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Best Famous Anne Sexton Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Anne Sexton poems. This is a select list of the best famous Anne Sexton poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Anne Sexton poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of anne sexton poems.

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Written by Anne Sexton |


 It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step, as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike, wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby or poor or fatty or crazy and made you into an alien, you drank their acid and concealed it.
Later, if you faced the death of bombs and bullets you did not do it with a banner, you did it with only a hat to comver your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you and died himself in so doing, then his courage was not courage, it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.
Later, if you have endured a great despair, then you did it alone, getting a transfusion from the fire, picking the scabs off your heart, then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow, you gave it a back rub and then you covered it with a blanket and after it had slept a while it woke to the wings of the roses and was transformed.
Later, when you face old age and its natural conclusion your courage will still be shown in the little ways, each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen, those you love will live in a fever of love, and you'll bargain with the calendar and at the last moment when death opens the back door you'll put on your carpet slippers and stride out.

Written by Anne Sexton |


 Some ghosts are women,
neither abstract nor pale,
their breasts as limp as killed fish.
Not witches, but ghosts who come, moving their useless arms like forsaken servants.
Not all ghosts are women, I have seen others; fat, white-bellied men, wearing their genitals like old rags.
Not devils, but ghosts.
This one thumps barefoot, lurching above my bed.
But that isn't all.
Some ghosts are children.
Not angels, but ghosts; curling like pink tea cups on any pillow, or kicking, showing their innocent bottoms, wailing for Lucifer.

Written by Anne Sexton |

Suicide Note

 "You speak to me of narcissism but I reply that it is 
a matter of my life" - Artaud

"At this time let me somehow bequeath all the leftovers 
to my daughters and their daughters" - Anonymous

despite the worms talking to 
the mare's hoof in the field; 
despite the season of young girls 
dropping their blood; 
better somehow 
to drop myself quickly 
into an old room.
Better (someone said) not to be born and far better not to be born twice at thirteen where the boardinghouse, each year a bedroom, caught fire.
Dear friend, I will have to sink with hundreds of others on a dumbwaiter into hell.
I will be a light thing.
I will enter death like someone's lost optical lens.
Life is half enlarged.
The fish and owls are fierce today.
Life tilts backward and forward.
Even the wasps cannot find my eyes.
Yes, eyes that were immediate once.
Eyes that have been truly awake, eyes that told the whole story— poor dumb animals.
Eyes that were pierced, little nail heads, light blue gunshots.
And once with a mouth like a cup, clay colored or blood colored, open like the breakwater for the lost ocean and open like the noose for the first head.
Once upon a time my hunger was for Jesus.
O my hunger! My hunger! Before he grew old he rode calmly into Jerusalem in search of death.
This time I certainly do not ask for understanding and yet I hope everyone else will turn their heads when an unrehearsed fish jumps on the surface of Echo Lake; when moonlight, its bass note turned up loud, hurts some building in Boston, when the truly beautiful lie together.
I think of this, surely, and would think of it far longer if I were not… if I were not at that old fire.
I could admit that I am only a coward crying me me me and not mention the little gnats, the moths, forced by circumstance to suck on the electric bulb.
But surely you know that everyone has a death, his own death, waiting for him.
So I will go now without old age or disease, wildly but accurately, knowing my best route, carried by that toy donkey I rode all these years, never asking, “Where are we going?” We were riding (if I'd only known) to this.
Dear friend, please do not think that I visualize guitars playing or my father arching his bone.
I do not even expect my mother's mouth.
I know that I have died before— once in November, once in June.
How strange to choose June again, so concrete with its green breasts and bellies.
Of course guitars will not play! The snakes will certainly not notice.
New York City will not mind.
At night the bats will beat on the trees, knowing it all, seeing what they sensed all day.

More great poems below...

Written by Anne Sexton |

Christmas Eve

 Oh sharp diamond, my mother! 
I could not count the cost 
of all your faces, your moods-- 
that present that I lost.
Sweet girl, my deathbed, my jewel-fingered lady, your portrait flickered all night by the bulbs of the tree.
Your face as calm as the moon over a mannered sea, presided at the family reunion, the twelve grandchildren you used to wear on your wrist, a three-months-old baby, a fat check you never wrote, the red-haired toddler who danced the twist, your aging daughters, each one a wife, each one talking to the family cook, each one avoiding your portrait, each one aping your life.
Later, after the party, after the house went to bed, I sat up drinking the Christmas brandy, watching your picture, letting the tree move in and out of focus.
The bulbs vibrated.
They were a halo over your forehead.
Then they were a beehive, blue, yellow, green, red; each with its own juice, each hot and alive stinging your face.
But you did not move.
I continued to watch, forcing myself, waiting, inexhaustible, thirty-five.
I wanted your eyes, like the shadows of two small birds, to change.
But they did not age.
The smile that gathered me in, all wit, all charm, was invincible.
Hour after hour I looked at your face but I could not pull the roots out of it.
Then I watched how the sun hit your red sweater, your withered neck, your badly painted flesh-pink skin.
You who led me by the nose, I saw you as you were.
Then I thought of your body as one thinks of murder-- Then I said Mary-- Mary, Mary, forgive me and then I touched a present for the child, the last I bred before your death; and then I touched my breast and then I touched the floor and then my breast again as if, somehow, it were one of yours.

Written by Anne Sexton |

The Exorcists

 And I solemnly swear
on the chill of secrecy
that I know you not, this room never,
the swollen dress I wear,
nor the anonymous spoons that free me,
nor this calendar nor the pulse we pare and cover.
For all these present, before that wandering ghost, that yellow moth of my summer bed, I say: this small event is not.
So I prepare, am dosed in ether and will not cry what stays unsaid.
I was brown with August, the clapping waves at my thighs and a storm riding into the cove.
We swam while the others beached and burst for their boarded huts, their hale cries shouting back to us and the hollow slam of the dory against the float.
Black arms of thunder strapped upon us, squalled out, we breathed in rain and stroked past the boat.
We thrashed for shore as if we were trapped in green and that suddenly inadequate stain of lightning belling around our skin.
Bodies in air we raced for the empty lobsterman-shack.
It was yellow inside, the sound of the underwing of the sun.
I swear, I most solemnly swear, on all the bric-a-brac of summer loves, I know you not.

Written by Anne Sexton |

All My Pretty Ones

 Father, this year's jinx rides us apart 
where you followed our mother to her cold slumber; 
a second shock boiling its stone to your heart,
leaving me here to shuffle and disencumber
you from the residence you could not afford:
a gold key, your half of a woolen mill,
twenty suits from Dunne's, an English Ford,
the love and legal verbiage of another will, 
boxes of pictures of people I do not know.
I touch their cardboard faces.
They must go.
But the eyes, as thick as wood in this album, hold me.
I stop here, where a small boy waits in a ruffled dress for someone to come.
for this soldier who holds his bugle like a toy or for this velvet lady who cannot smile.
Is this your father's father, this Commodore in a mailman suit? My father, time meanwhile has made it unimportant who you are looking for.
I'll never know what these faces are all about.
I lock them into their book and throw them out.
Tlis is the yellow scrapbook that you began the year I was born; as crackling now and wrinkly as tobacco leaves: clippings where Hoover outran the Democrats, wiggling his dry finger at me and Prohibition; news where the Hindenburg went down and recent years where you went flush on war.
This year, solvent but sick, you meant to marry that pretty widow in a one-month rush.
But before you had that second chance, I cried on your fat shoulder.
Three days later you died.
These are the snapshots of marriage, stopped in places.
Side by side at the rail toward Nassau now; here, with the winner's cup at the speedboat races, here, in tails at the Cotillion, you take a bow, here, by our kennel of dogs with their pink eyes, running like show-bred pigs in their chain-link pen; here, at the horseshow where my sister wins a prize; Now I fold you down, my drunkard, my navigator, my first lost keeper, to love or look at later.
I hold a five-year diary that my mother kept for three years, telling all she does not say of your alcoholic tendency.
You overslept, she writes.
My God, father, each Christmas Day with your blood, will I drink down your glass of wine? The diary of your hurly-burly years goes to my shelf to wait for my age to pass.
Only in this hoarded span will love persevere.
Whether you are pretty or not, I outlive you, bend down my strange face to yours and forgive you.

Written by Anne Sexton |

The Fallen Angels

 They come on to my clean
sheet of paper and leave a Rorschach blot.
They do not do this to be mean, they do it to give me a sign they want me, as Aubrey Beardsley once said, to shove it around till something comes.
Clumsy as I am, I do it.
For I am like them - both saved and lost, tumbling downward like Humpty Dumpty off the alphabet.
Each morning I push them off my bed and when they get in the salad rolling in it like a dog, I pick each one out just the way my daughter picks out the anchoives.
In May they dance on the jonquils, wearing out their toes, laughing like fish.
In November, the dread month, they suck the childhood out of the berries and turn them sour and inedible.
Yet they keep me company.
They wiggle up life.
They pass out their magic like Assorted Lifesavers.
They go with me to the dentist and protect me form the drill.
At the same time, they go to class with me and lie to my students.
O fallen angel, the companion within me, whisper something holy before you pinch me into the grave.

Written by Anne Sexton |


 A young man is afraid of his demon and puts his hand
over the demon's mouth sometimes.
-- D.
Lawrence I mentioned my demon to a friend and the friend swam in oil and came forth to me greasy and cryptic and said, "I'm thinking of taking him out of hock.
I pawned him years ago.
" Who would buy? The pawned demon, Yellowing with forgetfulness and hand at his throat? Take him out of hock, my friend, but beware of the grief that will fly into your mouth like a bird.
My demon, too often undressed, too often a crucifix I bring forth, too often a dead daisy I give water to too often the child I give birth to and then abort, nameless, nameless.
Oh demon within, I am afraid and seldom put my hand up to my mouth and stitch it up covering you, smothering you from the public voyeury eyes of my typewriter keys.
If I should pawn you, what bullion would they give for you, what pennies, swimming in their copper kisses what bird on its way to perishing? No.
I accept you, you come with the dead who people my dreams, who walk all over my desk (as in Mother, cancer blossoming on her Best & Co.
tits-- waltzing with her tissue paper ghost) the dead, who give sweets to the diabetic in me, who give bolts to the seizure of roses that sometimes fly in and out of me.
I accept you, demon.
I will not cover your mouth.
If it be man I love, apple laden and foul or if it be woman I love, sick unto her blood and its sugary gasses and tumbling branches.
Demon come forth, even if it be God I call forth standing like a carrion, wanting to eat me, starting at the lips and tongue.
And me wanting to glide into His spoils, I take bread and wine, and the demon farts and giggles, at my letting God out of my mouth anonymous woman at the anonymous altar.

Written by Anne Sexton |

45 Mercy Street

 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 -- 
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.
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.

Written by Anne Sexton |

The Touch

 For months my hand was sealed off
in a tin box.
Nothing was there but the subway railings.
Perhaps it is bruised, I thought, and that is why they have locked it up.
You could tell time by this, I thought, like a clock, by its five knuckles and the thin underground veins.
It lay there like an unconscious woman fed by tubes she knew not of.
The hand had collapse, a small wood pigeon that had gone into seclusion.
I turned it over and the palm was old, its lines traced like fine needlepoint and stitched up into fingers.
It was fat and soft and blind in places.
Nothing but vulnerable.
And all this is metaphor.
An ordinary hand -- just lonely for something to touch that touches back.
The dog won't do it.
Her tail wags in the swamp for a frog.
I'm no better than a case of dog food.
She owns her own hunger.
My sisters won't do it.
They live in school except for buttons and tears running down like lemonade.
My father won't do it.
He comes in the house and even at night he lives in a machine made by my mother and well oiled by his job, his job.
The trouble is that I'd let my gestures freeze.
The trouble was not in the kitchen or the tulips but only in my head, my head.
Then all this became history.
Your hand found mine.
Life rushed to my fingers like a blood clot.
Oh, my carpenter, the fingers are rebuilt.
They dance with yours.
They dance in the attic and in Vienna.
My hand is alive all over America.
Not even death will stop it, death shedding her blood.
Nothing will stop it, for this is the kingdom and the kingdom come.

Written by Anne Sexton |

The Ballad Of The Lonely Masturbator

 The end of the affair is always death.
She's my workshop.
Slippery eye, out of the tribe of myself my breath finds you gone.
I horrify those who stand by.
I am fed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
Finger to finger, now she's mine.
She's not too far.
She's my encounter.
I beat her like a bell.
I recline in the bower where you used to mount her.
You borrowed me on the flowered spread.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
Take for instance this night, my love, that every single couple puts together with a joint overturning, beneath, above, the abundant two on sponge and feather, kneeling and pushing, head to head.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
I break out of my body this way, an annoying miracle.
Could I put the dream market on display? I am spread out.
I crucify.
My little plum is what you said.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
Then my black-eyed rival came.
The lady of water, rising on the beach, a piano at her fingertips, shame on her lips and a flute's speech.
And I was the knock-kneed broom instead.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
She took you the way a women takes a bargain dress off the rack and I broke the way a stone breaks.
I give back your books and fishing tack.
Today's paper says that you are wed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
The boys and girls are one tonight.
They unbutton blouses.
They unzip flies.
They take off shoes.
They turn off the light.
The glimmering creatures are full of lies.
They are eating each other.
They are overfed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Written by Anne Sexton |

Baby Picture

 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.
Anne, who are 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.
Anne, who are you? Merely a kid keeping alive.

Written by Anne Sexton |

The Abortion

 Somebody who should have been born 
is gone.
Just as the earth puckered its mouth, each bud puffing out from its knot, I changed my shoes, and then drove south.
Up past the Blue Mountains, where Pennsylvania humps on endlessly, wearing, like a crayoned cat, its green hair, its roads sunken in like a gray washboard; where, in truth, the ground cracks evilly, a dark socket from which the coal has poured, Somebody who should have been born is gone.
the grass as bristly and stout as chives, and me wondering when the ground would break, and me wondering how anything fragile survives; up in Pennsylvania, I met a little man, not Rumpelstiltskin, at all, at all.
he took the fullness that love began.
Returning north, even the sky grew thin like a high window looking nowhere.
The road was as flat as a sheet of tin.
Somebody who should have been born is gone.
Yes, woman, such logic will lead to loss without death.
Or say what you meant, you coward.
this baby that I bleed.

Written by Anne Sexton |


 They work with herbs
and penicillin
They work with gentleness
and the scalpel.
They dig out the cancer, close an incision and say a prayer to the poverty of the skin.
They are not Gods though they would like to be; they are only a human trying to fix up a human.
Many humans die.
They die like the tender, palpitating berries in November.
But all along the doctors remember: First do no harm.
They would kiss if it would heal.
It would not heal.
If the doctors cure then the sun sees it.
If the doctors kill then the earth hides it.
The doctors should fear arrogance more than cardiac arrest.
If they are too proud, and some are, then they leave home on horseback but God returns them on foot.

Written by Anne Sexton |

Again and Again and Again

 You said the anger would come back 
just as the love did.
I have a black look I do not like.
It is a mask I try on.
I migrate toward it and its frog sits on my lips and defecates.
It is old.
It is also a pauper.
I have tried to keep it on a diet.
I give it no unction.
There is a good look that I wear like a blood clot.
I have sewn it over my left breast.
I have made a vocation of it.
Lust has taken plant in it and I have placed you and your child at its milk tip.
Oh the blackness is murderous and the milk tip is brimming and each machine is working and I will kiss you when I cut up one dozen new men and you will die somewhat, again and again.