Sunday, October 16, 2011


by Anne Sexton

"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,
but blackness filled my ears,
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?


When I first read the above poem, I was a kid in high school, and didn't think any such cruelty existed. I'd seen first-hand such cruelty, witnessing my parents' behavior, but nonetheless thought it all surreal, even when Sexton said it, even when I personally witnessed it as a kid. It was between them, not me. My kid-self shut out the awfulness. Once I got out of there and had my own life, it would all be better...

Today, at 46, nothing's been better. There have been variations on the bad, but... nothing's been better. My whole life since age 12 has been "Lessons in Hunger." I've achieved societal things like degrees and getting jobs. But I've never been loved and cared for by someone that I love. In patches, that kind of lack and accompanying independence is rather liberating. With long-term emotional deprivation, though, the seeming freedom of self becomes a burden. A point constantly proven, already! :)


Anonymous said...

Discovered Sexton's poem yesterday. I subscribe every single word you wrote about it, every experience you made. Thanks for your words, Beth.

Beth Austin said...

Thank you, dalaruan. I was able to write better in 2011; I've become harder since, and unable to express myself as well. Your comment on the Sexton poem drove me back to my original post, to the original heart-breaking poem. She's a great poet.