The Truth the Dead Know

By Anne Sexton 1928–1974 Anne Sexton

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.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes   
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse   
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

Anne Sexton, “The Truth the Dead Know” 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, Death, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Living, Relationships, Nature

Occasions Funerals

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Confessional

 Anne  Sexton

Biography

Anne Sexton was born in Newton, Massachusetts and raised in Weston. The daughter of a successful businessman, Sexton’s childhood was materially comfortable but not happy. Her relationships with her parents were difficult, perhaps even abusive. Sexton’s closest confidante was her maiden great-aunt. She attended boarding school and after graduation enrolled in Garland Junior College for one year. Sexton later described Garland as . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Death, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Living, Relationships, Nature

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Confessional

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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