The Expatriates

By Anne Sexton 1928–1974 Anne Sexton
My dear, it was a moment
to clutch at for a moment
so that you may believe in it
and believing is the act of love, I think,
even in the telling, wherever it went.

In the false New England forest
where the misplanted Norwegian trees
refused to root, their thick synthetic
roots barging out of the dirt to work on the air,
we held hands and walked on our knees.
Actually, there was no one there.

For forty years this experimental
woodland grew, shaft by shaft in perfect rows
where its stub branches held and its spokes fell.
It was a place of parallel trees, their lives
filed out in exile where we walked too alien to know
our sameness and how our sameness survives.

Outside of us the village cars followed
the white line we had carefully walked
two nights before toward our single beds.
We lay halfway up an ugly hill and if we fell
it was here in the woods where the woods were caught
in their dying and you held me well.

And now I must dream the forest whole
and your sweet hands, not once as frozen
as those stopped trees, nor ruled, nor pale,
nor leaving mine. Today, in my house, I see
our house, its pillars a dim basement of men
holding up their foreign ground for you and me.

My dear, it was a time,
butchered from time
that we must tell of quickly
before we lose the sound of our own
mouths calling mine, mine, mine.

Anne Sexton, “The Expatriates” 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 Relationships, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Trees & Flowers

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 Relationships, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Trees & Flowers

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Poetic Terms Confessional

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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