Wanting to Die

By Anne Sexton 1928–1974 Anne Sexton
Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.   
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,   
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,   
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,   
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,   
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.   
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born, they don’t always die,
but dazzled, they can’t forget a drug so sweet   
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue!—
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.   
Death’s a sad bone; bruised, you’d say,

and yet she waits for me, year after year,   
to so delicately undo an old wound,   
to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,   
raging at the fruit a pumped-up moon,   
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love whatever it was, an infection.

Anne Sexton, “Wanting to Die” 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 Death, Living

Poetic Terms Confessional

 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 Death, Living

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Poetic Terms Confessional

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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