Poem – Room of my Life

Here,
in the room of my life
the objects keep changing.
Ashtrays to cry into,
the suffering brother of the wood walls,
the forty-eight keys of the typewriter
each an eyeball that is never shut,
the books, each a contestant in a beauty contest,
the black chair, a dog coffin made of Naugahyde,
the sockets on the wall
waiting like a cave of bees,
the gold rug
a conversation of heels and toes,
the fireplace
a knife waiting for someone to pick it up,
the sofa, exhausted with the exertion of a whore,
the phone
two flowers taking root in its crotch,
the doors
opening and closing like sea clams,
the lights
poking at me,
lighting up both the soil and the laugh.
The windows,
the starving windows
that drive the trees like nails into my heart.
Each day I feed the world out there
although birds explode
right and left.
I feed the world in here too,
offering the desk puppy biscuits.
However, nothing is just what it seems to be.
My objects dream and wear new costumes,
compelled to, it seems, by all the words in my hands
and the sea that bangs in my throat.

Poem – Flee on your Donkey

Because there was no other place
to flee to,
I came back to the scene of the disordered senses,
came back last night at midnight,
arriving in the thick June night
without luggage or defenses,
giving up my car keys and my cash,
keeping only a pack of Salem cigarettes
the way a child holds on to a toy.
I signed myself in where a stranger
puts the inked-in X’s—
for this is a mental hospital,
not a child’s game.

Today an intern knocks my knees,
testing for reflexes.
Once I would have winked and begged for dope.
Today I am terribly patient.
Today crows play black-jack
on the stethoscope.

Everyone has left me
except my muse,
that good nurse.
She stays in my hand,
a mild white mouse.

The curtains, lazy and delicate,
billow and flutter and drop
like the Victorian skirts
of my two maiden aunts
who kept an antique shop.

Hornets have been sent.
They cluster like floral arrangements on the screen.
Hornets, dragging their thin stingers,
hover outside, all knowing,
hissing: the hornet knows.
I heard it as a child
but what was it that he meant?
The hornet knows!
What happened to Jack and Doc and Reggy?
Who remembers what lurks in the heart of man?
What did The Green Hornet mean, he knows?
Or have I got it wrong?
Is it The Shadow who had seen
me from my bedside radio?

Now it’s Dinn, Dinn, Dinn!
while the ladies in the next room argue
and pick their teeth.
Upstairs a girl curls like a snail;
in another room someone tries to eat a shoe;
meanwhile an adolescent pads up and down
the hall in his white tennis socks.
A new doctor makes rounds
advertising tranquilizers, insulin, or shock
to the uninitiated.

Six years of such small preoccupations!
Six years of shuttling in and out of this place!
O my hunger! My hunger!
I could have gone around the world twice
or had new children – all boys.
It was a long trip with little days in it
and no new places.

In here,
it’s the same old crowd,
the same ruined scene.
The alcoholic arrives with his gold clubs.
The suicide arrives with extra pills sewn
into the lining of her dress.
The permanent guests have done nothing new.
Their faces are still small
like babies with jaundice.

Meanwhile,
they carried out my mother,
wrapped like somebody’s doll, in sheets,
bandaged her jaw and stuffed up her holes.
My father, too. He went out on the rotten blood
he used up on other women in the Middle West.
He went out, a cured old alcoholic
on crooked feet and useless hands.
He went out calling for his father
who died all by himself long ago –
that fat banker who got locked up,
his genes suspended like dollars,
wrapped up in his secret,
tied up securely in a straitjacket.

But you, my doctor, my enthusiast,
were better than Christ;
you promised me another world
to tell me who
I was.

I spent most of my time,
a stranger,
damned and in trance—that little hut,
that naked blue-veined place,
my eyes shut on the confusing office,
eyes circling into my childhood,
eyes newly cut.
Years of hints
strung out—a serialized case history—
thirty-three years of the same dull incest
that sustained us both.
You, my bachelor analyst,
who sat on Marlborough Street,
sharing your office with your mother
and giving up cigarettes each New Year,
were the new God,
the manager of the Gideon Bible.

I was your third-grader
with a blue star on my forehead.
In trance I could be any age,
voice, gesture—all turned backward
like a drugstore clock.
Awake, I memorized dreams.
Dreams came into the ring
like third string fighters,
each one a bad bet
who might win
because there was no other.

I stared at them,
concentrating on the abyss
the way one looks down into a rock quarry,
uncountable miles down,
my hands swinging down like hooks
to pull dreams up out of their cage.
O my hunger! My hunger!

Once, outside your office,
I collapsed in the old-fashioned swoon
between the illegally parked cars.
I threw myself down,
pretending dead for eight hours.
I thought I had died
into a snowstorm.
Above my head
chains cracked along like teeth
digging their way through the snowy street.
I lay there
like an overcoat
that someone had thrown away.
You carried me back in,
awkwardly, tenderly,
with help of the red-haired secretary
who was built like a lifeguard.
My shoes,
I remember,
were lost in the snowbank
as if I planned never to walk again.

That was the winter
that my mother died,
half mad on morphine,
blown up, at last,
like a pregnant pig.
I was her dreamy evil eye.
In fact,
I carried a knife in my pocketbook—
my husband’s good L. L. Bean hunting knife.
I wasn’t sure if I should slash a tire
or scrape the guts out of some dream.

You taught me
to believe in dreams;
thus I was the dredger.
I held them like an old woman with arthritic fingers,
carefully straining the water out—
sweet dark playthings,
and above all, mysterious
until they grew mournful and weak.
O my hunger! My hunger!
I was the one
who opened the warm eyelid
like a surgeon
and brought forth young girls
to grunt like fish.

I told you,
I said—
but I was lying—
that the knife was for my mother . . .
and then I delivered her.

The curtains flutter out
and slump against the bars.
They are my two thin ladies
named Blanche and Rose.
The grounds outside
are pruned like an estate at Newport.
Far off, in the field,
something yellow grows.

Was it last month or last year
that the ambulance ran like a hearse
with its siren blowing on suicide—
Dinn, dinn, dinn!—
a noon whistle that kept insisting on life
all the way through the traffic lights?

I have come back
but disorder is not what it was.
I have lost the trick of it!
The innocence of it!
That fellow-patient in his stovepipe hat
with his fiery joke, his manic smile—
even he seems blurred, small and pale.
I have come back,
recommitted,
fastened to the wall like a bathroom plunger,
held like a prisoner
who was so poor
he fell in love with jail.

I stand at this old window
complaining of the soup,
examining the grounds,
allowing myself the wasted life.
Soon I will raise my face for a white flag,
and when God enters the fort,
I won’t spit or gag on his finger.
I will eat it like a white flower.
Is this the old trick, the wasting away,
the skull that waits for its dose
of electric power?

This is madness
but a kind of hunger.
What good are my questions
in this hierarchy of death
where the earth and the stones go
Dinn! Dinn! Dinn!
It is hardly a feast.
It is my stomach that makes me suffer.

Turn, my hungers!
For once make a deliberate decision.
There are brains that rot here
like black bananas.
Hearts have grown as flat as dinner plates.

Anne, Anne,
flee on your donkey,
flee this sad hotel,
ride out on some hairy beast,
gallop backward pressing
your buttocks to his withers,
sit to his clumsy gait somehow.
Ride out
any old way you please!
In this place everyone talks to his own mouth.
That’s what it means to be crazy.
Those I loved best died of it—
the fool’s disease.

Poem – The Civil War

I am torn in two
but I will conquer myself.
I will dig up the pride.
I will take scissors
and cut out the beggar.
I will take a crowbar
and pry out the broken
pieces of God in me.
Just like a jigsaw puzzle,
I will put Him together again
with the patience of a chess player.

How many pieces?

It feels like thousands,
God dressed up like a whore
in a slime of green algae.
God dressed up like an old man
staggering out of His shoes.
God dressed up like a child,
all naked,
even without skin,
soft as an avocado when you peel it.
And others, others, others.

But I will conquer them all
and build a whole nation of God
in me – but united,
build a new soul,
dress it with skin
and then put on my shirt
and sing an anthem,
a song of myself.

Poem – Lessons in Hunger

‘Do you like me?’
I asked the blue blazer.
No answer.
Silence bounced out of his books.
Silence fell off his tongue
and sat between us
and clogged my throat.
It slaughtered my trust.
It tore cigarettes out of my mouth.
We exchanged blind words,
and I did not cry,
and I did not beg,
blackness lunged in my heart,
and something that had been good,
a sort of kindly oxygen,
turned into a gas oven.
Do you like me?
How absurd!
What’s a question like that?
What’s a silence like that?
And what am I hanging around for,
riddled with what his silence said?

Poem – The Addict – Anne Sexton

Sleepmonger, 

deathmonger, 

with capsules in my palms each night, 

eight at a time from sweet pharmaceutical bottles 

I make arrangements for a pint-sized journey. 

I’m the queen of this condition. 

I’m an expert on making the trip 

and now they say I’m an addict. 

Now they ask why. 

WHY! 
Don’t they know that I promised to die! 

I’m keping in practice. 

I’m merely staying in shape. 

The pills are a mother, but better, 

every color and as good as sour balls. 

I’m on a diet from death. 
Yes, I admit 

it has gotten to be a bit of a habit- 

blows eight at a time, socked in the eye, 

hauled away by the pink, the orange, 

the green and the white goodnights. 

I’m becoming something of a chemical 

mixture. 

that’s it! 
My supply 

of tablets 

has got to last for years and years. 

I like them more than I like me. 

It’s a kind of marriage. 

It’s a kind of war where I plant bombs inside 

of myself. 
Yes 

I try 

to kill myself in small amounts, 

an innocuous occupatin. 

Actually I’m hung up on it. 

But remember I don’t make too much noise. 

And frankly no one has to lug me out 

and I don’t stand there in my winding sheet. 

I’m a little buttercup in my yellow nightie 

eating my eight loaves in a row 

and in a certain order as in 

the laying on of hands 

or the black sacrament. 
It’s a ceremony 

but like any other sport 

it’s full of rules. 

It’s like a musical tennis match where 

my mouth keeps catching the ball. 

Then I lie on; my altar 

elevated by the eight chemical kisses. 
What a lay me down this is 

with two pink, two orange, 

two green, two white goodnights. 

Fee-fi-fo-fum- 

Now I’m borrowed. 

Now I’m numb.

Poem – Killing The Love -Anne Sexton 

I am the love killer, 

I am murdering the music we thought so special, 

that blazed between us, over and over. 

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. 

I am taking the boats of our beds 

and swamping them, letting them cough on the sea 

and choke on it and go down into nothing. 

I am stuffing your mouth with your 

promises and watching 

you vomit them out upon my face. 

The Camp we directed? 

I have gassed the campers. 
Now I am alone with the dead, 

flying off bridges, 

hurling myself like a beer can into the wastebasket. 

I am flying like a single red rose, 

leaving a jet stream 

of solitude 

and yet I feel nothing, 

though I fly and hurl, 

my insides are empty 

and my face is as blank as a wall. 
Shall I call the funeral director? 

He could put our two bodies into one pink casket, 

those bodies from before, 

and someone might send flowers, 

and someone might come to mourn 

and it would be in the obits, 

and people would know that something died, 

is no more, speaks no more, won’t even 

drive a car again and all of that. 
When a life is over, 

the one you were living for, 

where do you go? 
I’ll work nights. 

I’ll dance in the city. 

I’ll wear red for a burning. 

I’ll look at the Charles very carefully, 

wearing its long legs of neon. 

And the cars will go by. 

The cars will go by. 

And there’ll be no scream 

from the lady in the red dress 

dancing on her own Ellis Island, 

who turns in circles, 

dancing alone 

as the cars go by.

Poem – Mother And Daughter – Anne Sextom 

Linda, you are leaving 

your old body now, 

It lies flat, an old butterfly, 

all arm, all leg, all wing, 

loose as an old dress. 

I reach out toward it but 

my fingers turn to cankers 

and I am motherwarm and used, 

just as your childhood is used. 

Question you about this 

and you hold up pearls. 

Question you about this 

and you pass by armies. 

Question you about this – 

you with your big clock going, 

its hands wider than jackstraws – 

and you’ll sew up a continent. 

Now that you are eighteen 

I give you my booty, my spoils, 

my Mother & Co. and my ailments. 

Question you about this 

and you’ll not know the answer – 

the muzzle at the oxygen, 

the tubes, the pathways, 

the war and the war’s vomit. 

Keep on, keep on, keep on, 

carrying keepsakes to the boys, 

carrying powders to the boys, 

carrying, my Linda, blood to 

the bloodletter. 

Linda, you are leaving 

your old body now. 

You’ve picked my pocket clean 

and you’ve racked up all my 

poker chips and left me empty 

and, as the river between us 

narrows, you do calisthenics, 

that womanly leggy semaphore. 

Question you about this 

and you will sew me a shroud 

and hold up Monday’s broiler 

and thumb out the chicken gut. 

Question you about this 

and you will see my death 

drooling at these gray lips 

while you, my burglar, will eat 

fruit and pass the time of day.