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SEXTON, Anne


For My Lover, Returning To His Wife

She was melted carefully down for you

and cast up from your childhood,

cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.

She has always been there, my darling.

She is, in fact, exquisite.

Fireworks in the dull middle of February

and as real as a cast-iron pot.

Let's face it, I have been momentary.

vA luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor.

My hair rising like smoke from the car window.

Littleneck clams out of season.

She is more than that. She is your have to have,

has grown you your practical your tropical growth.

This is not an experiment. She is all harmony.

She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,

has placed wild flowers at the window at breakfast,

sat by the potter's wheel at midday,

set forth three children under the moon,

three cherubs drawn by Michelangelo,

done this with her legs spread out

in the terrible months in the chapel.

If you glance up, the children are there

like delicate balloons resting on the ceiling.

She has also carried each one down the hall

after supper, their heads privately bent,

two legs protesting, person to person,

her face flushed with a song and their little sleep.

I give you back your heart.

I give you permission -

for the fuse inside her, throbbing

angrily in the dirt, for the bitch in her

and the burying of her wound -

for the burying of her small red wound alive -

for the pale flickering flare under her ribs,

for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse,

for the mother's knee, for the stocking,

for the garter belt, for the call -

the curious call

when you will burrow in arms and breasts

and tug at the orange ribbon in her hair

and answer the call, the curious call.

She is so naked and singular

She is the sum of yourself and your dream.

Climb her like a monument, step after step.

She is solid.

As for me, I am a watercolor.

I wash off.


The Expatriates


My dear, it was a moment

to clutch at for a moment

so that you may believe in it

and believing is the act of love, I think,

even in the telling, wherever it went.


In the false New England forest

where the misplanted Norwegian trees

refused to root, their thick synthetic

roots barging out of the dirt to work on the air,

we held hands and walked on our knees.

Actually, there was no one there.


For forty years this experimental

woodland grew, shaft by shaft in perfect rows

where its stub branches held and its spokes fell.

It was a place of parallel trees, their lives

filed out in exile where we walked too alien to know

our sameness and how our sameness survives.


Outside of us the village cars followed

the white line we had carefully walked

two nights before toward our single beds.

We lay halfway up an ugly hill and if we fell

it was here in the woods where the woods were caught

in their dying and you held me well.


And now I must dream the forest whole

and your sweet hands, not once as frozen

as those stopped trees, nor ruled, nor pale,

nor leaving mine. Today, in my house, I see

our house, its pillars a dim basement of men

holding up their foreign ground for you and me.


My dear, it was a time,

butchered from time

that we must tell of quickly

before we lose the sound of our own

mouths calling mine, mine, mine.


The Truth the Dead Know


For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959

and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959


Gone, I say and walk from church,

refusing the stiff procession to the grave,

letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.

It is June. I am tired of being brave.


We drive to the Cape. I cultivate

myself where the sun gutters from the sky,

where the sea swings in like an iron gate

and we touch. In another country people die.


My darling, the wind falls in like stones

from the whitehearted water and when we touch

we enter touch entirely. No one's alone.

Men kill for this, or for as much.


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.