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45 Mercy Street

Written by: Anne Sexton | Biography
 | Quotes (127) |
 In my dream, 
drilling into the marrow 
of my entire bone, 
my real dream, 
I'm walking up and down Beacon Hill 
searching for a street sign -- 
namely MERCY STREET. 
Not there. 

I try the Back Bay. 
Not there. 
Not there. 
And yet I know the number. 
45 Mercy Street. 
I know the stained-glass window 
of the foyer, 
the three flights of the house 
with its parquet floors. 
I know the furniture and 
mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, 
the servants. 
I know the cupboard of Spode 
the boat of ice, solid silver, 
where the butter sits in neat squares 
like strange giant's teeth 
on the big mahogany table. 
I know it well. 
Not there. 

Where did you go? 
45 Mercy Street, 
with great-grandmother 
kneeling in her whale-bone corset 
and praying gently but fiercely 
to the wash basin, 
at five A.M. 
at noon 
dozing in her wiggy rocker, 
grandfather taking a nap in the pantry, 
grandmother pushing the bell for the downstairs maid, 
and Nana rocking Mother with an oversized flower 
on her forehead to cover the curl 
of when she was good and when she was... 
And where she was begat 
and in a generation 
the third she will beget, 
me, 
with the stranger's seed blooming 
into the flower called Horrid. 

I walk in a yellow dress 
and a white pocketbook stuffed with cigarettes, 
enough pills, my wallet, my keys, 
and being twenty-eight, or is it forty-five? 
I walk. I walk. 
I hold matches at street signs 
for it is dark, 
as dark as the leathery dead 
and I have lost my green Ford, 
my house in the suburbs, 
two little kids 
sucked up like pollen by the bee in me 
and a husband 
who has wiped off his eyes 
in order not to see my inside out 
and I am walking and looking 
and this is no dream 
just my oily life 
where the people are alibis 
and the street is unfindable for an 
entire lifetime. 

Pull the shades down -- 
I don't care! 
Bolt the door, mercy, 
erase the number, 
rip down the street sign, 
what can it matter, 
what can it matter to this cheapskate 
who wants to own the past 
that went out on a dead ship 
and left me only with paper? 

Not there. 

I open my pocketbook, 
as women do, 
and fish swim back and forth 
between the dollars and the lipstick. 
I pick them out, 
one by one 
and throw them at the street signs, 
and shoot my pocketbook 
into the Charles River. 
Next I pull the dream off 
and slam into the cement wall 
of the clumsy calendar 
I live in, 
my life, 
and its hauled up 
notebooks.



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