I wrote the piece below this exact time last year, and it's that time of year again, what can I say:
and morning glories
from the bottom up
fight for flight
the bird twice shy,
determined to climb
brooding woo --
by the tincture,
one brave flower
with mood renewed
Thick, I say! The trees are bursting, the flowers are thirsting. To take a deep breath right now is to take a whole chunk out of the sky, a pollen-filled jigsaw puzzle piece of spring that you breathe into your lungs, right into the thick of your own things, and you become a part of all thick things.
Bees, ladybugs and flies are flitting and hitting the screens. When I go to get my mid-morning coffee at the drive-through, the woman who serves me every day, nearly 365 days of the year, has to wave away hornets and butterflies to hand me my java. It’s like a Disney flick with birds zippity-do’ing around in the background.
Yes, I believe we are in the thick of spring.
And this next piece, stems from a conversation I had yesterday about Anne Sexton. I had sent her biography to a friend a long while back, and he’s weeding his way through it now. I warned him to watch out for her death, since if you are reading her biography, you have to deal with that ultimate end.
I read her bio in the thick, thick, humid month of July 2003, and although I was ready for her death, I was not as ready as I thought. Experiencing it through the pages of her biography, I was angry at best, and wondered over why such a talent would take to the garage with a towel ready to stuff it all into the exhaust pipe. However, I can also say, some six years later I feel differently about it now, which was something this friend and I discussed as he works his own way through her bio.
The following is the poem I wrote that heavy-laden July of 2003, upon reading about her death, as if I was viscerally experiencing it for the first time, and like I said, anger flew up into my throat.
I tried to work it out in a poem which reflected the loss, but also the gain which remains in the words she left behind. When I look at the poem now, I see it as a poor attempt at trying to hang onto that little bit of joy, since hers was a big death … and not a “little death” which is a pet name for suicides and orgasms … and some poets call their own poems “acts of suicide” without any real blood, which makes this poem, I guess … an attempt at, I’m not sure what?!?!?!
dear, dear a.s.
the air was thick
moisture-laden corn silk
the dead of night
having come alive
seething like snakes
a soul unraveled
attempting to erase
from hearts and minds
your words live
as you intended
making this yet again
a failed suicide attempt.
I say Live, Live because of the sun, the dream, the excitable gift ... from Sexton's ending poem for her book Live or Die.
Surely the words will continue, for that's what's left that's true … Anne Sexton (the brat!)
And now, as if this blog is not long enough! Oh, but it isn’t until it includes, as a finale, two poems by Sexton … the first her words on Sylvia’s death, and words about death in general:
for Sylvia Plath
O Sylvia, Sylvia,
with a dead box of stones and spoons,
with two children, two meteors
wandering loose in a tiny playroom,
with your mouth into the sheet,
into the roof beam, into the dumb prayer,
where did you go
after you wrote me
about raising potatoes
and keeping bees?)
what did you stand by,
just how did you lie down into?
how did you crawl into,
crawl down alone
into the death I wanted so badly and for so long,
the death we said we both outgrew,
the one we wore on our skinny breasts,
the one we talked of so often each time
we downed three extra dry martinis in Boston,
the death that talked of analysts and cures,
the death that talked like brides with plots,
the death we drank to,
the motives and the quiet deed?
ride in cabs,
yes death again,
that ride home
with our boy.)
O Sylvia, I remember the sleepy drummer
who beat on our eyes with an old story,
how we wanted to let him come
like a sadist or a New York fairy
to do his job,
a necessity, a window in a wall or a crib,
and since that time he waited
under our heart, our cupboard,
and I see now that we store him up
year after year, old suicides
and I know at the news of your death
a terrible taste for it, like salt,
And now, Sylvia,
with death again,
that ride home
with our boy.)
And I say only
with my arms stretched out into that stone place,
what is your death
but an old belonging,
a mole that fell out
of one of your poems?
while the moon's bad,
and the king's gone,
and the queen's at her wit's end
the bar fly ought to sing!)
O tiny mother,
O funny duchess!
O blonde thing!
February 17, 1963
Wanting to Die
Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the most unnamable 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.
They 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 and year,
to so delicately undo an old would,
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 a book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the look, whatever it was, an infection.
February 3, 1964