Portrait of an Old Woman on the College Tavern Wall

By Anne Sexton 1928–1974 Anne Sexton
   Oh down at the tavern
the children are singing
around their round table
and around me still.
Did you hear what it said?

                   I only said
how there is a pewter urn
pinned to the tavern wall,
as old as old is able
to be and be there still.
I said, the poets are there
I hear them singing and lying
around their round table
and around me still.
Across the room is a wreath
made of a corpse’s hair,
framed in glass on the wall,
as old as old is able
to be and be remembered still.
Did you hear what it said?

                  I only said
how I want to be there and I
would sing my songs with the liars
and my lies with all the singers.
And I would, and I would but
it’s my hair in the hair wreath,
my cup pinned to the tavern wall,
my dusty face they sing beneath.
Poets are sitting in my kitchen.
Why do these poets lie?
Why do children get children and
Did you hear what it said?

                  I only said
how I want to be there,
Oh, down at the tavern
where the prophets are singing
around their round table
until they are still.

Anne Sexton, “Portrait of an Old Woman on the College Tavern Wall” from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton and Loring Conant, Jr. Reprinted with the permission of Sll/Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

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

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Poet Anne Sexton 1928–1974

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Subjects Living, Time & Brevity, Activities, Eating & Drinking, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Music, Painting & Sculpture

 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 Living, Time & Brevity, Activities, Eating & Drinking, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Music, Painting & Sculpture

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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