Good Loving Woman

Good Loving Woman

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Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman

May 16, 2013

My daughter, at eleven
(almost twelve), is like a garden.

Oh, darling! Born in that sweet birthday suit
and having owned it and known it for so long,
now you must watch high noon enter –
noon, that ghost hour.
Oh, funny little girl – this one under a blueberry sky,
this one! How can I say that I’ve known
just what you know and just where you are?

It’s not a strange place, this odd home
where your face sits in my hand
so full of distance,
so full of its immediate fever.
The summer has seized you,
as when, last month in Amalfi, I saw
lemons as large as your desk-side globe –
that miniature map of the world –
and I could mention, too,
the market stalls of mushrooms
and garlic buds all engorged.
Or I think even of the orchard next door,
where the berries are done
and the apples are beginning to swell.
And once, with our first backyard,
I remember I planted an acre of yellow beans
we couldn’t eat.

Oh, little girl,
my stringbean,
how do you grow?
You grow this way.
You are too many to eat.

I hear
as in a dream
the conversation of the old wives
speaking of womanhood.
I remember that I heard nothing myself.
I was alone.
I waited like a target.

Let high noon enter –
the hour of the ghosts.
Once the Romans believed
that noon was the ghost hour,
and I can believe it, too,
under that startling sun,
and someday they will come to you,
someday, men bare to the waist, young Romans
at noon where they belong,
with ladders and hammers
while no one sleeps.

But before they enter
I will have said,
Your bones are lovely,
and before their strange hands
there was always this hand that formed.

Oh, darling, let your body in,
let it tie you in,
in comfort.
What I want to say, Linda,
is that women are born twice.

If I could have watched you grow
as a magical mother might,
if I could have seen through my magical transparent belly,
there would have been such a ripening within:
your embryo,
the seed taking on its own,
life clapping the bedpost,
bones from the pond,
thumbs and two mysterious eyes,
the awfully human head,
the heart jumping like a puppy,
the important lungs,
the becoming –
while it becomes!
as it does now,
a world of its own,
a delicate place.

I say hello
to such shakes and knockings and high jinks,
such music, such sprouts,
such dancing-mad-bears of music,
such necessary sugar,
such goings-on!

Oh, little girl,
my stringbean,
how do you grow?
You grow this way.
You are too many to eat.

What I want to say, Linda,
is that there is nothing in your body that lies.
All that is new is telling the truth.
I’m here, that somebody else,
an old tree in the background.

Darling,
stand still at your door,
sure of yourself, a white stone, a good stone –
as exceptional as laughter
you will strike fire,
that new thing!

— Anne Sexton 1964

It is in the small things we see it.
The child’s first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

Later,
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

Later,
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off our heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

Later,
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you’ll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you’ll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you’ll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.

“Courage,” by Anne Sexton, from The Awful Rowing Toward God (Houghton Mifflin)

COURAGE Anne Sexton

March 31, 2013 1 Comment

Today We Spring Ahead to Daylight Savings

March 10, 2013

It Is a Spring Afternoon 
(Anne Sexton)

Everything here is yellow and green. Listen to its throat, its earthskin, the bone dry voices of the peepers as they throb like advertisements. The small animals of the woods are carrying their deathmasks into a narrow winter cave. The scarecrow has plucked out his two eyes like diamonds and walked into the village. The general and the postman have taken off their packs. This has all happened before but nothing here is obsolete. Everything here is possible. Because of this perhaps a young girl has laid down her winter clothes and has casually placed herself upon a tree limb that hangs over a pool in the river. She has been poured out onto the limb, low above the houses of the fishes as they swim in and out of her reflection and up and down the stairs of her legs. Her body carries clouds all the way home. She is overlooking her watery face in the river where blind men come to bathe at midday. Because of this the ground, that winter nightmare, has cured its sores and burst with green birds and vitamins. Because of this the trees turn in their trenches and hold up little rain cups by their slender fingers. Because of this a woman stands by her stove singing and cooking flowers. Everything here is yellow and green. Surely spring will allow a girl without a stitch on to turn softly in her sunlight and not be afraid of her bed. She has already counted seven blossoms in her green green mirror. Two rivers combine beneath her. The face of the child wrinkles. in the water and is gone forever. The woman is all that can be seen in her animal loveliness. Her cherished and obstinate skin lies deeply under the watery tree. Everything is altogether possible and the blind men can also see.