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For The Year Of The Insane

 a prayer

O Mary, fragile mother, 
hear me, hear me now 
although I do not know your words.
The black rosary with its silver Christ lies unblessed in my hand for I am the unbeliever.
Each bead is round and hard between my fingers, a small black angel.
O Mary, permit me this grace, this crossing over, although I am ugly, submerged in my own past and my own madness.
Although there are chairs I lie on the floor.
Only my hands are alive, touching beads.
Word for word, I stumble.
A beginner, I feel your mouth touch mine.
I count beads as waves, hammering in upon me.
I am ill at their numbers, sick, sick in the summer heat and the window above me is my only listener, my awkward being.
She is a large taker, a soother.
The giver of breath she murmurs, exhaling her wide lung like an enormous fish.
Closer and closer comes the hour of my death as I rearrange my face, grow back, grow undeveloped and straight-haired.
All this is death.
In the mind there is a thin alley called death and I move through it as through water.
My body is useless.
It lies, curled like a dog on the carpet.
It has given up.
There are no words here except the half-learned, the Hail Mary and the full of grace.
Now I have entered the year without words.
I note the queer entrance and the exact voltage.
Without words they exist.
Without words on my touch bread and be handed bread and make no sound.
O Mary, tender physician, come with powders and herbs for I am in the center.
It is very small and the air is gray as in a steam house.
I am handed wine as a child is handed milk.
It is presented in a delicate glass with a round bowl and a thin lip.
The wine itself is pitch-colored, musty and secret.
The glass rises in its own toward my mouth and I notice this and understand this only because it has happened.
I have this fear of coughing but I do not speak, a fear of rain, a fear of the horseman who comes riding into my mouth.
The glass tilts in on its own and I amon fire.
I see two thin streaks burn down my chin.
I see myself as one would see another.
I have been cut int two.
O Mary, open your eyelids.
I am in the domain of silence, the kingdom of the crazy and the sleeper.
There is blood here.
and I haven't eaten it.
O mother of the womb, did I come for blood alone? O little mother, I am in my own mind.
I am locked in the wrong house.

by Anne Sexton
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