The Moss of His Skin

By Anne Sexton 1928–1974 Anne Sexton

Young girls in old Arabia were often buried alive next to their dead fathers, apparently as sacrifice to the goddesses of the tribes ...
Harold Feldman, “Children of the Desert”
Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Review, Fall 1958

It was only important
to smile and hold still,
to lie down beside him
and to rest awhile,
to be folded up together
as if we were silk,
to sink from the eyes of mother   
and not to talk.
The black room took us
like a cave or a mouth
or an indoor belly.
I held my breath
and daddy was there,
his thumbs, his fat skull,   
his teeth, his hair growing   
like a field or a shawl.
I lay by the moss
of his skin until
it grew strange. My sisters   
will never know that I fall   
out of myself and pretend   
that Allah will not see
how I hold my daddy   
like an old stone tree.

Anne Sexton, “The Moss of His Skin” from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981). Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton and Loring Conant, Jr. Reprinted with the permission of Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

Source: The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1981)

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Poet Anne Sexton 1928–1974

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Relationships

Poetic Terms Dramatic Monologue, Confessional, Persona

 Anne  Sexton

Biography

Much of Anne Sexton's poetry is autobiographical and concentrates on her deeply personal feelings, especially anguish. In particular, many of her poems record her battles with mental illness. She spent many years in psychoanalysis, including several long stays in mental hospitals. As she told Beatrice Berg, her writing began, in fact, as therapy: "My analyst told me to write between our sessions about what I was feeling and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Relationships

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Poetic Terms Dramatic Monologue, Confessional, Persona

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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