot.  And it’s so insightful as to what it’s like for a caregiver/lover/best friend/helper of someone with so much suffering.   She’s an advocate for survivors.  Here’s what she says about “Pull Me Down”:

“The poem, Pull Me Down, means a great deal to me.  It speaks of both my purpose for writing, and also the inspiration for my next book.  I am most moved by people who have gone through the worst life has to offer, yet, find the strength to keep moving toward something better.”

I’ve just started speaking with her on her facebook page and never have I met a more compassionate person.  Visit her page, you’ll see what I mean.  She has given me permission to share Pull Me Down with all of you.  Enjoy.

(all rights to this poem solely belong to Heather Sawaya)

(I apologize if her formatting doesn’t publish correctly)


Pull me down

to that place

you don’t allow words.

I have never been Read More

“And I Said to My Soul, Be Loud” Christian Wiman

Christian Wiman, from Every Riven Thing

And I Said to My Soul, Be Loud

Madden me back to an afternoon
I carry in me
not like a wound
but like a will against a wound

Give me again enough man
to be the child
choosing my own annihilations

To make of this severed limb
a wand to conjure
a weapon to shatter
dark matter of the dirt daubers’ nests
galaxies of glass

Whacking glints
bash-dancing on the cellar’s fire
I am the sound the sun would make
if the sun could make a sound

and the gasp of not
stabbed from the compost’s lumpen living death
is me

O my life my war in a jar
I shake you and shake you
and may the best ant win

For I am come a whirlwind of wasted things
and I will ride this tantrum back to God

until my fixed self, my flourescent self
my grief-nibbling, unbewildered, wall-to-wall self
withers in me like a salted slug



I am surrounded in color

the yellow haze, the wet purple

of lilacs, the orange chains

of rust and motor oil.

Here, I am space ready for filling.


I am surrounded in weight

weight that pushes and hides

and blindfolds me in curtains

of blood and faceless entrance.

I am a void being filled with dirt,

a heavy shovel, a man’s sweaty hands;

he fills me.

Here, I forget the the weight for years.


I am surrounded in cold;

after the music, there is a numbing

that spreads like ink;

a chill that never disperses

as I come undone in the mirror.

Here, my brain fills with lesions.


I am surrounded in heat and noise

I am surrounded in voices

calling my name, whispering to me.

I am surrounded by godless stars

where the vacuum of space fills my heart,

embedding tracks of memories

across my chest,  intersecting my veins.

Here, I am white noise, breaking.

Here I am angry.  So angry.

Here, alone in my room I whisper

Be Brave, Resist, Fight


I touched the first sparks of a wild fire

before I learned the truth of pain.

Here, now,

I’m learning to fill within the wound.

BOMBLOG: Blue Sky by Matthew Dickman

BOMBLOG: Blue Sky by Matthew Dickman.