Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Half in Love

I just recently re-read Linda Gray Sexton's "Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton." It first came out in '94, when the author was 41, and it was a relief to gather from the book that Linda Sexton had overcome the childhood trauma and had gone on to a happy family life.

Well, just now I found out that she has a brand new book out -- "Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide." Turns out that since 1994, she's tried to kill herself several times and has been institutionalized, as well. And that her first husband of over 20 years had been completely overbearing (in '94, he was the perfect stable mate). Wow. I suppose I shouldn't be shocked, but I am. The '94 book didn't even hint of what was to come for her.

I also just found her blog (most recent post was today):

It's part of her website that also includes some interesting essays, including this one on her best sex ever.

Life just keeps on comin' at ya, doesn't it, though? :)

Wouldn't It Be Nice

The Hope Song (1966)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sustenance from an 8-year-old boy

"Your eyes are green."
"Sometimes they're green, and sometimes they're blue or grey."
"Right now your eyes are very green."

[His beautiful eyes are brown. He's just learned about the bombing of Hiroshima and the Cold War, and about who killed Martin Luther King. I still kick his little ass at both HORSE and Connect Four.]

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Anne Sexton, from "The Death Notebooks" (1974)


It's in the heart of the grape
where that smile lies.
It's in the good-bye-bow in the hair
where that smile lies.
It's in the clerical collar of the dress
where that smile lies.
What smile?
The smile of my seventh year,
caught here in the painted photograph.

It's peeling now, age has got it,
a kind of cancer of the background
and also in the assorted features.
It's like a rotten flag
or a vegetable from the refrigerator,
pocked with mold.
I am aging without sound,
into darkness, darkness.

who were you?

I open the vein
and my blood rings like roller skates.
I open the mouth
and my teeth are an angry army.
I open the eyes
and they go sick like dogs
with what they have seen.
I open the hair
and it falls apart like dust balls.
I open the dress
and I see a child bent on a toilet seat.
I crouch there, sitting dumbly
pushing the enemas out like ice cream,
letting the whole brown world
turn into sweets.

who were you?

Merely a kid keeping alive.


My heart is broken. Not for me. My own grief I can handle, like the Red Rover brutes bruising my skinny arms, my locked-arm defiance. I would not let go, on principle, though they broke through. I think that I was brave, I hurt for her.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Waterhouse 1915

"...'I'm half sick of shadows,' said The Lady of Shalott." (Tennyson, 1842)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Imagine a place where "we'll take the trail marked on your father's map" doesn't just automatically mean something shitty!

I do, though, like this pretty song.

I want you at odd hours, like
the howls of the wolves who raised you,
the remnants of my own serpent-scars

Thursday, March 10, 2011


A bright middle-March day
stolid oaks waving wildly naked
was no time to stay in and bemoan lost elms.

The bus at my door took me straight to where
no lions crouched before the gates. There
were no grand stacks, no lampshades
glowing green over hushed, pale faces in a field-sized room
I'd once seen only in films.

Here, though, were some of the former rewards.
I lugged an armload of Romans, a Bishop, a George,
a Sexton out to sidewalks
where people also sat and dawdled and talked.
There were still seven-dollar sandwich shops!
And street vendors with the same boiled dogs!

I ate on a bench before a trellis
just starting to bloom. What else to do
but let the Japanese girl shoot my picture, let the squirrel
toss nutshells on my head

As I smoked and read and smoked
and said hello to my newfound old home.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Return II

Meghan O'Rourke on the death of her mother, in The New Yorker (3/7/11)

"...Already left behind, I wanted to call out, like Orpheus, 'Come back! Come back!'

Yet the story of Orpheus, it occurs to me, is not just about the desire of the living to resuscitate the dead but about the ways in which the dead drag us along into their shadowy realm because we cannot let them go. So we follow them into the Underworld, descending, descending, until one day we turn and make our way back....

...I would always look for clues to her in books and poems, I realized. I would always search for the echoes of the lost person, the scraps of words and breath, the silken ties that say, Look: she existed."


I think the key is: "...until one day WE TURN AND MAKE OUR WAY BACK." Obsessing over the dead and trying to follow them does no good; we'll be there soon enough, anyway. Following the dead is not the mission of the living. The attempt to do so is pathetically (in the sense of "pathos," not pity) noble, but ultimately, obviously misguided; how we turn and make our way back is what counts. The return an homage to BOTH the dead and the living.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


I suppose what killed my cat
was not so much curiosity
as mere lack of funds.
We both died writhing.

Sometimes I still cradle the ash.
That is all there is.
We went there once, there is no
going back.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Dawn or dusk, the shadows yawn
I have nothing left to show
The see/be seen of windows

O lighten up, the dawn is yonder
Windows only breaking
into song

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


At ten 'til there's still time
for one more, she said, so one more
is what we had, her head turning, her
turning heads

It wasn't the sky as she saw it that lingered so longingly
Hung up on itself, a hanger-on

Where were we?
(the dream still warm in my hand)

By four the late-night's stumbled home
What's said is done, there is no more
At four the place you lay your head
is stone or screen or hearth or whore

there was a blank thing, black thing, blanker
than the static remnants of the Big Bang,
now flippant through channels -- ancient radiation
remote between our current stations

the dripdripdrip of deprivation