The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator

By Anne Sexton 1928–1974 Anne Sexton
The end of the affair is always death.   
She’s my workshop. Slippery eye,   
out of the tribe of myself my breath   
finds you gone. I horrify
those who stand by. I am fed.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Finger to finger, now she’s mine.   
She’s not too far. She’s my encounter.   
I beat her like a bell. I recline
in the bower where you used to mount her.   
You borrowed me on the flowered spread.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Take for instance this night, my love,   
that every single couple puts together   
with a joint overturning, beneath, above,   
the abundant two on sponge and feather,   
kneeling and pushing, head to head.   
At night alone, I marry the bed.

I break out of my body this way,   
an annoying miracle. Could I   
put the dream market on display?   
I am spread out. I crucify.
My little plum is what you said.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Then my black-eyed rival came.
The lady of water, rising on the beach,   
a piano at her fingertips, shame   
on her lips and a flute’s speech.
And I was the knock-kneed broom instead.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

She took you the way a woman takes   
a bargain dress off the rack
and I broke the way a stone breaks.
I give back your books and fishing tack.   
Today’s paper says that you are wed.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

The boys and girls are one tonight.
They unbutton blouses. They unzip flies.   
They take off shoes. They turn off the light.   
The glimmering creatures are full of lies.
They are eating each other. They are overfed.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Anne Sexton, “The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator” 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 Marriage & Companionship, Love, Separation & Divorce, Men & Women, Living, Relationships, Desire, Activities, Indoor Activities

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, 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 Marriage & Companionship, Love, Separation & Divorce, Men & Women, Living, Relationships, Desire, Activities, Indoor Activities

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Confessional

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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