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The Lost Ingredient

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Written by Anne Sexton

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 Almost yesterday, those gentle ladies stole
to their baths in Atlantic Cuty, for the lost
rites of the first sea of the first salt
running from a faucet.
I have heard they sat for hours in briny tubs, patting hotel towels sweetly over shivered skin, smelling the stale harbor of a lost ocean, praying at last for impossible loves, or new skin, or still another child.
And since this was the style, I don't suppose they knew what they had lost.
Almost yesterday, pushing West, I lost ten Utah driving minutes, stopped to steal past postcard vendors, crossed the hot slit of macadam to touch the marvelous loosed bobbing of The Salt Lake, to honor and assault it in its proof, to wash away some slight need for Maine's coast.
Later the funny salt itched in my pores and stung like bees or sleet.
I rinsed it off on Reno and hurried to steal a better proof at tables where I always lost.
Today is made of yesterday, each time I steal toward rites I do not know, waiting for the lost ingredient, as if salt or money or even lust would keep us calm and prove us whole at last.

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