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The Interrogation Of The Man Of Many Hearts

 Who's she, that one in your arms?

She's the one I carried my bones to
and built a house that was just a cot
and built a life that was over an hour
and built a castle where no one lives
and built, in the end, a song
to go with the ceremony.
Why have you brought her here? Why do you knock on my door with your little stores and songs? I had joined her the way a man joins a woman and yet there was no place for festivities or formalities and these things matter to a woman and, you see, we live in a cold climate and are not permitted to kiss on the street so I made up a song that wasn't true.
I made up a song called Marriage.
You come to me out of wedlock and kick your foot on my stoop and ask me to measure such things? Never.
Never.
Not my real wife.
She's my real witch, my fork, my mare, my mother of tears, my skirtful of hell, the stamp of my sorrows, the stamp of my bruises and also the children she might bear and also a private place, a body of bones that I would honestly buy, if I could buy, that I would marry, if I could marry.
And should I torment you for that? Each man has a small fate allotted to him and yours is a passionate one.
But I am in torment.
We have no place.
The cot we share is almost a prison where I can't say buttercup, bobolink, sugarduck, pumpkin, love ribbon, locket, valentine, summergirl, funnygirl and all those nonsense things one says in bed.
To say I have bedded with her is not enough.
I have not only bedded her down.
I have tied her down with a knot.
Then why do you stick your fists into your pockets? Why do you shuffle your feet like a schoolboy? For years I have tied this knot in my dreams.
I have walked through a door in my dreams and she was standing there in my mother's apron.
Once she crawled through a window that was shaped like a keyhole and she was wearing my daughter's pink corduroys and each time I tied these women in a knot.
Once a queen came.
I tied her too.
But this is something I have actually tied and now I have made her fast.
I sang her out.
I caught her down.
I stamped her out with a song.
There was no other apartment for it.
There was no other chamber for it.
Only the knot.
The bedded-down knot.
Thus I have laid my hands upon her and have called her eyes and her mouth as mine, as also her tongue.
Why do you ask me to make choices? I am not a judge or a psychologist.
You own your bedded-down knot.
And yet I have real daytimes and nighttimes with children and balconies and a good wife.
Thus I have tied these other knots, yet I would rather not think of them when I speak to you of her.
Not now.
If she were a room to rent I would pay.
If she were a life to save I would save.
Maybe I am a man of many hearts.
A man of many hearts? Why then do you tremble at my doorway? A man of many hearts does not need me.
I'm caught deep in the dye of her.
I have allowed you to catch me red-handed, catch me with my wild oats in a wild clock for my mare, my dove and my own clean body.
People might say I have snakes in my boots but I tell you that just once am I in the stirrups, just once, this once, in the cup.
The love of the woman is in the song.
I called her the woman in red.
I called her the woman in pink but she was ten colors and ten women I could hardly name her.
I know who she is.
You have named her enough.
Maybe I shouldn't have put it in words.
Frankly, I think I'm worse for this kissing, drunk as a piper, kicking the traces and determined to tie her up forever.
You see the song is the life, the life I can't live.
God, even as he passes, hand down monogamy like slang.
I wanted to write her into the law.
But, you know, there is no law for this.
Man of many hearts, you are a fool! The clover has grown thorns this year and robbed the cattle of their fruit and the stones of the river have sucked men's eyes dry, season after season, and every bed has been condemned, not by morality or law, but by time.

Poem by Anne Sexton
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